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Can I Dye My Hair While Pregnant?
Updated on
December 7, 2023

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, covering grays or you’re rocking a vivid hue, you might be wondering if you should give up your color once you get pregnant. But have no fear, your dyeing days aren’t over. However, 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, about the potential risks of dyeing your hair while pregnant and what you can do to keep the coloring process as safe as possible.

Can dyeing hair while pregnant cause birth defects?

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 to hair dye chemicals and 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. If you need some recommendations for pregnancy-safe skincare, we have that advice too.

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.

When can I dye my hair while pregnant?

You can dye your hair at any point during pregnancy, and experts advise taking cautionary measures (i.e., gloves and a well ventilated area) regardless of how far along you are. But some stages of fetal development are more sensitive than others.

“The most sensitive time of pregnancy in terms of fetal development is during a period called embryogenesis, and that’s through the eighth week of pregnancy,” Dr. Sterling says. During those first eight weeks, if you’re taking any medication, get really sick or have a high fever, there’s a higher risk for fetal heart defects or a congenital malformation (and if you do get sick, here’s the info on taking Tylenol during pregnancy). Again, there’s no data linking exposure to hair dye chemicals (at the levels you’d be exposed to while dyeing your hair) and 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,” Sterling says.

What are the risks of dyeing 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.” 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.

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,” Sterling says.

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,” Sterling says. “Some of these chemicals aren’t great, but we don’t know that they’re going to cause a problem.”

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 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 safe to dye 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 is the best hair dye for pregnant people?

“If a dye says that it’s ‘all natural,’ the idea that that’s necessarily safer is not really true,” Sterling says. “Don’t assume that just because something says it’s plant-based or natural that it’s going to be safer.” So if you use hair dye labeled as “natural” or “plant-based,” it’s a good idea to use the same precautions as you would with chemical hair dyes.

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

The “safest” part of your hair to dye would be whatever part is farthest from any of your skin. If you put dye on your ends and then they touch your bare shoulders, that’s generally the same risk as getting dye on your scalp when coloring 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,” Sterling says.

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,” Sterling says.

Can I bleach my hair while pregnant?

“You don’t want to have a lot of bleach on your skin,” Sterling says. “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!

Amylia Ryan

Associate Editor

Amylia Ryan is the Associate Editor at Babylist, specializing on the topics of health, wellness, lifestyle products and more. Combining nearly a decade of experience in writing and editing with a deep passion for helping people, her number one goal in her work is to ensure new parents feel supported and understood. She herself is a parent to two young children, who are more than willing to help product test endless toys, books, clothes, toiletries and more.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.