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Is It Safe To Color My Hair While Pregnant?

By Amalah

Dear, dear, intelligent, very smart, wonderful, non-judgy Amalah,

I just found out I’m unexpectedly 6 weeks pregnant, and my first doctor appointment isn’t for almost TWO. MORE. WEEKS. (Gaa!) Anyway, my natural hair color is close to yours- very blond. A few months ago, I decided to (with the help of my stylist) go dark brown. I love it! Everyone loves it (by which I mean that women everywhere are nicer to me than before and greasy men don’t notice that I exist- bliss!).

Unfortunately, after about three weeks, I get really horrendous roots. I’ve been getting quite a bit of gray in the past few years (and I’m only 25, woe), so the gray/blond coming in looks really bad. Bad, bad. Anyway, I know I probably shouldn’t slather my scalp in dark brown hair color, especially in the first trimester. Neural tube and brain and all that (I would like my baby to have a brain, please). Also, I’m terrified of a miscarriage (maybe because it was so unexpected? maybe that fear just happens to everyone?), so I’m trying to be really careful. I’ll listen to my doctor, of course, but do you have any advice for going back to blond? Did you keep up your highlights when pregnant, and if so, did you take any extra precautions?

I’m planning to wait at least until my doctor’s appointment to take action, but OUCH. My hair is bad, as I’m 3 1/2 weeks since my last color. I’m a grad student and therapist and so only really have to worry about dressing up one day a week for my internship, but even I get tired of hats every day. Are there any other ways to cleverly disguise horrible, tacky blond roots? I have side bangs and straight, shoulder-length hair (I get the impression that is about your texture, too). Also! I don’t have to wash it every day lately! Glory be. With things like that happening, I should have known sooner, seriously. Pregnancy is weird. I’m also expecting to chop-chop it really short in order to transition back to blond sooner (I only intended to be a brunette for fall and winter, anyway), if that becomes necessary. My husband says he’ll support whatever I think is safe and good. Thank you. Bless you. You are doing a good thing. My skin and hair are happier because of your advice. Philosophy! Woo!


Okay…deep breath! Guess what! While the research about hair dyes and pregnancy is kind of limited, the vast majority of it (and the popular going opinion in the books these days) suggest that you have absolutely nothing to worry about. It is safe to color your hair while pregnant. Several pregnancy books I’ve read have practically downgraded the fear of hair color down to the status of an old wives’ tale.

I kept up my highlights throughout both pregnancies, including the first trimester. All of my friends kept up their color as well — everything from highlights to single-process, from salon jobs to color-from-a-box, from permanent to semi-permanent. My hair stylist was pregnant herself and colored her hair and everybody else’s for nine months straight. Our babies all have their brains intact, I assure you.

A few tips:

1.  tell your stylist about the pregnancy, so he or she knows to limit the time the dye sits on your scalp and to rinse it off promptly and thoroughly. (For preggos coloring at home, same thing. Go with the shortest amount time and wear gloves.) (Duh, like you wouldn’t, I know.)

2. Get an appointment in the morning or on a less busy day to avoid breathing in all the chemicals (also recommended for anyone suffering from first-trimester vomiting).

3. But really, the dye that sits on your scalp is not absorbed into your bloodstream in significant amounts, and we certainly don’t know if it’s crossing the placenta. (Again, we’re limited by there not being a ton of research, since pregnant women are generally not going to offer themselves up as guinea pigs.) If it was, hair dye would be scrambling OUR brains and giving us cancer left and right. But it’s not. It’s certainly not the greatest chemical goop in the world, but as these things go, it’s a perfectly safe process for everybody involved.

4. Your doctor might err on the side of Almighty Caution and tell you to wait until the second trimester. This is still a popular opinion. (By the way, you know you don’t need to wait until your first appointment to get his or her opinion about what is safe and what isn’t, right? CALL THEM. ASK. You don’t have to fork over a co-pay for answers or hoard your questions for your office visits. Just call and ask, no need to wait.) Some doctors and midwives will tell you to go ahead and avoid anything that you’re worried about or that might carry the slightest bit of risk. Get used to this. Everything from medium-rare steaks to cold medicines to bowling. Of course we listen to our doctors, but…TRY not to fall totally victim to the culture of fear that surrounds every aspect of pregnancy these days.

I’ve ranted before about the incredible (and often unnecessary) restrictions that get put on pregnant women — you’re more likely to get a food-borne illness from a fast food place than from a nice sushi restaurant, but no one tsk-tsks you while you’re scarfing down a breakfast sandwich, you know? We get chided over our Starbucks because someone read something once, even though that study about caffeine and first-trimester miscarriages was as full of holes as a slice of unpasteurized Swiss cheese. (I went to my doctor howling for migraine medication in the first trimester, and he blinked and told me to go have a freaking cup of coffee already. And I did. AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.)

