Pampering during pregnancy: what’s safe and what’s not?

We explore the hair, skin, nail and teeth treatments that mums-to-be can safely indulge in

Esthetician performing laser hair removal.
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There's no denying that pregnancy is a precious, magical time, albeit sometimes challenging and emotional. Never mind that your body is flooded with hormones and ballooning out of shape, but even your skin, hair and nails can take on a life of their own. You want to pamper yourself, but when it comes to beauty treatments that are safe, Dr Google only leads you down a rabbit hole of conflicting advice. We turn to the experts for some more definitive dos and don'ts, and to find out what's safe for mums-to-be.

Hair care

Hair dyes and treatments often employ peroxide, bleach and other chemicals, so is it safe to colour your hair while pregnant? Alison Keogh, co-founder of Headkase Salon in Dubai, says expectant mothers are right to be wary, but technology in hair colour has improved dramatically, and brands such as Wella offer ammonia-free colour ranges. One chemical in permanent colour called PPD (Paraphenylenediamine) can cause allergic reactions, she cautions, but most leading brands have removed this ingredient.

Balayage highlights, which are applied away from the skin and scalp, are safe to get while pregnant. Photo: Headkase, Dubai

The balayage technique ensures dye does not come into contact with your skin or scalp during application, and is considered completely safe. ­However, Keogh recommends avoiding popular treatments such as permanent hair straightening and the Brazilian blowout. "To be honest, as a salon, we don't recommend them in general. The identifying trait of ­keratin used in such treatments means the presence of large amounts of cysteine, a sulphur-containing amino acid. Also, the presence of ­formaldehyde can create an uncomfortable procedure for both client and stylist as it has a strong, unpleasant odour. There are more friendly options on the market these days, but we would advise waiting until after baby arrives for these treatments."

Face facts

Nathanael Aknine, founder of Maison Lutetia Dubai, says his beauty clinic errs on the side of ethics when it comes to expectant mothers. "We would concentrate on 'feel-good' treatments, and any cosmetic journey would start post-pregnancy when the hormones have balanced out."

Pregnant women should avoid ­products containing active anti-­ageing ingredients such as retinoids (including retinol and vitamin A), and hydroquinone as these are dangerous for the baby when taken orally or ­topically, adds Dr Michaela Churruca from Maison Lutetia Dubai. Beauty products containing active vitamins should also be avoided in case of hypervitaminosis, a condition caused by extremely high levels of vitamins, which can be toxic.

Cleansing facials are safe in the ­second and third trimesters, as are mild peels using a low percentage of glycolic acid. Other skin procedures that are considered safe include rejuvenation treatments such as microneedling, LED light therapy and mild microdermabrasion, as no chemicals are involved, adds Churruca. She advises against aggressive treatments such as fillers and laser hair removal as no clinical trials exist to say these are safe for pregnancy, plus pregnancy hormones mean the skin is prone to burning and swelling. Botox is completely out of the question, as it is a known toxin and dangerous for the foetus.

Body balance

Churraca advises against hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms for these nine months. “The pregnant body is going through so many changes in temperature, body mass and weight that very hot environments may increase the risk of hypertension, drowsiness or even fainting, which is extremely dangerous for the baby as the oxygen supply would be cut.”

It’s widely known that tanning booths and beds should be ­avoided during pregnancy because of the UV light and risk of radiation. Robe Aires, from Bodyworx Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi, says spray tans are not recommended for pregnant women, either, as there have been no studies to prove its safety. Organic spray ­tanning products are considered safe, but check that they do not contain any parabens, alcohol, perfumes or preservatives.

Carla Beggs, head therapist at Browz in Dubai, has worked in the beauty industry for 15 years and advises against any massage in the first 12 weeks as both baby and body are growing rapidly. She recommends a pregnancy massage by a trained ­expert in the second or third ­trimester. Maternity massages are fantastic for relieving the stress, aches and pains brought on by pregnancy, but ensure the salon you visit caters for expectant mothers.

Brows and lashes 

All semi-permanent make-up is to be avoided by mums-to-be, Beggs says. Popular brow procedure microblading involves cutting the skin around the brow area and, as the body heals differently during pregnancy, this is not advised, she says. Also, there is a higher risk of infection. Similarly, the pigment used in microblading contains small amounts of iron oxide, which is unsafe.

Lash extensions are fine, Beggs says, as they are applied individually using non-solvent glue that is hyper-­allergenic. Likewise, lash lifts and tints that use natural ingredients are risk-free.

Lash extensions and last lifts are both deemed safe during pregnancy. Photo: Browz, Dubai

Tooth and nail

Kicking back in a reclining chair to enjoy a mani-pedi is one of the luxuries that mums-to-be can safely indulge in. Just ensure you visit a well-ventilated salon to ensure the smell of the nail paint doesn’t make you nauseous, especially in the first trimester. Ten 10 Avenue ­Beauty Lounge in Dubai recommends ­avoiding gel or acrylic treatments as the UV light used to dry the nails can be harmful, plus the fumes can be quite intense.

When it comes to oral hygiene, Dr Lina Shaar, of Dr Michael's ­Dental Clinic, says that in a healthy ­pregnancy, fillings and ­cleanings are safe in the second and third ­trimesters. But for a difficult ­pregnancy, it's best to wait until after delivery. X-rays can be harmful for the baby, so avoid complex ­procedures such as veneers, implants and crowns. Teeth whitening, too, is not ­recommended when you're pregnant or breastfeeding, as the ­concentration of whitening ingredients is far higher in this procedure than in everyday toothpaste.