Is it safe to dye hair while pregnant?

From abstaining from alcohol to avoiding hot tubs, expectant mothers make numerous sacrifices to ensure the well-being of their developing babies. For those accustomed to regularly coloring their hair, relinquishing this habit during pregnancy can pose a significant challenge. Personally, I’ve been getting highlights since my high school days, and the idea of foregoing hair coloring during pregnancy seemed daunting, even though I like to consider myself a natural blonde.

Research on the effects of hair dye during pregnancy remains limited due to ethical constraints on conducting studies involving pregnant women. Nevertheless, it’s imperative to explore what is currently understood about the use of hair dye during pregnancy, including its ingredients, various types, potential impacts, safety considerations, and strategies for minimizing risks.

Is it safe to dye hair while pregnant?
Is it safe to dye hair while pregnant?

Can You Dye Your Hair While Pregnant?

The decision to dye one’s hair during pregnancy ultimately comes down to personal choice. While there exists a theoretical risk that exposure to the chemicals in hair dye could pose complications for both the mother and the developing baby, much of these concerns stem from limited human studies, with most research relying on animal models. However, it’s crucial to note that the chemicals in hair dye are typically not ingested but instead come into contact with the skin. Barring any open wounds on the scalp, only minimal absorption of the dye into the body is expected, making it unlikely for significant amounts to reach the placenta and adversely affect the baby.

Can You Bleach Your Hair While Pregnant?

Hair bleaching, which commonly employs hydrogen peroxide to lighten hair strands, is generally perceived as safer than traditional hair dye. This is because bleach is typically applied in a targeted manner and is less likely to cover the entire scalp. Consequently, the risk of it reaching the placenta and causing harm to the fetus is considered low, especially given that hydrogen peroxide occurs naturally in trace amounts in both the environment and human tissues, and is generally regarded as harmless at such levels.

Potential Risks Associated with Coloring Your Hair During Pregnancy

Several studies have suggested potential links between hair dye usage during pregnancy and certain adverse health outcomes in offspring. These include associations with childhood leukemia in children under the age of 2, allergies, abnormal birth weight, and brain tumors. However, leading cancer research institutions have reported insufficient evidence from these studies to definitively establish a causal relationship between hair dye and cancer. Additionally, another study noted uncertainty regarding the impact of hair dye on fetal development.

What Constitutes Hair Dye?

Hair dye typically contains various ingredients, some of which have raised concerns. Common components include phenylenediamine (also known as PPDA), aminophenols, and ethanolamine. Phenylenediamine, although not extensively studied in human pregnancies, showed no evidence of fetal malformations in a study involving pregnant rats exposed to the substance. Furthermore, the incidence of cancer in rats exposed to phenylenediamine did not reach statistical significance. PPDA is frequently present in both temporary and permanent hair dye products and may cause irritation and allergic reactions, prompting consideration of alternative options.

Other chemicals found in hair dye, such as aminophenols and ethanolamine, have demonstrated the potential for birth defects in animal studies, particularly when administered at high doses. Hair dye formulations also contain numerous additional ingredients, including propylene glycol, oleic acid, and isopropyl alcohol. While these substances are commonly used in various products, including cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, more research is warranted to assess their safety, particularly in combination with other chemicals present in hair dye formulations, especially during pregnancy.

Varieties of Hair Dye Suitable for Use During Pregnancy

Hair dye options encompass gradual, vegetable, temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent varieties, with semi-permanent, permanent, and vegetable dyes being the most prevalent.

– Permanent Hair Dye: This type relies on ammonia to lift the outer layer of the hair, allowing the dye to penetrate deeply into the shaft. Although durable and resistant to fading, permanent dyes often contain harsh chemicals that may irritate the scalp and contribute to hair dryness.

– Semi-Permanent Hair Color: Unlike permanent dye, semi-permanent colorants coat the hair’s surface with pigment without altering the interior strands. Therefore, they omit ethanolamine or ammonia, necessary for penetrating the hair shaft. However, they still contain other potentially irritating chemicals. Additionally, semi-permanent dyes gradually wash away with each shampoo, necessitating more frequent reapplication and exposure to the product.

– Vegetable Dyes: Typically derived from henna, a powdered substance extracted from a red leaf, vegetable dyes are perceived as more natural and possibly safer alternatives. However, they often incorporate PPDA to prolong the dye’s longevity.

Navigating the vast array of hair dye types and scrutinizing their ingredients for pregnancy safety can be daunting. Fortunately, organizations such as the American Pregnancy Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have conducted extensive research, concluding that, in general, hair dyes pose minimal risk of causing significant birth defects during pregnancy. Animal studies have provided reassurance regarding the safety of these products, with only negligible amounts of dye being absorbed into the body.

4 Guidelines for Safely Coloring Your Hair During Pregnancy

If you’ve opted to continue coloring your hair during pregnancy, here are some measures you can take to mitigate potential risks to yourself and your developing baby:

– Wait Until the Second Trimester: Given that most of the baby’s vital organs form during the first trimester, it’s advisable to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals during this critical period. Waiting until the second trimester reduces the risk to your baby during their vulnerable developmental stage.

– Minimize Skin and Scalp Contact: To prevent the absorption of chemicals into your body, wear gloves when applying hair dye to avoid contact with your fingers and hands. Additionally, consider leaving some roots untouched to reduce the dye’s contact with your scalp.

– Reduce Inhalation of Fumes: Just as you aim to limit skin exposure, it’s important to minimize inhalation of fumes. Apply hair dye in a well-ventilated area or open a window to disperse fumes. Wearing an N-95 mask can also help reduce chemical inhalation during the coloring process.

– Conduct a Patch Test: Prioritize your safety and that of your baby by performing a patch test to check for potential allergic reactions to the hair dye. Apply a small amount of dye to a discreet area of skin, such as behind your ear or on your elbow, and monitor for any signs of irritation before proceeding to dye your entire head.

While every expectant mother prioritizes the well-being of her baby, it’s also understandable to desire to maintain your identity and appearance during pregnancy. With moderation and adherence to safety precautions, experts generally agree that hair coloring is safe during pregnancy. Conduct thorough research and consult with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision that aligns with your comfort level, without undue stress or indecision.


Is coloring hair safe during pregnancy?

Generally, most experts consider it safe to color your hair during pregnancy, especially after the first trimester when the baby’s major organs have developed. However, it’s advisable to opt for ammonia-free or low-ammonia hair dyes and to ensure proper ventilation during the process to minimize exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

What if I dyed my hair before I knew I was pregnant?

If you dyed your hair before realizing you were pregnant, try not to worry excessively. The risk of harm to your baby is considered low, especially if the exposure occurred during the early stages of pregnancy. However, it’s still a good idea to inform your healthcare provider so they can provide personalized advice and monitor your pregnancy accordingly.

Is L’Oréal hair dye safe during pregnancy?

L’Oréal offers a wide range of hair dye products, and while many of them may be considered safe for use during pregnancy, it’s essential to check the specific product labels and ingredients. Look for hair dyes that are ammonia-free or have low levels of ammonia, as these are generally considered safer options during pregnancy.

How many months can I color my hair after giving birth?

There isn’t a specific timeline for when it’s safe to resume coloring your hair after giving birth. However, many healthcare providers recommend waiting until after the postpartum period, which typically lasts about six weeks, before resuming hair dye treatments. It’s also a good idea to consider the potential impact on breastfeeding if you plan to dye your hair shortly after giving birth. Always consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice based on your individual circumstances.


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