Essential Oils to Avoid While Pregnant and Breastfeeding

Expectant and new moms are always careful to eat and do the right things to protect the health of their babies. We often take for granted that the many products we put on our body can affect the fetus and breast milk as well. This is because skin care product ingredients are absorbed instantly through our skin and directly into the blood stream impacting the health of both mommy and baby.

Even if you’re seeking an all natural skin care line while you are pregnant or breastfeeding (which is recommended), you should also know that certain essential oils should be avoided.

essential oilsWhat are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are a concentrated liquid that are derived from a plant by using the flowers, leaves and/or roots in a distillation process. The term “essential” signifies the aroma or “essence” of that plant. They are found in a variety of products more commonly including skin care, perfume, cleaning products, soaps, and food flavorings. Traditional and alternative medicine may incorporate essential oils into medical and healing applications, and have various regulations for use depending on the country. Generally speaking, essential oils can be infused in products, used directly on the skin, or used in a nebulizer to diffuse the essence into the air. Not all essential oils are created equal. This means, some oils shouldn’t be used directly on the skin, and some should only be used as aromatics.

Essential Oils to Avoid While Pregnant & Breast Feeding
While some would say approach with caution, we say, “Why take the risk?”

On a side note, it’s important to understand that the amount of time, concentration, method of absorption and other considerations need to be made. Check out our article on How Substances Enter Your Body  and How We Accumulate Toxins in our Bodies.

Below is a list of some ingredients that should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding (partial list). While pregnant and breastfeeding, always consult with your medical doctor before using these or any essential oils. Consult your physician before using any essential oil in a diffuser while pregnant.

  • Aloe (drinking juice): Do not use during pregnancy, lactation.
  • Anise (essential oil): Avoid internally and externally in pregnancy, breast-feeding.
  • Basil (essential oil): Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • Bay (essential oil):  Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • Bergamot (essential oil):  Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • Cassia (essential oil): Should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Cedarwood (essential oil):  Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • Dandelion (root, tincture): Do not use during pregnancy or nursing.
  • Roman Chamomile (essential oil):  Avoid chamomile in the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Cinnamon (essential oil):  Avoid during pregnancy, breast-feeding.
  • Clary Sage (essential oil):  Use with caution during pregnancy.  Only use after the first trimester.  Do not use when lactating.
  • Clove (essential oil):  Use with caution in pregnancy; externally, only after the first trimester.
  • Cypress (essential oil):  Avoid in pregnancy, breast-feeding.
  • Elemi (essential oil):  Avoid in pregnancy, with infants and young children.
  • Fennel (essential oil):  Avoid in pregnancy.
  • Garlic (essential oil):  Do not administer essential oil to babies. Best to avoid in pregnancy.
  • Geranium (essential oil):  Contraindicated in the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Ginger (essential oil, teas):  Should not be used for morning sickness.
  • Jasmine (essential oil): Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • Juniper (essential oil):  Contraindicated during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • Lavender (essential oil):  Only after first trimester.
  • Lemongrass (essential oil): Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • Marjoram (essential oil):  Has the potential to stimulate menstruation, do not use during pregnancy.
  • Nutmeg (powder):  Avoid in pregnancy.
  • Parsley (leaf): Avoid in excess during pregnancy and breast feeding.
  • Peppermint (essential oil):  Do not use during the first trimester of pregnancy or while breast-feeding.  Do not use with children younger than two years old.
  • Pine (essential oil): Contraindicated during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • Red Clover (tincture): Avoid during pregnancy.
  • Rose (essential oil):  Contraindicated during the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Rosemary (essential oil):  Contraindicated in the first trimester of pregnancy and should not be administered to babies or children younger than the age of four.
  • Sweet Basil (essential oil, leaf): Contraindicated for use while pregnant, breast-feeding, and with infants or toddlers. Do not use the essential oil during pregnancy or nursing.
  • Thyme (essential oil):  Contraindicated during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • Yarrow (essential oil):  Contraindicated during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
  • Ylang Ylang (essential oil):  Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Using Naturally Unscented Skin Care
Naturally unscented skin care is quite easy to find. You can even make your own with some basic carrier oils such as grape seed, olive, sunflower and coconut oils. You can also use butters such as shea, jojoba, almond, macadamia, Brazil nut, and others. offers a natural and organic line of unscented body care products including scrubs, face care, and soap. You can always go online and search for additional unscented skin care manufacturers.