However, if coloring your hair freaks your out, by all means don’t do anything that freaks you out. Check out the health food stores (or Whole Foods) for “natural” hair color options. Get some tinted Bumble & Bumble Hair Powder to help camo those roots. Hell, wear your hair in a ponytail and color your roots with a magic marker, if you have to. Talk to your stylist about possibly doing a lot of brown highlights instead of single-process (there’s less scalp contact with highlights). And good luck, and remember that we haven’t died out as a species yet, despite going for centuries and centuries before anyone published a pregnancy book.

Don’t forget to visit Amalah’s Pregnancy Calendar. It’s 40 weeks of Amalah’s informative & hilarious pregnancy advice.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Heather

    January 15, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I wish I had a question for you, because I love your advice! 😉

  • Stephanie

    January 15, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    No comments on the pregnancy aspect of your question, but I in my personal, completely nonprofessional opinion, I would suggest that if you really want to go back to blond sooner rather than later, you touch up your roots with semi-permanent dye either at the salon or at home. Less damage to your new hair so when you chop it all off, you have healthier hair to work with and it is easier for that new hair to transition back to blond.

  • Sara

    January 15, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I am 17 weeks pregnant with my second child and have my roots touched up with hilift blond every six weeks. My doctor isn’t the least bit concerned. I also shamefully admitted to him that I ate lunchmeat and he laughed and told me it’s fine. Don’t worry so much, you’ll drive yourself nuts with 34 weeks left to go (I worry too, I understand). I’m really writing to tell you to think long and hard before making drastic hair changes during your pregnancy or shortly after. There will be many times towards the end of your pregnancy and immediately following that you will not feel even remotely attractive. The hair evils you know are often better than the ones you do not during this emotionally charged time. Have a wonderful pregnancy!

  • epoh

    January 15, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I’d also suggest Aveda’s Clove Conditioner –
    I use it whenever I get tired of my blond highlights and want to grow them out. It will not totally cover blond, but it will seriously tone it down to where other people probably won’t notice. I would only need to use it every other time I washed my hair, you may need it every time.

  • Amy in StL

    January 15, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Also, consider going to an Aveda salon because I’ve always heard their colors are less toxic. However, they also don’t last as long – which is why my salon switched back to Goldwell.

  • Cindy

    January 15, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    If really worried about it being on your scalp, can you go back to blonde (or blondish w/ foils? It won’t touch your scalp – won’t totally fix the root issue, but if you’re really concerned, it will keep it away from the scalp.

  • Stephanie

    January 16, 2009 at 9:02 am

    I colored my hair throughout both of my pregnancies and both my kids are fine.
    I second the suggestion not to make any drastic hair changes while pregnant. It’s hard enough to style hair that you’re used to when you have a newborn, working with something new can be a nightmare (I found longer hair easier to deal with when my kids were babies—no time to shower? Oh, well throw it up in a ponytail, no biggie. Can’t do that with short hair—I’ve had both long and super-short hair in the last few years. When my hair was short, no way could I just get up and go. I had to wash my hair to get rid of all of the crazy sticking up stuff. Trust me, short hair is only easier when you’re blow drying it.)

  • qwyneth

    January 16, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Oh my lord yes, you have to find your own balance with all the pregnancy don’ts. Me, I made sure that all the cheese I ate was pasteurized, but you could pry my blue veined cheese from my cold, dead fingers. I’m due to go into labor any day so I don’t know for SURE that the baby is fine, but all indications are that no, I did not kill him with gorgonzola.
    Also, I second what Stephanie said: do something EASY with your hair. I usually wear mine curly but that involves junk being put in my hair and frequent hair washing, as sleeping on my curls makes them bird nesty. So I’m planning on committing the ultimate curly hair sin: brushing while wet AND dry and putting it into a ponytail. It’s just less upkeep, and looks better than haven’t-been-able-to-shower-in-three-days-birds-nest.

  • Tiffany

    January 16, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    I’m late with the commenting and whatnot, but I dyed my hair when I was 8 weeks pregnant, and I didn’t know I was knocked up. Imagine my surprise when the dye DIDN’T TAKE. I asked for my money back at the salon $80 wasted, and she said, “Well you should have told me before you were pregnant!” and I didn’t know … took a test, and sure enough I was.
    Moral of the story? Be careful because sometimes the preggo hormones make it difficult for the hair dye to take.

  • Jen

    January 18, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    I noticed Lush has natural henna hair dyes in a half dozen or so hues of brunette. No idea what kind of success rate they have in shades of brown but I know the reds come out a bit ultraviolet.. might be worth a good google search though.

  • tadpoledrain

    January 20, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    If you decide you want to be super cautious about chemicals, henna mixes (usually henna and indigo in varying proportions, although watch out, because some “henna” hair dyes also have weird stuff in them that can do NOT GOOD stuff to dyed hair — I recommend Light Mountain) might be the way to go. You can cover and blend in your roots, and it’s only semi-permanent, so it will eventually wear off the blonde that’s growing in. Just a warning, though — I have medium-dark blonde hair, and I had to leave the henna on my hair for 3 hours to see a faint change, and about 12 hours (I slept with it on my hair, fun!) to get a fairly noticeable change. YMMV, of course.