Can You Colour Your Hair When Pregnant?

Many women are hesitant about using chemical hair treatments during pregnancy and with good reason. Certain chemicals can harm both your health and that of the baby.

Hair dye is one of the treatments that ladies are concerned will affect the growing baby.

Should you avoid colouring your hair during pregnancy? If you dye your hair, are there certain chemical ingredients to avoid?

Hair dye during pregnancy: Is it safe?

The general answer is yes but with a few caveats.

Multiple research efforts have found no adverse health effects either on the mother or the baby of using hair colour during pregnancy. This includes all kinds of hair colours – permanent dye, temporary dye or highlights.

According to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists, there is no observable risk so far of using hair treatments including hair dye during pregnancy. A study done in pregnant animals with exposure levels 100 times more than what you would normally be exposed to, researchers did not see any harm on the mother or foetus.

NHS has similar advice. There is little risk when you apply hair colour when expecting.

The reason behind the harmless nature of hair colour during pregnancy is that very little of the treatment is absorbed into the blood stream. For things like highlights, there is virtually no hair colour that goes below the skin.

For any external chemical to affect your baby, it has to get inside your blood stream where it can then reach the developing foetus.

That said, experts including the NHS strongly advice women to wait until their second trimester before they use hair colour or any other chemical hair treatment. The first 12 weeks is when the foetus is most vulnerable to chemical exposure.

So while experts have yet to see any harm is colouring your hair at any stage of pregnancy, be extra cautious and hold off until the 13th week.

Other precautions

There are a few other steps you can take to keep your baby safe when using hair colour whether it’s in the first or third trimester. Also talk to your doctor for more guidance.

  • Go for highlight or streaks – Unlike a full hair colour job, there is very little chance of any chemical absorption with highlights and streaks. The way highlights are applied in a salon, the dye doesn’t touch the scalp where it might get absorbed into the blood stream. Find a good temporary highlights style until after the pregnancy when you can go full colour.
  • Opt for temporary hair dye – temporary dye lies just on the shaft of the hair. It is not absorbed by the scalp or hair shaft, making it less likely that it will get into your blood stream.
  • Use a well-ventilated room – If the colouring process is going to take more than half an hour, make sure you are in a well-ventilated room. This ensures that any potentially dangerous fumes safely dissipate in the air. If you have to go to a salon where it’s hard to avoid the fumes, consider getting a quick style like highlights.
  • Read product labels – When buying a hair dye, read the ingredients list to see if there is any chemical you should avoid. If you are concerned about a specific ingredient, ask your doctor whether it’s safe. You may feel more comfortable buying organic or ammonia, PPD (Paraphenylenediamine) and peroxide-free hair dye.
  • Use gloves – if you are applying the dye yourself, carefully read the instructions on the label or accompanying leaflet. Make sure you put on gloves not just to avoid staining but also to prevent the dye from getting absorbed into your skin. Don’t forget to work in a well-ventilated room.
  • Rinse your scalp – after the dye has set, thoroughly rinse your scalp to get rid of any that might have gotten on it.

Something to keep in mind…

Your hair may change during pregnancy. It might get more frizzy, less absorbent and weaker. It may therefore react differently to hair dye. Work with your hair dresser to find out whether anything has changed with your hair and whether you should get a slightly different hair dye than the one you were planning. A patch test is especially important during this time.