Many women wonder if it is safe to dye their hair during pregnancy. While dyeing your hair when you are 3 months pregnant is generally considered low risk, there are some important factors to consider before making a decision. In the first trimester of pregnancy, the fetus is still developing its major organs and systems. Because of this, some doctors recommend minimizing exposure to chemicals as much as possible. However, there is no conclusive evidence that the chemicals in hair dye are harmful during this stage of pregnancy. Ultimately, it is up to you and your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits.
Are hair dyes dangerous during pregnancy?
Most research indicates that using hair dye during pregnancy is low risk. However, hair dyes contain chemicals that are absorbed into the bloodstream and could potentially travel to the fetus. The concern is that these chemicals may disrupt fetal development, particularly during the first trimester when organ formation is occurring.
The types of chemicals in hair dye include:
- Ammonia – opens the hair cuticle to allow dye to penetrate
- Hydrogen peroxide – lightens hair
- Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) – pigment that gives hair color
- Resorcinol – binding agent that helps color last
- Propylene glycol – keeps hair moisturized
Some of these have been linked to health issues in very high concentrations. However, experts agree that in the small doses found in hair dye, they do not pose a significant risk. One large study found no increased risk of birth defects or other problems in over 100,000 pregnant women who used hair dye.
Are highlights or lowlights safer than all-over color?
Highlighting or lowlighting just sections of your hair is generally considered safer than applying dye all over during pregnancy. This is because less hair dye is used, so less chemical exposure occurs. Foil highlights involve applying dye just to strands that are weaved through perforated aluminum foil sheets. With lowlights, dye is painted directly onto the hair that frames your face or underneath layers.
Since the scalp absorbs less dye with highlights or lowlights, this limits chemical absorption into the bloodstream. Full color involves saturating all your hair with dye. It also requires more peroxide or bleach for lightening. For these reasons, highlights or lowlights are the recommended application method during pregnancy if you choose to dye.
What trimester is safest for dyeing hair?
Most doctors advise waiting until after the first trimester to color your hair. The first 12 weeks are when the fetus is most vulnerable, as all the major organs are forming. Exposure to chemicals is of greatest concern during this early stage when fundamental development is occurring.
For this reason, you may want to wait until at least 13 weeks pregnant or later to be extra cautious. The second and third trimesters are considered safer for hair dye use. By this point, the chances of chemical absorption harming fetal development are much lower.
That said, many obstetricians give the go-ahead for dyeing or highlighting hair in moderation after the first trimester. As always, check with your doctor about salon treatments to help determine what makes you most comfortable.
What precautions should you take when dyeing hair while pregnant?
If you decide to dye your hair after the first trimester, there are precautions you can take to minimize exposure:
- Conduct skin allergy tests 48-72 hours before each dye application to detect potential reactions.
- Choose an ammonia-free hair color to avoid this irritant.
- Select a semi-permanent or demi-permanent dye rather than permanent color.
- Highlight or lowlight instead of full color.
- Get color applied at a well-ventilated salon.
- Wear gloves during at-home dyeing.
- Rinse hair thoroughly after application.
- Avoid any scalp treatments or hair bleaching.
Following the product instructions carefully and limiting the frequency of dyeing can also help reduce risks. Speak to your colorist about pregnancy-safe options.
What about keratin, straightening, or permanents?
Chemical treatments that alter hair texture or shape should be avoided during pregnancy altogether. Keratin treatments contain high amounts of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Hair straightening and permanents also require harsh chemicals to break and reform bonds in the hair shaft.
The risks posed by these powerful chemical processes are too high during pregnancy. Exposure could potentially impact fetal development. Your best bet is to forego them until after giving birth. Style your hair in its natural state or with heated tools until then.
When should you stop dyeing hair before birth?
Most experts recommend stopping all hair dye use by around 35 weeks pregnant or earlier. This is because chemicals will rapidly increase in your bloodstream as you approach full term. Your kidneys and liver are working harder, so eliminating toxins declines.
Some doctors advise quitting any hair color once you reach the third trimester. This will help avoid absorbing large amounts of chemicals right before delivery. You may notice some roots showing as your pregnancy progresses. But you can have your color refreshed after giving birth.
Can dyeing hair lead to pregnancy complications?
There is minimal evidence linking hair dye use to increased pregnancy risks. Here are a few conditions some women worry about:
Major studies show hair dye is not associated with higher odds of birth defects. In one study of over 45,000 women, rates of birth defects were the same regardless of chemical hair treatment.
One small study found a link between use of personal care products like hair dye and preterm delivery. But most research shows no greater risk of premature birth from hair color.
Miscarriage rates do not appear to be impacted by using hair dye during pregnancy based on limited studies. More research is still needed.
A handful of studies indicate a potential cancer risk for babies exposed to hair dye chemicals in utero. But the evidence is weak and inconsistent. Talk to your doctor about any concerns.
The takeaway on dyeing hair while pregnant
Here are some key tips to remember:
– Wait until after the first trimester, then assess risks with your doctor.
– Choosing semi-permanent high/lowlights and following precautions are safest.
– Stop coloring hair by 35 weeks pregnant or earlier as birth nears.
– If ever unsure, don’t dye hair or speak to your obstetrician first.
While dyeing hair when 3 months pregnant is likely fine, only you can weigh up the risks vs. your peace of mind. Focus on keeping stress low during this special time as much as possible.
Dyeing your hair is a personal choice while pregnant. Discuss it with your doctor, but most believe it is fairly safe after the first trimester if done sparingly and with caution. Highlighting rather than full color, choosing less harsh formulas, and stopping towards the end can minimize risks. While the chemicals in dyes are not completely risk-free, the evidence of harm is quite limited. Do what makes you feel comfortable and focus on having a happy, healthy nine months.