Like many such things, there are is no firm proof of the long term damage, or otherwise, that shampoo and conditioner can have on an unborn child.
Yet we make a conscious effort to change our diet to reduce risk to an unborn fetus, so I feel we have duty of care to do the same regarding the chemicals that we put on our skin.
It has, at long last, been accepted that poor diet leads to health problems. My educated guess is that the same will, one day, prove to be the case with products such as cleansers, toothpaste, moisturiser, shampoo and conditioner.
Most of these products contain a high level of man-made ingredients which the human body has difficulty breaking down. Our skin absorbs some of these chemicals and we currently have no idea of the long term harm they might cause on the internal organs.
Because the body’s hormones convey messages throughout the body in tiny amounts, extremely low levels of chemicals, including many used in personal care products, may have serious effects on metabolism, reproductive development and risks for later life disease.
When it comes to exposure to some chemicals, scientists are increasingly discussing ideas such as “timing of exposure” or “windows of susceptibility” during development when the body is especially vulnerable.
Some of these key windows of susceptibility occur during prenatal development and puberty, when the body’s cells are dividing rapidly and when complex organs and functions such as brains, breasts and metabolism develop.
Perhaps this comes as a surprise?
Yet during pregnancy, women are cautioned to avoid smoking and alcohol, to limit consumption of foods that may contain neurotoxins such as tuna (which can contain mercury), and to get enough key nutrients. The womb is the first environment, and it turns out that the health of this first environment can impact health for decades to follow.
Many personal care products contain chemicals that disrupt hormones. For instance, parabens, common preservatives in cosmetics, and triclosan, a common active ingredient in antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, have been shown to disrupt hormones.
Experimental animal studies have shown risks associated with some of the chemicals found in hair products, namely phenylenediamine, aminophenols, and ethanolamine, when used in very high doses. Human studies, however, show that exposure to these chemicals from hair dyes or hair products results in very limited systemic absorption, unless there are burns or abscesses on the scalp. Therefore, these chemicals are unlikely to reach the placenta in substantial amounts to cause harm to the unborn fetus.
Nevertheless, I would certainly encourage everyone - wherever possible - to use chemical/paraben free products on your skin and hair whilst pregnant, breastfeeding and beyond.