Written by: Dahlia Kelada


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Clay as an Alternative to Sulfate Shampoo?

Clays have been used around the world for centuries as cosmetic tools as well as medicinal aids. As of late, research has shown the effectiveness of clay making it increasingly popular for health, skin-care and scalp conditions. Clays are used to absorb excess dirt, oil and toxins from the skin while simultaneously exfoliating and improving skin circulation.

For the hair and scalp, clays remove dirt, oil and build-up with out stripping the hair. It also provides moisture removing the need to add a conditioner. Some clays, such as bentonite, can even be ingested internally to help detoxify the body of harsh chemicals and provide calcium to the bones. Still not sold on using clays in your hair? Well let’s talk about that ordinary store-bought shampoo you’re currently using and just how dangerous it may be to your health.

shampoo-bottle-labelingTraditionally, we have been taught to wash with shampoo, condition and style. You receive great satisfaction piling your hair on top of your head and allowing those white suds to strip away dirt, oil and sweat. But what if I told you that your glorified shampoo over time would cause more harm than good? Drying out your hair, causing it to become dry, brittle, weak and ultimately damaged over prolonged use. What if I told you that the same shampoo is not only responsible for damaging your hair but also has the capabilities to cause skin and eye damage, immunological problems and the risk for potential cancer related issues.

Back to the Basics: What is Shampoo and How does it Work?
Shampoos typically include surfactants that are effective at stripping away oil. This is their main and only purpose. Some of the most common surfactants found in shampoo are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). Actually, these 3 ingredients can be found in a multitude of every day products such as shampoos, scalp treatments, hair dyes and hair bleach, tooth-paste, body washes, liquid make-up foundation, hand soap, laundry detergent and house-hold cleansing products. These surfactants are harsh on the hair because they possess an alkaline pH balance as well as a negative charge. It opens the cuticle of the hair, which causes your hair to be dry after washing.

Why You Should Avoid Sulfates in Your Shampoo
There are chemicals in every product that sits on a store shelf. Whenever you apply anything to your body, face or hair, it is immediately absorbed into your bloodstream and filtered to your organs, accumulating over time because our bodies lack the necessary enzymes to break down foreign chemicals. (a)  Recent studies suggest that SLS, SLES and ALS are not harmful to the body. However, keep in mind that these are not the only chemicals found in your products. Every product that you use contains at least 10 chemicals. Check the ingredients label of your facial soap, tooth-paste, shampoo, body wash and make-up. Notice how many different chemicals are entering your body on a daily basis. The average person consumes 5+ lbs of toxins per year just using cosmetic products alone. (b)  Though this may not seem like a large number, think about how long you’ve been using these products. That number could be much greater.

Based on the book, “Beauty to Die For,” by Judi Vance, (c)  research studies on SLS have shown links to:

  • Irritation to the skin and eyes
  • Organ toxicity
  • Developmental/reproductive toxicity
  • Neurotoxcity
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Eco-toxicology
  • Biochemical and cellular changes
  • Possible mutations

Why do Companies Use Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodum Lauyrl Sulfate and Ammoinum Laurel Sulfate?
It’s simple. If there is one word that you will find heavily saturated in the cosmetic industry but you never hear anyone say is CHEAP. As a consumer we are anxious to buy things off the shelf that include fancy labels appealing to our frustrations of dry hair, dry skin, hyper-pigmentation etc. But for companies, the bottom line is profit. They want to use the cheapest available ingredients, mark up the product and make a tremendous profit at the sake of your health. Ingredients like SLS, SLES and ALS are relatively cheap for companies to modify allowing it to give us that sudsy cleaning foam that we all have been conditioned to look for.

