Do You Need To Give Up Your Favourite Perfume If You’re Pregnant?

Not necessarily – but you do need to be conscious about what you’re spritzing on your skin.

In 2020, the conversation around beauty and health is becoming more and more nuanced. It’s information overload out here. For every expert that says don’t you dare wash your hair with SLS-laden shampoo (!) there’s another that recommends you go right ahead. Couple this phenomenon with pregnancy, and frankly, we’re exhausted. 

Recently, we wrote an explainer on the most common ‘nasties’ to grace free-from labels (you read here) and pregnancy skincare (click this link). Another question we get asked a lot is: can you continue to wear perfume during pregnancy?

There is no right and wrong in this instance; as always, the decision is up to you. There are two major factors at play: firstly, the true meaning of fragrance on ingredient labels and b) the discussion around phthalates. 

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If you want full transparency around what’s in your perfume, traditional fragrances are not your friend. For the most part, beauty brands have to abide by the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) and list what’s inside each product. However, fragrance gets a free pass as it’s considered proprietary or trade secret; companies don’t want to give away any specifics about their formulation to avoid copy cats.

When ‘fragrance’ is listed on an ingredient label that single ingredient could contain a cocktail of chemicals – or it could be a simple blend of low-risk ingredients. We just don’t know. But if we were to make an educated guess, we’d lean towards the former.

One known ingredient that is often lurking beneath the fragrance label is phthalates. Often phthalates are added to a scent to make it last longer. The downside? Some studies suggest that exposure to these chemicals could disrupt normal hormone function and lead to problems after birth. In light of these health concerns, several phthalates – including dibutylphthalate, diethylhexylphthalate, diisobutylphthalate and di(methyloxyhexyl)phthalate – have been banned in Australia.

The lack of transparency and ongoing research into how fragrance affects our reproductive system means that many pregnant women choose to forgo traditional perfume in favour of ‘clean’ formulas.

After spending years working in marketing for luxury fashion brands, Belinda Smith, founder of St. Rose, wanted to create a brand that prioritised its customers health. “We say that beauty should be clean because everything you apply is either absorbed or washes off into the ocean,” Smith tells Gritty Pretty. “During pregnancy taking care of yourself has never been more important. When it comes to avoiding fragrance specifically I believe it comes down to fear of the unknown.”

If you want to play it safe, there are a number of thoughtful new fragrance brands that happily steer clear of potentially harmful ingredients. 

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St. Rose 

St. Rose was born in Australia, raised in New York – much like Smith herself. This relatively new brand is thoughtful from start to finish. “Our non-negotiables are that ingredients must be healthy to people and the planet. Every single essence brought onto our perfumers’ palette adheres to our stringent guidelines for human and environmental health. This means that a very long list of 2,000 aromatic materials currently published by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), only 300 made the St. Rose cut.” All formulas are cruelty free and devoid of BHT, phenoxyethanol, parabens, pthalates, nitro musks, poly or alicyclic musks and artificial colorants. These artisanal fragrances are hand-crafted using ethically sourced ingredients. 

GP Loves: Juliet in White ($165) and Gypsy Cowboy ($165)


This Perth store is fast-becoming a local beauty institution. Stop by for a toxin-free facial and leave with a pregnancy safe fragrance for home. All perfumes are made in Australia from natural ingredients – including sustainably grown Indian sandalwood. Heartwood specialises in bespoke blends. 

GP Loves: The make your own parfum experience is $210 per person and includes a 50ml parfum, custom label and box.

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Recreation Beauty

Based in Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach, Recreation Beauty is an all-natural fragrance and beauty brand founded by former Cleo and Cosmopolitan magazine editor Nedahl Stelio. All ingredients are ethically sourced with a focus on organic where possible. The brand placed a long list of ingredients on the ‘no way’ list including: parabens, mineral oils, petrolatums, sulphates, phthalates, siloxanes, DEA, PEGS, BHA and BHT.

GP Loves: Stardust ($109)

Ellis Brooklyn

These small-batch formulas are just as luxurious as the major fragrance houses. Created by the New York Times’ long-standing beauty writer Bee Shapiro, this clean brand was way before its time. The idea came to Shapiro when she was pregnant in 2013 and came to fruition two years later. Chic, delicately scented and free from questionable chemicals, what more could you ask for? 

GP Loves: West ($160) and Rose ($160)

We now have a podcast! Introducing, Gritty Pretty Radio – a new beauty podcast where we chat to some of the industry’s leading beauty entrepreneurs, brand founders and celebrities. Hosted by Founder & Editor-In-Chief, Eleanor Pendleton and Beauty Director, Erin Cook, this platform is your one-stop beauty shop. Click here to listen. 


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