Pregnant Women are left with a question to ponder- whether or not to use sun protective creams during pregnancy?
The answer is- Yes, it is important to wear sun protection while you’re pregnant, but with extra alertness about the ingredients being used. The active ingredients in sunscreens work either by absorbing the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, preventing it from reaching the deeper layers of the skin, or by reflecting the radiation.
The hormonal changes going on inside your body right now, cause the pigment-producing skin cells (melanocytes) to react more strongly to the sunlight and cause chloasma, dark-brown splotches on your skin. So while you’re pregnant, never leave the house without wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
Not all sunscreens are safe. Many chemicals in sunscreen can enter the bloodstream and can affect the fetus (exactly how is unknown, but many of them may affect estrogen levels), so avoid using anything with ingredients like
- oxybenzone: It is a derivative of benzophenone, and is often used in conjunction with other sunscreens because it helps stabilize them and also because its sun protection powers are too weak to be used alone. Oxybenzone has been linked to allergies, damage to cells, and disruption of hormones. A study performed by the CDC found traces of oxybenzone in 97% of participants. (Maximum recommended by the FDA: 6%)
- Retinyl palmitate: an ingredient that could possibly increase the risk of birth defects. The ingredient is a topical form of vitamin A that the skin converts to retinoids. When checking labels, note that the ingredient is sometimes spelled retinol palmitate and has several synonyms, including vitamin A palmitate and retinol hexadecanoate
- Homosalate : The following side effects are associated with homosalate topical: dry Skin, Dermatitis, inflammation of a Hair Follicle, acne, rash, skin Irritation, reaction due to an Allergy. ()
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor : shown to increase the growth of breast cancer cells known to be responsive to estrogen.
- octocrylene: there is evidence that octocrylene is responsible for reproductive toxicity, but the trials used doses far higher than would be used in cosmetics. (Maximum recommended by FDA: 3%)
- para-aminobenzoic acid.
These chemicals can also irritate your sensitive skin and can cause allergic reactions.
Instead, use physical or mineral blocks, which are safer options. These are the ones made with either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Be wary of products that say they have micronized or nano-sized particles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are smaller than a lot of the chemical molecules and might be easily absorbed into the body. They’re very new to the market, and there’s not enough research out there yet to really prove they’re safe to use during pregnancy.
Despite the concerns, the experts say that the proven benefits of sunscreen outweigh any potential harm from the ingredients.
Remember that sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 30 should just be one part of your protection plan, along with checking your local UV index, and avoiding midday sun on exposed skin during high UV-index days. When outside, wear a hat with a brim of at least 4 inches, sunglasses, and tightly woven clothing like a long-sleeved beach cover-up. It’s probably not a bad idea to take shower with soap after a day wearing sunscreen, too.
NOTE: If a sunscreen causes redness or irritation, wash it off and stop using it. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about using another sunscreen product with different ingredients.