Can You Dye Your Hair While Pregnant?
Can I Dye My Hair While Pregnant?
March 21, 2021

Can I Dye My Hair While Pregnant?

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Can I Dye My Hair While Pregnant?

Dyeing your hair is one of the most common forms of self-expression. Whether you love your highlights or you’re rocking a vivid hue, you might be wondering if you should give up your color once you get pregnant. We’ll tell you right now: no fear, your dyeing days aren’t over. But there are some precautions you should take for your own comfort and peace of mind.

We talked with Dr. Christine Sterling, OB/GYN and founder of the Sterling Parents community, to answer all your questions about what risks hair dye chemicals actually pose during pregnancy and what you can do to keep the coloring process as safe as possible.

Do chemicals enter your bloodstream when you dye your hair?

If the dye only touches your hair, nothing will enter your bloodstream since your hair is just dead protein (it doesn’t absorb things into the body). Your skin, on the other hand, does absorb things. While there’s no data linking exposure of hair dye chemicals to birth defects, you should always be careful to wear gloves and not let the dye get on your skin, including your scalp, because it could cause irritation. Pro tip: To help minimize the amount of dye that actually touches the skin on your face, put a thick layer of moisturizer around your hairline on your forehead, ears and neck. That way, your skin absorbs the moisturizer instead of the dye, and it’s easy to wipe off.

At what point during pregnancy is it safest to dye your hair?

“The most sensitive time of pregnancy in terms of fetal development,” Dr. Sterling says, “is during a period called embryogenesis, and that’s through the eighth week of pregnancy. That’s the period of time when, if you’re taking any medication, if you get really sick or if you have a high fever, something can cause a heart defect or a congenital malformation. Again, there’s no data linking exposure of hair dye chemicals (at the levels you’d be exposed to while dyeing your hair) to congenital malformation, but some people like to be especially careful during embryogenesis up through the eighth week, and oftentimes people generalize it to the first trimester.”

What are the risks involved with dyeing your hair while pregnant?

The most common risk, Dr. Sterling points out, is increased irritation. “Oftentimes, people’s skin, including their scalp, is more sensitive during pregnancy. So you could use a hair dye that normally didn’t bother your scalp, but while you’re pregnant, it could.”

Even if you’ve never experienced irritation while dyeing your hair, increased skin sensitivity during pregnancy might cause you to experience something like an allergic reaction, such as itching or swelling on your scalp.

Additionally, Dr, Sterling says there’s another risk in the strong smells of the chemicals, “and if you’re inhaling those in a poorly ventilated area, then that might make you lightheaded.”

As far as risks posed to your pregnancy, there’s simply not enough information yet. “We don’t have any data that there are any serious risks with the hair dye itself in terms of being toxic to your pregnancy. Some of these chemicals aren’t great, but we don’t know that they’re going to cause a problem.”

Is it safe to dye your hair while breastfeeding?

Again, Dr. Sterling points out there there’s no data on this specifically, so we don’t know, but “it’s probably okay,” she says. “Personally, I wouldn’t think twice about dyeing my hair while breastfeeding. If hair dye comes in contact with your scalp, if you’re not wearing gloves and you get it on your skin or you somehow get it on your face, that’s where the risk comes from. As long as you’re not getting a huge amount of dye on your skin, don’t worry about it.”

What types of hair dyes, if any, are safest to use while pregnant? Is it true that plant-based hair dyes are safer to use during pregnancy?

“If a dye says that it’s ‘all natural’, the idea that that’s necessarily safer is not really true. Obviously there are some substances found in nature that are not safe to consume or have in your bloodstream while pregnant. Don’t assume that just because something says it’s plant-based or natural that it’s going to be safer. Neither one of these things has been studied, so just use the same precautions with the ‘natural’ hair dyes as you do with the chemical ones.”

Is there any risk with inhaling fumes or chemicals while dyeing your hair that could be harmful to a pregnancy?

“Yes, mostly in that it could make you feel lightheaded or it could make you nauseous,” Dr Sterling says, a reminder that precautions aren’t just for the health of your pregnancy and your baby, but also for your physical comfort. “If you’re smelling it and it’s bothering you, it’s a good sign that you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Is it safer to dye the ends/tips of your hair than your roots?

Remember: your hair is dead protein. “Even if you put a really dangerous chemical at the bottom of your hair, as long as it doesn’t touch your skin or scalp, it can’t do anything to you, because the chemical can’t be absorbed through your hair.”

Is it safer to go to a professional salon than to use box dye while pregnant?

“Not necessarily. A professional salon might be better ventilated, and they might be more careful about not getting dye onto your scalp, but there’s no guarantee that it’s definitely safer.”

Is it okay to bleach your hair while pregnant? Is bleaching your hair more dangerous than dyeing a darker color?

“You don’t want to have a lot of bleach on your skin,” Dr. Sterling says, “because, since your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, it’s going to really irritate your skin. Bleaching isn’t necessarily more dangerous than dyeing a darker color; both can be done relatively safely, as long as the bleach isn’t sitting on your scalp and being absorbed.”

Overall, while there aren’t any studies or data showing that hair dye is harmful during pregnancy, remember that your body is generally more sensitive to irritants during that time. No need to forgo dyeing your hair (honestly, it’s a form of self-care) or -gasp- risk showing the world your natural color, just always be sure to follow the key precautions Dr. Sterling has laid out:

  • Make sure the area is well ventilated
  • Wear gloves
  • Minimize any exposure to your skin or your scalp

Happy dyeing!

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