Using Clay as a Chemical-Free Shampoo
There are a multitude of organic and natural alternatives such as castile soap, shampoo bars, sulfate-free shampoos and some of my personal favorites – clays. Clays are great because they have a multitude of conditioning & cleansing properties. They are also great for the face and body.  They contain occurring nutrients such as calcium and vitamin’s A and E. The following are just as effective for cleansing the hair and scalp without causing the hair to become dry and brittle over time. In fact, the following clays will actually improve the health of your hair which is something we all want.

  • Bentonite Clay – Bentonite Clay has a high negative charge, and therefore a strong attraction to heavy metals and toxins that it comes in contact with. With this stronger charge, it is able to pull in more unwanted toxins from the hair, thoroughly cleansing the hair by removing product buildup allowing for better moisture. Bentonite clay also has amazing conditioning properties. No conditioners are needed applying rinsing this clay out.
  • Rhassoul Clay – When applied to the face Rhassoul clay removes oil, dirt and pollutants from the skin that the ordinary cleanser cannot reach. When applied to the hair and scalp, it will cleanse, provide moisture, detangle and provide shine in ways that your ordinary shampoo simply can’t.

Step-by-Step: How to Make Your Own Clay Shampoo
I have very curly and textured hair that is prone to dryness and breakage. I use the following recipe to cleanse and condition my hair after a long week of yoga and workouts. Depending on the length and texture of your hair, this will vary. If you have fine hair or oily hair, you may want to cut back on the oils, or remove them altogether. If you do not like olive oil or tea tree oil, feel free to add some alternatives like rosemary, neem, grape seed, or almond. This recipe is completely customizable to your needs and hair type. **Please note: If this is your first time using clay as shampoo, be cautious as this can be a messy process. Wear an old t-shirt and use newspaper if you have carpet** All of the products in this recipe can be found in local food stores such as H-E-B, Trader Joes or Whole Foods in the health section.

Here is what you need:

Mix all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl using a wooden spoon. It’s very important that you do not use metal as it will contaminate your mixture. You should end up with what appears to be wet mud. If you need to add more apple cider vinegar do so. If you find that your mixture is too watery, add more clay.

Begin applying the clay mixture to your scalp (the key to healthy hair is a healthy scalp. Your scalp should always be your primary focus) and work your way down the shaft of the hair. I typically have just enough left over to make my own mask. I apply the remaining mixture to my face. After about 10 minutes, I hop in the shower and rinse my face and hair simultaneously. Do not allow the clay mixture to get hard while it is in your hair. If you find that you have small bits of clay left in your hair add a dab of olive oil to the area and rinse.

We want to hear from you! Have you tried clays for cleansing? Share your recipes. What natural alternatives have you tried for you hair and scalp?

Written by: Tamala Freeman



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What is Vitamin E?

An Overview
Vitamin E is fat-soluble vitamin (the most abundant antioxidant stored in body fat) and is found in a variety of natural sources such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables and whole grains. Vitamin E is primarily used as an antioxidant to protect cells against free radicals. Free radicals are created during metabolism and by environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides. Free radicals can damage cells, and has been suggested to contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Normally, the body can handle free radicals, but if antioxidants are unavailable, or if the free-radical production becomes excessive, damage can occur. Of particular importance is that free radical damage accumulates with age. Antioxidants act as scavengers, helping to prevent cell and tissue damage that could lead to cellular damage and disease. (a)

Vitamin E in Skin Care

Vitamin E in Skin Care
With regard to skin care, vitamin E is listed simply as “tocopherol.” It is used as an antioxidant to protect skin against pollutants and help prevent premature aging. It aids in protecting the skin and prevents moisture loss. Vitamin E can further encourage wound, burn and scar healing. Exposure to sunlight, however, can reduce the amount of vitamin E found on the skin.

At Salve, we use natural tocopherol in our products for the above reasons; but also because it is a natural preservative, delaying the onset of rancidity in fats and oils, extending product shelf life.

