Cleaning Up My Beauty Routine—for Pregnancy and Beyond

There’s a laundry list of things that are off-limits when you’re pregnant. Many of them are pretty well-known—booze, sushi, quadruple-espressos—while others might come as a surprise. Did you know that you’re not supposed to eat deli meat when you’re pregnant? I also learned that you should be just as careful about what you put on your body as what you put in it. Up there with cocktails on the don’t list: retinoids and salicylic acid. There’s also a load of controversial cosmetic ingredients that more and more sources are saying everyone—not just moms-to-be—should avoid. These include parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates and phthalates, just to name a few, and more chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health problems (what?).

So when I found out I was pregnant, I decided to clean up my beauty routine. The biggest challenge was learning how to decipher an ingredient list, which might as well be in Russian. Thankfully, my brother’s girlfriend studied toxicity in the (largely unregulated) industry for personal-care products and pointed me to some wonderful resources, such as the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, which provides safety ratings for thousands of products. They also have an app so you can easily scan products to see how they stack up. It turned out that almost all of my go-to products, including some that claimed to be dermatologist-recommended, contained not-so-good ingredients. Some even had known carcinogens!

Finding replacements has been a long process, and it’s one that I’ve certainly not completed yet. If you decide to go down this road too, I’ll warn you that it can be overwhelming at first, but here’s a helpful tip: Focus first on swapping out the products that you use most frequently and that cover the most surface area. For example, I use body lotion almost daily—and it covers a lot more ground than eye cream—so finding a new body lotion was first on my list. To keep my sanity in check, my goal is limiting my exposure to the bad stuff instead of aiming for perfection.

After months of trying dozens of sunscreens, lotions and lip balms, here are my favorite better-for-you finds for skin care and makeup so far, which I’ve found to be just as effective as their chemical-packed counterparts.

Better-for-you beauty products

1. Makeup remover: S.W. Basics Makeup Remover, which has only three ingredients—all plant oils ($14).

2. Cleanser: 100% Pure Organic Lavender Honey Cleanser, a gentle, foamy wash that doesn’t strip your skin ($21). 

3. Exfoliant: Tatcha Rice Enzyme Powder, a geisha-inspired exfoliant that leaves skin super smooth—it’s worth the splurge, especially if you’ve tossed your chemical exfoliants ($65).

4. Toner: 100% Pure Organic Rose Hydrosol Facial Mist, which smells like a rose garden without any artificial fragrances ($15).

5. Serum: Juice Beauty Antioxidant Serum, an incredibly lightweight wrinkle-reducer that layers easily under moisturizer or makeup ($45).

6. Eye cream: Dr. Hauschka Daily Hydrating Eye Cream, a super-hydrating cream with botanical wrinkle-minimizers ($52).

7. Spot treatment: MyChelle Dermaceuticals Clear Skin Spot Treatment, a sulphur-based formula that clears blemishes quickly without over-drying ($16).

8. Moisturizer: 100% Pure Red Wine Resveratrol Nourishing Cream, which contains as much resveratrol as 30,000 glasses of red wine, making it a safe way to load up on the anti-ager when wine is off the table ($38).

9. Face oil: Josie Maran Argan Oil, which has nothing but this natural, nourishing oil that can also be used to moisturize hair and nails ($48).

10. Face sunscreen: MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield SPF 28, a chemical-free sunscreen that blocks rays with a translucent form of zinc oxide—no telltale white sheen here ($20).

11. Body lotion: Nourish Organic Body Lotion in Almond Vanilla, a naturally sweet-scented moisturizer that has the USDA’s stamp of organic approval ($12).

12. Body sunscreen: Juice Beauty SPF 30 Sport Moisturizer, a chemical-free, water-resistant sunscreen that goes on white at first but absorbs quickly and easily ($16).

13. Tinted moisturizer: Josie Maran Argan Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 30, a multi-tasking tint with pretty coverage, natural sunscreen and moisturizing argan oil ($38).

14. Concealer: Josie Maran Argan Creamy Concealer Crayon, which makes covering up dark circles and blemishes as easy as coloring ($20).

15. Highlighter: RMS Beauty Living Luminizer, an oil-infused illuminator that gives skin a dewy, model-worthy glow (also available at J. Crew) ($38).

16. Eyeliner: Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Liner, a last-all-day liner that comes in seven smooth, clay-based shades (I’m loving Moonstone Brown) ($19).

17. Lip balm: Kari Gran Lip Whip in Naked, a food-grade gloss that’s good enough to eat (because apparently we swallow pounds of this stuff a year) with two flavors, peppermint and cinnamon-pimenta berry ($15).

A few more things: I also signed up for a monthly subscription to GoodeBox—think Birchbox but with all clean products—which has been a great way to discover and sample everything from organic eye shadow to non-toxic nail polish. Animal lovers will also be happy to know that most natural lines are cruelty-free (yay!), making this process even more worth the effort. To learn more about cleaning up your beauty cabinet, I recommend reading a recent interview on Goop with the co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

I’ve also discovered some better-for-you body washes, hair products and even a natural deodorant that really works (promise!), but I’ll save that for another post. In the meantime, I’ll continue researching and trying out healthier beauty swaps. Do you have any clean products that you love? I’d love to hear all about them!


  1. Ha, I totally forgot about deli meat! That one was surprising! Kudos to you for finding a natural deo that works! I must try it!

    1. I know, deli meat is a weird one! I'll put together that post with natural deo for you soon! xo