Is It Safe To Color My Hair While Pregnant?
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.
Published January 15, 2009. Last updated March 27, 2018.