When you see the term “tocopherol acetate,” this is the synthetic form of Vitamin E. Synthetic tocopherol  has also been linked to prostate cancer in men (when consumed orally).

Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta
Vitamin E is the collective possession for a family of eight naturally occurring chemically related substances: four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta.) Alpha tocopherol is the only one of these that is maintained in human blood; although gamma tocopherol is the major form of vitamin E found in the diet. (b)

Each tocopherol is a type of antioxidant. And as you now know, antioxidants can inhibit oxidation in cells, thereby reducing the risk of cell degradation and diseases like cancer. All four tocopherols are available in the food items mentioned above.

Why is it better to have a mix of tocopherols?
“Mixed” tocopherols are vitamin E products that contain not just the usual alpha tocopherol, but also the beta, delta, and gamma forms.

There is growing evidence that it is necessary to use all forms to get the most benefit out of vitamin E, and it may even be harmful to use a plain alpha tocopherol since it could displace some of the more beneficial gamma tocopherols in the diet.  (c)

Benefits supplied by mixed tocopherols range from increased immunity to faster healing. They have also been implicated in stopping tissue inflammation. By consuming mixed tocopherols rather than just one type of tocopherol, a person can reap a wide variety of specialized benefits since each tocopherol has different abilities. (d)

Some of Salve’s products have a low-alpha mix of tocopherols that contain eight naturally occurring compounds (the fractions are called alpha, beta, delta, epsilon, eta, gamma and zeta tocopherol, and the four tocotrienols).

Content of Tocopherol in Salve Products:
d-alpha tocopherol: 20 max mg/g
d-beta tocopherol: 35 max mg/g
d-gamma tocopherol: 300 min mg/g
d-delta tocopherol: 80 min mg/g
Total Content Tocopherol: 500+ mg/g

Since the alpha tocopherol activity is most responsible for the effectiveness of the product, the potency of Vitamin E oil is measured by its alpha tocopherol content (e.g. d-alpha) While each of these compounds exhibits different biological activities, d-alpha tocopherol has the highest biological activity and is the most widely available form of vitamin E in food.


(f) Fuchs J, Huflejt ME, Rothfuss LM, Wilson DS, Carcamo G, Packer L. Acute effects of near ultraviolet and visible light on the cutaneous antioxidant defense system. Photochemistry and photobiology. 1989 Dec;50(6):739-44

Written by: Dahlia Kelada

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What is the difference among perfume, eau de toilette, eau de perfume, and fragrance?

natural skin care with no artificial fragranceAt some point or another, we’ve all used any variety of perfumes, eau de toilettes, fragrances and essential oils. They come in fancy colored glass bottles, fine mists sprays, tiny vials, and  even roll-on applicators. They range from $1 all the way up to hundreds of dollars. They all smell nice, but what are they really made of?

The truth – just because your $150 perfume smells like orchids doesn’t mean it is made of orchids.

A Brief History
The art of making herb- and spice-infused oils to mask body odor started thousands of years ago in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Then a Persian chemist discovered distillation, taking oil directly from the flower (essential oil). This art of making scents then spread throughout Europe where the French improved on the process. They discovered advanced methods of scent creation, and even till now France remains at the epicenter of perfumery. The word “perfume” comes from Latin “per fumum,” which literally means “through smoke.”

Perfume, Eau de Perfume, Eau de Toilette, and Body Splash
Perfume as we know it today contains a concentration of aromas which may come from an often undisclosed blend of essential oils or synthetic odorants (smells not found in nature). These aromatic compounds are typically mixed with an ethanol (alcohol) and water to create a sprayable perfume.

The concentration of the aromatic ingredients determines whether the finished product will be a perfume (20-30% aroma), eau de perfume (11-19% aroma), au de toilette (6-10% aroma), or body splash/eau de cologne (3-5% aroma).

The higher the concentration, the longer the smell will last when applied. Perfumes last 6-8 hours or more; eau de perfumes last 4-6 hours; au de toilettes last 2-4 hours; and body splashes last 2-3 hours.

