If you're a mom-to-be and are wondering if it's safe to dye your hair during pregnancy, the good news is that most hair dyes are generally safe and are not toxic to a fetus. Phew! However, since hair dyes, treatments, and products differ in formula and ingredients, there are important considerations to keep in mind before booking an appointment with your colorist...or reaching for a box of hair dye to cover those greys yourself.
To give you a full understanding of the safety of hair color treatments during pregnancy, we sought advice from experts, including obstetricians and gynecologists, who provided comprehensive information on the topic and much more.
We've got the answers to all your burning questions about hair dye and pregnancy, from which kind of dye to use and whether bleach from a double process is safe or not.
Due to the use of chemicals in many hair dyes and treatments (and the ability of our skin to absorb these chemicals), it's totally understandable to have concerns about the safety of hair dye during pregnancy. To alleviate your worries, however, Dr. Anate Brauer, M.D., FACOG, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist practicing in New York, affirms that hair dye use during pregnancy is generally considered safe based on the reassuring data from most animal studies.
Still, it's important to approach dye with caution, as Dr. Staci Tanouye, MD, a practicing OBGYN, says it's best to wait until the second trimester before coloring your hair. This is because, during the first trimester, your baby is still in the crucial stage of developing all its vital organs.
"If you like to be overly cautious, you can avoid coloring your hair during the first trimester of pregnancy - this is when the baby's organs are developing most rapidly," she tells Today's Parent. "However, it is OK to dye your hair at any time during pregnancy or breastfeeding."
Hair dye brands differ in their formula and ingredients. So, if you are wondering which ones are safe to use during pregnancy, Dr. Stephanie Buck-Haskin, MD, FACOG, advises opting for products that are vegan and ammonia free if chemicals are a concern. These products usually contain fewer harsh ingredients compared to traditional hair dyes and can be used safely at home.
"Semi-permanent, pure vegetable dyes are great options for hair while pregnant," Buck-Haskin explains. "A great choice for plant-based hair dye is Biolage."
According to Dr. Buck-Haskin, hair treatments that are ammonia free and vegan-friendly are safe to use during pregnancy. However, because pregnancy can make women more sensitive to irritants than usual, Dr. Tanouye, says you'll want to be mindful that scalp irritation can occur when dyeing the hair.
"Pregnant people may be more at risk for scalp irritation," she explains. "So either try a small patch test on the skin or look for a brand that avoids harsh chemicals such as ammonia, peroxide, PPD, and other synthetic fragrances. If you dye your at home, you'll want to wear gloves to apply dye onto the scalp."
While a good hair day is always a confidence booster, there are hair products and treatments that are best avoided during pregnancy. These include keratin treatments as well as perms, which tend to use stronger chemicals.
"Be sure to avoid keratin treatments and straightening perms," cautions Dr. Buck-Haskins. "Keratin concerns during pregnancy are scalp absorption as well as inhalation with breathing in chemicals. Non-lye perms after 13 weeks are fine with care to avoid scalp absorption and should be performed in a ventilated area."
You'll also want to steer clear of certain straightening treatments during pregnancy, as Dr. Tanouye warns that some contain harmful formaldehyde. "Formaldehyde has been shown to increase miscarriage risk in high exposures," she says.
Likewise, it's also best to reduce exposure to phthalates and parabens during pregnancy. "These chemicals are known endocrine disruptors," adds Dr. Tanouye. "While they have not been shown to affect pregnancy negatively, some people may feel more comfortable decreasing their exposures to these and similar endocrine disruptors. If you’re unsure, speak to your doctor or dermatologist."
Since chemicals in hair dye don't have any harmful implications on an unborn baby, Dr. Tanouye, says you don't have to wait to color your hair. "However, some people may feel more comfortable waiting through the major period of organogenesis, which is mostly the first trimester," she adds.
If you are no stranger to double process color, you may be wondering if the bleach that is used is highly toxic or can enter your bloodstream during pregnancy. However, according to Dr. Tanouye, lightening hair color is usually safe during pregnancy. However, if you have any concerns about sensitivity (or allergic reactions), it's always a good idea to consult your doctor or dermatologist beforehand.
According to Dr. Tanouye, there is limited evidence suggesting pregnancy affects hair coloring results in any way. However, she points out that some hairstylists have observed that hair may not take color as well during pregnancy, so it's something to consider.
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