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What oils can we use in pregnancy and Baby massage? 

This is the blog post which Karina van der Leeuw – Clinical Aromatherapist in the Netherlands has written for me. Thank you Karina. Please leave your comments!




Why should we avoid Synthetic & Mineral based products?

baby oil

Most of the available skin care products on the market are synthetic and mineral based products. Many manufacturers choose to work with these products because they are cheap and readily available. However we are learning more and more that many of the ingredients they use are not as healthy as they may seem. Mineral oils for example, like liquid paraffin or soft liquid paraffin (Vaseline) are by-products of the distillation of crude oil. They lay a film of oil over the skin and hinder the skin from “breathing” and may clog the pores; they may also contain impurities from the distillation process.

Many other ingredients are also a big cause for concern. Preservatives like Parabens are suspected endocrine disruptors and have possible links to cancer. “Fragrance” is a general term and can be synthetic in origin and often potentially harmful or allergenic. some have been shown to affect the central nervous system. The list of ingredients that are allergenic is long. Unfortunately the list of skin products containing these ingredients is also long.

Luckily more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that many skincare products contain these potential allergy triggers, toxic and hormone influencing ingredients, and are therefore looking for natural, organic solutions.

Why are natural products especially important for Babies and during pregnancy

Using natural skin products is especially important for use with new born babies and during pregnancy. This is because the young developing baby skin is very sensitive to all substances as it is much thinner than adult skin, very permeable and will easily absorb substances into the blood stream. Babies are therefore more susceptible to damage from toxins applied to the skin, as their excretory systems are still underdeveloped.

In pregnancy many toxins can pass via the umbilical cord into the foetus. As all the body systems are still developing in these unborn babies it is essential that they are not burdened with anything toxic so they can develop normally.

When looking for a skin product, but especially during pregnancy and for babies, it is therefore recommended that you use natural organic skin products. Natural plant oils like Almond, Apricot kernel, Coconut, Jojoba, Olive, Walnut, Shea, Wheat and Macadamia are often used as they are full of wonderful vitamins and minerals, and are both warming and nourishing.

As ‘living’ substances, rather than inert cold mineral oils, our bodies will accept these plant oils readily and absorb the nutrients through our skin.

Almond oil, for example, is full of Vitamin A, B, D and E. It contains Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Sodium, Iron and lots of Omega 3 fatty acids. It helps make the skin soft and smooth and helps keeps it hydrated. It is ideal for use on all skins – of all ages!

Despite my recommendation for natural skin products it is important, however, to understand that even natural, fully organic, skin care products can also trigger sensitivities and have the potential to cause contact dermatitis. Let me explain why.

Allergies and Natural Oils

As I have explained many organic and natural skin care products are made from products like Wheat germ oil, Wheat Starch, Lactose, Almond, Cashew, Walnut, Peanut, Shea & Macadamia. Although in general these products are safe in use, some could also be possible allergens. That is because anyone allergic or sensitive to any of these foods could potentially react to skin products containing them.

The difference between applying a product to the skin: Topical reaction

It is important to recognise however that there are no reported studies showing that oils applied to the skin trigger the same allergic response (eg anaphylaxis) as when ingested.  There is only one reported incidence of almond oil causing a skin rash and a simple patch test ensures that this remains a local irritation.

Topical reactions to oils are actually very rare. To illustrate this: about 0.4%-0.6% of the population have a food allergy to tree nuts, and of these people about 15% have an allergy for almonds when ingested. Researching the subject I have found only one report of a topical reaction to plant oil. Considering the widespread use of plant oil in skin products that are used every day I would say the chances of a reaction are therefore very low.

So what are the actual allergens in these products? In the case of “nut allergies” it is thought to possibly be a hypersensitivity to cyanide compounds in the nut oil which is the trouble maker. But in most other cases, like Gluten, Lactose or even Almonds it is thought to be specific proteins which are the causative allergens.

Sweet almonds and cold compression

So aren’t Almond nuts? Yes they are but there are actually two types of almonds. The Bitter Almond is poisonous in its raw state (they have to be boiled or baked in order to safely use them and they are mostly used to obtain almond flavors, extract, and fragrances). The Sweet Almond is commercially grown and suitable for consumption and is used to extract oils from. It does not contain cyanide but instead it contains 8 groups of potentially allergenic proteins.

When Sweet Almond is used in a skin care product it is in fact oil extracted from the sweet almond which is used as an ingredient. The Sweet Almond oil is mostly extracted through Cold Compression. Just like the Olive Oil we often use in the kitchen.

When an oil is extracted using cold compression it leaves intact all the lovely nutrients that it naturally contains. This makes it ideal for moisturizing dry, damaged skin.

So are natural skin products safe?

If someone has a known allergy to particular foods it is always advisable they check the ingredients of the skin products they are using. Try and become familiar with the Latin names of the products they are allergic to so that you can quickly spot if they are listed in the ingredients.


If you have no known allergies you could safely consider using cold pressed oils in your skin care products. After all they contain lots of wonderful nutrients that are great for your skin  .  You can also use refined almond oil which is still packed with nutrients but does not have impurities). I personally love to use Cold Pressed oils like Almond, Apricot kernel, Jojoba in my own skin blend, especially in baby massage oil blends.

If you are looking for a suitable product or you want help in making the right choices for your skin, or your baby’s skin, why not think about a visit to your local Aromatherapist who is qualified to advise you.

I the UK you can find an Aromatherapist here

Hope this helps and informs!


Karina van der Leeuw – Clinical Aromatherapist


Fun facts

Did you know?

  1. The skin of a newborn takes up to a year to reach the same skin permeability level as that of an adult.
  2. The natural smell of the mother plays an important role in the bonding between mother and child. It is also a way for the baby to find the mothers breast for feeding. That’s why it is recommended that mothers don’t wear perfume or skin products which contain perfume or essential oils. The same applies to skin products for the baby.
  3. By law a product is allowed to be called a “natural” product as long as it contains only ONE natural ingredient! ??
  4. Almond Oil is great for wrinkles due to its skin smoothening properties!
  5. Plant oils are actually not sticky and oily when you use them on the skin whereas Mineral based oils often are. That is because our skins absorbs the plant oil.
  6. Denmark has chosen to ban ingredients like Parabens and other possible toxins from all the skin products. It is the first European country to do so.


  1. Robert Tisserand. Aromatherapist, author, speaker – Personal interview about allergies concerning Almond Oil.
    Research paper: Conclusion: Tree nut and peanut oils may pose a threat to patients with food allergy, depending on the method of manufacture and processing.

The study of skin ointments containing components of food origin in 27 food sensitized atopic patients confirm that the choice of an ointment for lesional skin is of importance.


Dutch TV programme showing allergens in skin care products, toys, paint etc and the influence on the foetus.


Women in Europe for a common future.  Pregnant women and unborn babies susceptible to endocrine disrupting chemicals.


American Academie of Allergy, Asthma and Immunologie. – We could not find any case of anaphylaxis to almond oil via the topical route in the literature.


Family Asthma and Allergie Care – Montana.  An estimated 1.8 million Americans (between 0.4%-0.6% of the population) have a food allergy to tree nuts.  Of these about 15% have an Almond Allergy.

  1. A Dutch site – part of WECF. Information on toxic chemicals in products.

No Comments

  1. Amy (@PulferHolistics) on 17/04/2015 at 11:40 am

    Lovely, informative article thank you. Just an FYI I like using grape seed oil when massaging and find it absorbs more readily than almond oil and has a wonderful glide to it.

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