Where do the smells come from?
Aromatic ingredients found in nature can come from flower blossoms, fruit, tree bark, twigs, seeds, leaves, plant roots, moss, seaweed, natural resins, and wood. Some scents, particularly musks, may come from animals, but are becoming more rare as synthetic musks replace them.

Synthetically created scents (artificial fragrance) are not unusual in the world of perfume. Take “white musk” for instance or “orchid.” These scents are not naturally found, and neither are marine type scents. You’ll find artificial fragrance in MOST perfumes found in your favorite department store; in body care products such as shampoo, body wash, and soaps; and in detergents and room sprays.

What is artificial fragrance made from?
What if I told you 95% of artificial fragrances are made from chemicals found in natural gas and petroleum? The petrochemicals commonly used to create these fragrances are benzene, toluene, xylenes, and methanol. Phthalates (diethyl phthalate or DEP) is another chemical commonly used in artificial fragrance to dissolve oil and fragrance. With continuous exposure to these chemicals, there’s a risk of potentially disrupting our hormone and endocrine system, which can impact fertility and development in both men and women, and impact fetus development. Not to mention, it can increase cancer risks.

By the way, it’s worth mentioning that DEP is an ever-present pollutant of the human body, found in 97 percent of Americans tested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Umm— time for a reality check!

How do you know when an artificial fragrance is used?
Read the label! If you see “fragrance,” or “artificial fragrance,” or “fragrance-free,” there’s a chance of exposure to these chemicals. By the way, just because a product may say “fragrance-free,” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have other chemicals masking to make it appear to have no smell. Also, stay away from “musks.”

“There is evidence that exposure to synthetic musks can have hormone disrupting effects. Galaxolide and Tonalide can bind to and stimulate human estrogen receptors, and both musks have been shown to affect androgen and progesterone receptors. Tonalide has also been reported to increase the proliferation of estrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells. Further, Tonalide has been identified as a photosensitizer, a chemical that becomes more toxic when exposed to sunlight on the skin and has been linked to liver toxicity..

Due to the ubiquity of these chemicals, synthetic musks are pervasive in people’s bodies—even in newborns. Environmental Working Group tests of umbilical cord blood found 7 out of 10 babies had been born with Tonalide and/or Galaxolide in their blood. Another study detected Galaxolide in the blood of 91 percent of Austrian students.”

What Should I do?
Safest to find products that say, “no artificial fragrance.” Use products with pure essential oils or distillations. Find a skin care line that offers no artificial fragrance and phthalate-free products. Make your own scents by blending vodka, distilled water and essential oils. Use natural infused flower water as a body mist, e.g. rose water or orange blossom water.

Learn more at:

Article: Avoid Artificial Fragrance
Report: “Not So Sexy” (2010)
Report: “A Little Prettier” (2008)
Report: “Not Too Pretty” (2002)
Science: Phthalates
Skin Deep product search: Fragrance-free cosmetics 

Skin Deep topic: Fragrance 

Analysis: Scented Secrets

Quote Source:
Science: Synthetic musks

Bitsch N, Dudas C, Körner W, Failing K, Biselli S, Rimkus G, Brunn H. 2002. Estrogenic activity of musk fragrances detected by the E-screen assay using human mcf-7 cells. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 43(3): 257-64.

Seinen W, Lemmen JG, Pieters RH, Verbruggen EM, Van der Burg B. (1999). AHTN and HHCB show weak estrogenic but no uterotrophic activity. Toxicol. Lett. 111, 161–168.

Schreurs RH, Sonneveld E, Jansen JH, Seinen W, van der Burg B. 2005. Interaction of polycyclic musks and UV filters with the estrogen receptor (ER), androgen receptor (AR), and progesterone receptor (PR) in reporter gene bioassays. Toxicol Sci. 83(2): 264-72.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). 2009a. Inventory Update Reporting (IUR) Data for 2006. Available:

Written by: Dahlia Kelada

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