Can I Get a Hair Treatment Like Keratin While Pregnant?

Woman with straight hair

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Being pregnant is such an exciting time, and with the added attention on you and your growing baby, some pregnant individuals want to make sure they always look their best. This may include wanting to get beauty and hair treatments like keratin, which straightens and smooths the hair and tames frizz. The service lasts for months and can save you time and effort getting ready in the morning.

However, because many keratin treatments contain harsh chemicals, it is not recommended to get a keratin service while expecting.

“The general recommendation is to skip keratin hair straightening treatments during pregnancy,” says Sally Sartin, MD, women's health expert at K Health. “Keratin treatments may compromise
the health of your baby as they can contain formaldehyde or other substances such as ethanediol and glyoxal, which are known carcinogens, or chemicals that can cause cancer.”

See exactly why keratin and similar hair treatments should be avoided while pregnant and find out some safe at-home options you can use while expecting a baby below.

What Is a Keratin Treatment?

Depending on your hair type and texture, a keratin treatment (also known as a Brazilian blowout) is a chemical process that can either loosen curls or give you extremely straight and silky hair.

“A keratin treatment is a smoothing system that removes or softens curls and controls frizz,” explains Nubia Rëzo, owner of Rëzo Salon in New York City and founder of Rëzo Haircare. “Depending on the care you take at home, a keratin treatment should last for a few months,” Rëzo adds.

Results will last around 12 weeks after an up-front time commitment in the salon. “Depending on hair texture and density, a keratin treatment takes between two and four hours,” Rëzo says.

The service gives most clients a sleek, straight, frizz-free style with minimum effort after getting the treatment. It also helps with breakage, as it seals the cuticle of the hair. In order to get the desired effect, harsh chemicals may be used.

Is It Safe to Get a Keratin Treatment During Pregnancy?

People are advised to avoid getting a keratin treatment on their hair during pregnancy.

“There are absolutely risks when getting a keratin treatment while pregnant because of the chemicals used, including formaldehyde, which can cause respiratory issues when exposed to it over time,” says Rëzo.

Although research on the effects on a fetus from breathing in chemicals is limited, it’s best to avoid any potential risk.  

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

Why You Should Not Get a Keratin Treatment While Pregnant

Keratin treatments should be avoided during pregnancy mainly because of the chemicals involved in the process. It can also take hours for this treatment to be completed, meaning there is a longer exposure time.

“Many keratin treatments contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen and a definite no during pregnancy,” says Anate Aelion Brauer, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist, OBGYN, and IVF director at Shady Grove Fertility-New York. “Even keratin treatments that are marketed as ‘non-formaldehyde’ should not be used in pregnancy, as there is little safety data.”

Non-pregnant people seeking keratin treatments are advised to wear a mask, sit near a window, and ensure the salon has proper ventilation before getting this service. “Most salons do present risk of exposure to fumes from formaldehyde and ammonia, which can be harmful. Ventilation is the best way to mitigate risk,” adds Dr. Brauer.

Risks of Getting a Keratin Treatment While Pregnant

Anything applied to the skin or scalp can be absorbed into your bloodstream and potentially affect your growing baby. This is why certain skincare ingredients like Retinol are not recommended during pregnancy.

“Chemicals that have direct contact with the scalp for prolonged periods of time can theoretically absorb into the bloodstream. Fetal exposure is likely minimal, but not well studied in humans,” says Dr. Brauer.

It’s hard to know the exact risk since studies on people during pregnancy are hard to come by, but we do know there is a risk for the parent, at the very least, when certain chemicals are in the air we breathe. “In general, treatments that contain formaldehyde or ammonia should be avoided, as they are known carcinogens,” adds Dr. Brauer.

In addition to breathing in harmful fumes, anyone could potentially develop a rash (contact dermatitis) or have an allergic reaction to the ingredients in a keratin treatment.

