If you’re pregnant, there’s not a second of the day during which you won’t be reminded of your condition: You’ll constantly weigh its options in your mind, hear unsolicited advice from strangers, feel its impact on your body, and see its effects in the mirror. Sometimes, the need to take control over something — anything — during this all-consuming transition is strong. A change to your appearance can scratch the itch, if temporarily. For example, dyeing your hair might make you feel good, until the inevitable questions flood your brain: Is it safe to color your hair while pregnant? Do highlights count? Is bleaching your hair harmful?
Here are a few facts to mull over: Most permanent hair dyes contain chemicals. Some ingredient absorption can occur through the scalp. Most experts, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, believe the practice of dyeing hair while pregnant “is not toxic for your fetus.” While there is information available from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration about how to use hair dye safely, there isn’t a wealth of studied information available about pregnant people using chemicals found in personal care products. The nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group offers analysis of potentially questionable ingredients for people to consider against their own comfort levels. But ultimately, the choice is yours to discuss with your own healthcare providers.
I’m Pregnant. What Should I Know Before I Dye My Hair?
“Hair dye contains chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide and ammonium hydroxide,” says Kecia Gaither, M.D. double board-certified physician in OB-GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine. “Research is mixed as to hair dyeing in pregnancy, [but it’s] generally accepted to be safe.” Small amounts of dye are absorbed into the skin, says Gaither, who recommends use in the second trimester of pregnancy. Cosmetic chemist Ginger King tells Romper that the ingredients in hair dye or bleach “adhere to hair the most.”
If you’re ready to try a treatment, it’s a good idea to do a patch-test on a section of hair to make sure you don’t experience an allergic reaction, pros suggest. “Dye hair in a well-ventilated area,” says Gaither. If you’re at home with a box dye kit, gloves are also a cautious choice. “And instead of jumping in the shower to wash your color out, dunk your head in your kitchen sink [and] wash thoroughly [to] avoid all those chemicals coming in contact with your body,” says senior hair stylist Lisa Satorn of California’s popular Nine Zero One salon.
Is It Safe To Bleach My Hair While Pregnant?
First, it’s great to understand what the process entails. “Bleaching the hair — whether it’s highlights, balayage or bleach [and] tone — is a process where bleach is applied to your hair to lighten your strands,” Satorn says. “The bleach will open up the hair cuticle, penetrate the hair cortex, and dissolve the hair’s natural melanin.” Hair bleach, says King, is mainly hydrogen peroxide. Keep in mind that “if applied directly to the scalp, it can sting, burn and cause skin irritation, if not properly done,” Satorn tells Romper.
“If pregnant and considering bleaching, always consult with your doctor first,” she suggests. Should you get the go-ahead from your healthcare team, Satorn recommends highlights or painted-on balayage, “and [skipping] a bleach-and-tone all together. That way there isn’t direct contact with your scalp and skin.”
If you’re on the fence, consider checking out vegetable or henna-based dyes, suggests Gaither. And remember, pregnant or not, there are ways to limit your contact with chemicals when caring for your hair, whether it’s through your choice of dye (like permanent, semi or demi-permanent) or use of color-saving, conditioning washes.
Kecia Gaither M.D., MPH, FACOG, double board-certified in OB-GYN and maternal fetal medicine, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln