So you got the news. You’re pregnant.
This is a time marked by excitement and change.
But one change you may or may not have considered is your hair dye routine. And that “pregnancy glow” may not be enough to distract from signs of color fade or those pesky roots doing their best reappearing act.
Sure you’ve been coloring your tresses since high school.
But you’re worried if that is necessarily wise now that you’re with child. Concerned as you are about what the chemicals involved might do to your unborn.
So you’re smart to take a second look at pregnancy and hair color. Many do.
It’s a great time to research that nagging question running through your head “How will dyeing my hair affect my pregnancy?” Hearing as you are from well-meaning friends that dyeing your tresses when pregnant can be dangerous for your developing baby.
Is Hair Color Safe During Pregnancy?
Yes. It’s true. Coloring agents can penetrate your scalp and get into your bloodstream. But the amounts are so minute they are generally considered by the medical community to be harmless.
Still the fact is there are almost no concrete studies that point to specific risks from hair dye to a fetus.
Reason being that there are no moms-to-be willing to volunteer as guinea pigs so proper testing can be done. Well, who in her right mind would? It’s human nature for mothers to protect both themselves and their unborn babies.
However, there are studies conducted on babies with birth defects. In those cases there was nothing that could target hair dye as the main culprit.
So scientists instead tested the effect of hair dye on animals and the studies suggest that there is an increased risk of birth defects in the fetuses of these test animals.
However, this is not sufficient enough for them to conclude that it has the same effects on humans. For one, these test subjects were exposed to chemical concentrations many time higher than those used in hair coloring products for human.
Although there are no identified risks directly associated with hair coloring during pregnancy, experts still advise pregnant women to wait until after their first trimester or better yet to just hold it off until after nursing the child. Mainly because there are certain things to consider when it comes to getting hair color during pregnancy.
- First, your scalp and skin easily absorb chemicals. Several hair coloring products contain a chemical called para-phenylenediamine (PPD) which is considered as a contact allergen and a mild cancer-causing agent. PPD is a darkening agent so the darker the color you use, the more chemicals you will be absorbing. But again these are tiny amounts.
- Second, the fumes coming from the hair color can make some pregnant women nauseated when inhaled. Especially, if the room you’re in isn’t all that well ventilated – like your bathroom perhaps? And if the salon is not well ventilated you may ask them if they could cover your hair with plastic bag. Or you could always take short breaks and go outside to get some fresh air?
- Third, you’re going through some serious hormonal changes when you’re pregnant so the coloring results you might be getting now could be a lot different from the results you got before you were pregnant. It’s either the dye may not lock into your hair as easily or the hair may have become more receptive to the color. Either way the end result may not be what you were expecting.
Still if you’re insistent about coloring then you should at least be aware of these.
What Precautions To Take When Considering Hair Coloring When Pregnant
- Consult Your OBGYN: Be sure to consult your obstetrician first before anything else. If they give you the all clear signal then by all means go book an appointment with your favorite salon.
- Your Colorist Is NOT an OBGYN: (And neither are we.) For that reason don’t ask your colorist if it’s safe. You’re putting him or her on the spot. They should tell you to check with your doctor before doing anything because it’s not their call actually. Besides there may be extenuating circumstances only your doctor is aware of. So don’t look to your colorist to give you the thumbs up or down. If anything, hairdressers will error on the side of caution – which is just what you’d want.
- NIX the DIY: It’s likely best to pass on picking up any box hair coloring for use at home for the next nine months. We’re talking about chemicals here and it would be kind of crazy to apply anything on your scalp when you don’t have any real clue about what they might do – even if the odds of them doing anything are so tiny.
- Stylist On Alert: Before you let the stylist touch your hair, tell him/her that you’re expecting. This way they would know what precautions they should take and what safer alternatives to consider that are available but might not be their first choice for typical clients.
- Highlights Time? One way to minimize how much dye comes in contact with your scalp is to just add highlights or lowlights in foils. That will prevent the dye from even getting anywhere near your skin.
- Even Safer Highlighting: Also, your stylist may choose to use a silicone highlighting cap. Basically the stylist here would simply have to pull certain hair strands to be colored through the holes so the dye doesn’t even reach your scalp.
- Nothing Too Permanent: Another idea? Instead of a permanent hair color, a demi permanent hair color may be your best option since it doesn’t contain ammonia or harsh chemicals.
- Ingredient Watch: Be proactive. Research the different hair color ingredients used. Find out which of them have been banned not just in the United States but in other countries as well – if you want to play it super safe. You might want to check on the list of banned chemicals identified by the European Union since they tend to follow stricter guidelines in terms of safety of chemicals.
- Healthy Scalp?: Check your scalp for any cuts or abrasions. Make sure there are no open wounds otherwise you’d want to wait until they heal.
- Go Natural: Use things great Grandma did. Go for natural products to actually add color to your hair temporarily without resorting to chemicals. Lemon juice for instance can produce amazing highlights when heat activated by the sun. Just expose your hair to the sunlight to let it do its magic. Then too rinsing your hair with chamomile tea can help brighten and lighten your hair. If you’re a brunette, soak your hair in strong black tea or coffee. And if your hair is red, try using beet juice to brighten your color. Those are just different ways to approach the problem that are chemical free.
- Hooked on Henna? Beware of natural dyes. Even henna dyes, which are considered to be natural dyes, may still contain high levels of metals that could pose a potential danger. So even they do not come highly recommended. Unless the product really is 100% pure vegetable hair dye be cautious. Here again research can help you decide.
- Just Say No: Skip coloring if possible. Because the best dye to use when pregnant is none. It’s the safest way to go as most doctors would like to see you hold off any bleaching/coloring until you’re done nursing your child. But if you’re really set on coloring, then wait until the end of your first trimester or four months in. At least by that stage, the fetus will have already developed enough to be less affected. Your doctor can explain this better than me, however.
- Explore Color Depositing Products: Now may be the perfect time to try out color depositing shampoos and conditioners. These would help preserve your current hair color until you’re able to do a color touch up by the 2nd or 3rd trimester.
Actually changing hormones may be a bigger issue for some than coloring itself. That’s because they can, but don’t always, affect how the color turns out. So if you’re wondering can pregnancy hormones affect hair dye the answer is likely yes.
Also, as you’d expect, the FDA has weighed in on this as well with some common sense guidelines. The Mayo Clinic has summed things up nicely if you care to check. As has the American Pregnancy Association here. But neither should replace a discussion with the physician treating you.
To get past this it might be time for something in a balayage. As mentioned before not only will the foils keep the chemicals away from your skin and scalp, but an ombre is a low maintenance approach to coloring your hair.
Nothing we do is without risk. Yet hopefully the ideas shared here helped address some of your concerns and gave you alternative ways to approach hair coloring for the next seven or eight months. The best one being to check with your OBGYN first. Because I’m not a doctor. And this site shouldn’t be used for medical advice.