Sheet masks are all the rage right now, and though their efficacy is questionable (do they actually do anything?), no one can deny how fun it is to plaster your face in a sheet of skincare. Sheet masks are quick, easy, and often the perfect way to enjoy a little indulgence at any point during your long day. It can be argued that few need those brief indulgences more than pregnant women, and the ease of a sheet mask makes it an attractive option. But, can you use sheet masks during pregnancy, or are they one of those wonderful things that pregnant women need to avoid (like soft serve ice cream and undercooked meat)?
According to Racked, many brands of sheet masks (particularly the very popular Korean ones) may not actually be safe for anyone. In their in-depth exposé, Racked shed some light on how sheet masks may be folded and packaged in a private home, rather than a sanitary and regulated factory environment.
Folding and packaging sheet masks has been touted as a way that housewives and stay-at-home mothers in South Korea could earn a little (a very little, unfair wage, to be exact) side income from the comfort of their homes. Unfortunately, what this means for you, as a potential user of a Korean brand sheet mask, is an unsterilized skincare product from a possibly contaminated environment.
This would be a cause for concern for anybody, but is particularly alarming for pregnant women, whose skin is likely much more sensitive to environmental toxins and allergens. Because of hormonal shifts, increased blood flow, and other bodily changes, your skin care may have to change, too. As mentioned by the Mayo Clinic, being pregnant could result in many changes to your skin, like increased pigmentation, acne, redness, and itchiness. Your skin could also begin to react differently to products you already use.
So, while sheet masks themselves could pose no harm to you or your skin while pregnant, you should be more cognizant of the ingredients in sheet masks, and other skincare or beauty products, before using them while pregnant.
According to Dr. Ronald D. Blatt, OB-GYN, Chief Surgeon and Medical Director of the Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery, due to the changing nature of your skin, there are definitely certain ingredients to avoid when pregnant. "Avoid fragrance," Blatt says to Romper, "as research has established that the fragrances added to intimate and other skin care products are among the most common causes of allergic reactions."
"And, avoid parabens," he adds. "These are commonly found in intimate skin and other skin care products as a preservative used to increase the shelf life of the product. There may be a direct link between parabens and potential health risks such as cancer, and though this has not yet been proven conclusively, the use of parabens as a preservative remains controversial, and parabens should be avoided," he says.
Retinols, retinoids, salicyclic acid, and benzoyl peroxide, common ingredients in anti-aging and acne products, should also be avoided, noted InStyle. All of these ingredients have been linked to birth defects, particularly during the early stages of pregnancy.
Essential oils (which can be extremely harmful when not used properly, and are not assessed by the FDA), hydroquinone (a skin lightener), aluminum chloride hexahydrate (found in most popular antiperspirants), formaldehyde, and chemical-based sunscreens should all be avoided, added Vogue. You should, essentially, scrutinize your skincare and beauty products just as closely as you do the food you eat.
If your chosen sheet masks are free and clear of possible allergens, fragrances, and potentially harmful ingredients, you should be free to plaster your face in a sheet of luxury. Of course, it's always recommended that you check in with your doctor or dermatologist before using any sort of beauty or skincare product if you have any hesitation about its effects on your pregnancy.
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