Can I Dye My Hair While Pregnant?

Woman in hair salon


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For many, going to the salon for hair color is an important part of your beauty regimen, and probably something you have been doing for years. But once you find out you’re pregnant, every activity that once seemed routine may be called into question.

Good news: getting your hair dyed while pregnant is considered safe, especially in the second and third trimesters. Since most hair dyes have little contact with your scalp, the chance of any chemicals reaching your bloodstream, and therefore your baby, is low.

Keep reading to learn more about why it's generally considered safe to get your hair colored while you're pregnant.

What Is Hair Dye?

Hair dye comes in different forms: permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary. Permanent hair color is the most complex process and lasts for months with little-to-no fading. Semi-permanent color lasts for a few weeks, and can also be used at home to touch up grays in between salon visits. Temporary hair color is usually found in a spray formula and fades away in one or two washes.

There are also different ways to apply hair dye. A root touch-up is when the dye is applied on your roots to match your hair color. This is usually a technique to cover gray hair. A single process is when one color is applied all over to lighten or darken the hair.

Highlights, lowlights, and balayage are when individual strands are “painted” to create dimension and contrast.

Is It Safe to Dye Your Hair During Pregnancy?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists deems it safe to dye your hair during pregnancy. “Most experts think that using hair dye during pregnancy is not toxic for your fetus,” the website states.

“While the data on hair dye in pregnancy is limited, we do understand that the chemicals found in semi-permanent and permanent hair dyes are unlikely to be highly toxic, and thus are probably safe to use during pregnancy, especially after the second trimester,” says Dr. Temeka Zore, MD, FACOG, who is a Reproductive Endocrinologist of Infertility and OBGYN at Spring Fertility, as well as a Modern Fertility Medical Advisor.

If you dyed your hair before realizing you were pregnant, the risk of harming your unborn baby is low. You should still discuss it with your or your healthcare provider, so they can provide additional guidance if needed.  

Dye does contain chemicals, but very little is actually absorbed by the skin on your scalp. Hair that is past the follicle on your head is actually dead, so there is no way for it to "absorb" color into your body. Very minor amounts enter the bloodstream, if any. “The risk of the chemicals reaching the fetus seems extremely limited,” Dr. Zore adds.

Some worry that if a color is sitting on your scalp for too long, it could go into your bloodstream, though again, Dr. Zore says that risk is minor. Studies have also proven that dye produces no significant systemic exposure in humans.

Furthermore, since those who do get color typically get their hair dyed every eight weeks, on average, they would only get their hair dyed three to four times during pregnancy. Studies have proven that this would not increase any adverse effects on the fetus.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about getting your hair dyed while pregnant.

Safety Precautions for Dyeing Your Hair While Pregnant

Dr. Zore says that while dyeing your hair is safe to do while pregnant, it is advised to wait until after the first trimester. This is when the most rapid fetal development takes place. Since testing on pregnant women is not common, this is a "better safe than sorry" attitude.

“You can also consider highlights or balayage which significantly reduces the likelihood of chemicals coming into contact with the scalp,” says Dr. Zore.

According to Nikki Lee, a Garnier celebrity hair colorist and mom of two (she has a daughter Parker, 3, and son Dylan, 1), there are plenty of dye options and techniques out there. She echos Dr. Zore's suggestion: “The safest thing to do if you’re going to color while pregnant is to do highlights because the actual color won’t be sitting on your scalp.”

Lee offers another option: pick a natural or plant-based dye. Try to find or ask for a dye without the chemical paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which can cause allergic reactions or contact dermatitis.

Nikki Lee

If you must do a base color, typically an ammonia-free color is a good route

— Nikki Lee

“If you must do a base color, typically an ammonia-free color is a good route,” Lee says. Ammonia is not only damaging to hair, but it also causes a strong odor that could lead to temporary throat or eye irritation.

As far as inhalation of the chemicals in hair dye, you can request to sit near an open window or get your color done in a well-ventilated room. Additionally, wearing a face mask is not necessary while getting your hair dyed because the concentration is not high enough to cause harm. “I don’t feel like a mask is necessary for color—only for COVID-19 [prevention],” says Lee.

Though some dyes like bleach, which is commonly used for highlights, do have a strong odor, studies have shown that personal use of hair dye did not increase a person’s risk of cancer. Remember, the chemicals in hair dye are only applied to your head for a short period of time and are then rinsed off.

Hairdressers Who Work When Pregnant

If you make a living as a hairstylist or colorist, it is fine to continue working while pregnant. Minimize risk by wearing gloves when handling dye, avoiding standing for prolonged periods of time, and working in a salon with a good ventilation system.

What To Do If You Don't Want To Dye Your Hair While Pregnant

If a pregnant person decides not to color their hair during pregnancy, that is their choice. While you are growing a new life, you could choose to embrace your grays or get back to your roots—literally—by letting your natural hair color grow out.

If you want a quick fix for a night out, there are root touch-up sprays and powders that are temporary options. They last one to three days or until you shampoo your hair.

There are drugstore options, like the L'Oréal Paris Magic Root Cover Up, which costs around $10. There are also more high-end offerings like dpHUE's Color Touch Up Spray and Rita Hazan's Root Concealer Touch Up Stick, both invented by celebrity colorists.

A Word From Verywell

Most experts agree: you can dye your hair during pregnancy. There is little risk to the baby, especially in the second and third trimesters. It’s a voluntary beauty treatment that is not necessary, but it may help you feel more like yourself as your body changes. Be sure to talk with your or healthcare provider about what’s best for you and your pregnancy.

 

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