If you did get a keratin treatment before learning you were pregnant, don’t feel guilty. “Remember, most women do not learn of pregnancy until a few weeks into it. Most likely exposure to the fetus is minimal. Do the best you can and don’t be too hard on yourself,” says Dr. Brauer. Be sure to mention it to your OBGYN or midwife, and try to leave the past in the past.

When Can I Resume Getting A Keratin Treatment?

Once you give birth, it is considered safer to get a keratin treatment. However, healthcare professionals and stylists will still warn that this service isn’t without risks.

Even if a keratin service is labeled formaldehyde-free, there will likely still be a harsh chemical involved to achieve the promised results.

A keratin treatment could also pose a risk for your hairdresser, as some studies have correlated reproductive disorders with those who work in the beauty industry. Further studies are needed to draw more specific conclusions.

This service is best used sparingly, if at all, in a well-ventilated salon.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

Since getting keratin or another hair straightening treatment is not recommended during pregnancy, you may have to adjust your beauty standards while you are expecting. Lean into your natural hair texture and discover new, low-maintenance styles that will work for your lifestyle.

To combat frizz, hair needs moisture, so using the right products at home will help you look and feel more confident. “Consider alternatives, such as deep-conditioning treatments,” says Dr. Sartin. “Apply your hair conditioner, slip on a shower cap, and let it soak into your locks for at least 10 minutes."

Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo and Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner work to strengthen and rebuild broken bonds in hair, and work particularly well on dry, brittle hair after getting a chemical treatment like keratin. Olaplex is also free from DEA, aldehydes, formaldehyde, parabens, and sulfates.

If you’re stuck on getting a salon treatment, something like highlights is an approved service while pregnant. “Treatments such as highlights may be safer than traditional dyes since most highlight treatments do not involve direct contact to the scalp and are wrapped with foil which may mitigate fumes,” says Dr. Brauer.

With most salon services, including hair and prenatal massages, it’s best to wait until after the first trimester has passed. “I generally recommend waiting until after 20 weeks of pregnancy when most organs have completed development,” says Dr. Brauer.

For post-salon care, the K18 Biomimetic Hairscience Leave-in Molecular Repair Hair Mask is especially great for damaged or color-treated hair, delivering smoothness, softness, and bounce. It works on all hair types.

If you’re looking for a drugstore option, TRESemmé has a brand new One-Step Stylers Collection. Celebrity hairstylist and TRESemmé Global Stylist Justine Marjan recommend the One Step Smooth Styler ($6, mass retailers), which works best on thick, frizz-prone hair, in place of a keratin treatment. It provides a glossy shine, frizz control, softer strands, as well as heat protection.

A Word From Verywell

Is it not advised to get a hair service like a keratin treatment while pregnant because of the exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Though there is limited safety data about specifically getting keratin while pregnant, most treatments contain chemicals like the carcinogen formaldehyde, so caution should be used even when you aren’t expecting. Be sure you talk to your OBGYN/midwife/healthcare provider on the best beauty practices to follow when you’re pregnant.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Pierce JS, Abelmann A, Spicer LJ, et al. Characterization of formaldehyde exposure resulting from the use of four professional hair straightening productsJournal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. 2011;8(11):686-699. doi:10.1080/15459624.2011.626259

  3. Marceau G, Gallot D, Lemery D, Sapin V. Metabolism of retinol during mammalian placental and embryonic development. In: Vitamins & Hormones. Vol 75. Elsevier; 2007:97-115. doi:10.1016/S0083-6729(06)75004-X

  4. de Groot AC, Flyvholm MA, Lensen G, Menné T, Coenraads PJ. Formaldehyde-releasers: relationship to formaldehyde contact allergy. Contact allergy to formaldehyde and inventory of formaldehyde-releasersContact Dermatitis. 2009;61(2):63-85. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.2009.01582.x

By Dory Zayas
Dory Zayas is a freelance beauty, fashion, and parenting writer. She spent over a decade writing for celebrity publications and since having her daughter in 2019, has been published on sites including INSIDER and Well+Good.