Pampering in pregnancy: Myth buster continued
Rebecca Howard Dennis continues with our no-nonsense, myth-busting guide to what's safe and what's strictly off-limits when it comes to pampering in pregnancy
Is it safe to get my nails done?
On the whole, a talon tidy-up in pregnancy isn't a problem, but there are a few things to be aware of. First, choose a '5-free' brand – this means it doesn't include formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, dibutyl phthalate or camphor – all toxic ingredients known to cause irritation, especially when breathed in.
We love Butter London, Eve Snow, Zoya and Clinique A Different Nail Enamel, all available nationwide or online. Likewise, ditch acetone-based remover, as it's drying and super-irritating to skin and nails.
'Many women continue to get their nails done through their pregnancy,' says manicurist to the stars Glenis Baptiste.
'But in the first trimester the smell of varnish can trigger nausea so choose a well-ventilated salon, and don't blow on your nails afterwards. It doesn't really speed up the drying time and you're more likely to inhale the odour.'
Glenis also suggests steering clear of gels and shellacs, partly because of the chemicals in them and exposure to acetone when they're soaked off, but also in case of complications in pregnancy or delivery. 'Doctors look at the colour of your nail bed, especially during surgery, to check there's enough oxygen in your blood,' she says. 'If you're rushed into theatre, chances are they won't have the time or product to remove longer-lasting varnishes.'
And finally, because of reduced immunity during pregnancy, if you're having regular manis and pedis, it's a good idea to invest in your own tools. 'It's the safest way to reduce the chance of infection through the nailbed,' explains Glenis. Pick up a set at Superdrug or from OPI online.
Pay someone else
Treat your feet to the crème de la crème of podiatry at Margaret Dabbs. Her trademark medical pedicure, from £80, leaves skin baby soft and nails buffed to a beautiful high shine – so no varnish required.
If you can't make it to her central London clinics, settle for the next best thing and pick up her Super Shiner Buffer, £7, online.
Do it yourself
The new Eve Snow range is not only '5-free' but has '3 added' nourishing ingredients (gingko biloba, vitamin E and argan oil), making it perhaps the most natural, nourishing nail colour on the market.
Is self-tan bad for the baby?
Has the fake-tan mantra, 'If you can't tone it, tan it' ever sounded more appealing than to a heavily pregnant woman? However, while self-tan has the ability to optically slim and sculpt a pre-pregnancy bod, that's not really the point now, is it? If you're contemplating a tan during pregnancy, the chances are it's to boost your body confidence, not streamline your silhouette.
According to the NHS website, fake tan is generally considered safe because DHA, the active ingredient, is a non-toxic substance that only reacts with cells in the outermost layers of skin.
Leading tanning expert Amanda Harrington agrees. 'Self-tan is merely tinting the outermost layers of skin, effectively dying the top dead skin cells, which is why it sheds relatively quickly.'
But while DHA is quite safe if applied as a cream or lotion, it becomes problematic when inhaled and absorbed into the bloodstream, so Amanda recommends you avoid spray tan booths. 'I'd opt for a gradual formula and build up several layers over a few days for a subtle natural glow,' she says.
And don't forget that your skin may be more sensitive, so always do a patch test and wait 24 hours before tanning top to toe. Even tried and trusted formulas that you've previously used quite happily can cause a reaction, so it's always best to play it safe and double-check.
Finally, breastfeeding and tanning don't really mix. If you want a faux glow, stick to what Amanda calls a deep T-shirt tan, focusing on the face, arms and upper chest but avoiding any skin that may come into contact with your baby's face.
Do it yourself
Treat skin to a hit of hydration and colour with Vita Liberata Gradual Tan. Available in three shades, it has an aloe vera base that leaves even sensitive skin feeling super supple. Or try Clarins' new Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster – just add a few drops to your usual moisturiser for a made-to-measure tan.
Can I still use the same skincare?
There are a few golden rules when it comes to skincare. Most importantly: keep it simple.
'Now is not the time to experiment with new products,' says leading cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting.
'Also, if your regular regime includes topical retinoids or vitamin A-derived creams, stop immediately as oral forms of vitamin A (such as Roaccutane, for treating acne) are known to cause birth defects. While the active ingredient in creams is highly unlikely to enter your bloodstream in significant quantities to affect the baby, it's just not worth the risk.'
Products and treatments with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide should also be stopped until after pregnancy, but vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids are both safe and give skin anti-ageing, collagen-producing support while supercharging your natural pregnancy glow.
'Melasma, patches of pigmentation on your forehead, cheeks, upper lip and chin, is a problem for one in ten pregnant women,' adds Dr Bunting. 'A dermatologist can prescribe azelaic acid to help keep it under control, but the most important defence is a good sunscreen.'
Forget about the traditional chemical sunscreens, Dr Bunting adds, and look out for one containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide instead – they physically block the damaging UV rays without covering the skin with potentially harmful chemicals. She swears by Skinceuticals SPF 50 Sheer Mineral UV Defence to give comprehensive complexion protection – during pregnancy and beyond, too.
Pay someone else
Designed by the pregnancy aficionados at Mama Mio, the Gorgeous Glow Pregnancy Facial spa treatment, from £60 most definitely lives up to its name.
Lashings of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid promise super plump, nourished skin in just 60 minutes – and the tired legs treatment and hydrating body butter are definitely welcome extras.