Hair dyeing is a quick way of achieving a new look and for many women, it is one way to mask those hair strands that are slowly turning grey. But what if you are actively trying to get pregnant – or you already are? You may find yourself wondering, can I dye my hair while pregnant?
The good news is that women who are pregnant or currently trying to conceive can enjoy having their hair dyed. This is of course, provided that they follow the necessary precautions to keep their body in shape for pregnancy. If you’re interested in learning more, here is some valuable information about hair dye and pregnancy.
What is hair dyeing?
A lot of women dye their hair without being aware of what types of product are being used and how they work on altering the natural color of their hair. Let’s go back to the basics to have a better understanding of the process of hair dyeing.
There are two types of protein that are responsible in determining your natural hair color:
- Eumelanin– for brown to black hair
- Phaeomelanin– for blond to red hair
- Absence of these two melanin– grey or white hair
Hair dyes change the chemical structure of the hair to give it a new color. Here are the most common types of hair dyes and how they work.
Natural hair dyes
A long time ago, people dye their hair using the plant pigments and reactive minerals or agents that are naturally found in their environment. Some examples are henna, black walnut shells and vinegar. Natural hair dyes work by coating the hair shaft with their pigmented color. This new color can last for several washes. In the case of vinegar, it can lighten the color of the hair with its natural bleaching properties.
Temporary/ Semi-permanent hair dye
Semi-permanent hair dye works by depositing acidic component on the outer layer of the hair shaft or partially penetrating the inner layer with some small, color-altering molecules. But as its name suggests, this type of hair dye is just temporary and your natural hair color will eventually reappear after several shampoos and washing.
Temporary hair dyes can be used with or without the assistance of hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide acts as a developer or oxidizing agent that breaks the chemical bonds in the hair, to remove its existing color and allow it to absorb a new color.
Permanent hair dye
Permanent hair dyes penetrate deep into the hair cortex and will give you a longer-lasting hair color. Permanent hair dyeing involves the use of peroxide to remove the existing shade of hair, and ammonia which assists in opening the hair cuticle so that the new color can bond with the hair cortex and stay there for a longer period of time. Alcohols and conditioning agents may also be present in permanent hair coloring products to seal and protect the new hair color.
Bleaching involves the use of an oxidizing agent to react with the melanin in the hair. Once oxidation takes place, the melanin will lose its original hue and will become colorless. What will appear is then the yellow color of keratin, the structural protein of the hair that is similar to what your fingernails have. This is why bleached hair will often appear yellow or blonde.
Additionally, bleaching often reacts more actively with eumelanin which is the one responsible for darker hair shades. This leaves some gold or red tinge in the hair that is attributed to phaeomelanin.
Is it safe to dye your hair while pregnant?
The primary concern in coloring hair during pregnancy is the chemicals found in many types of hair dyes. Often, these chemicals are needed to effectively change and maintain the hair color and meet the expectation of the people using the hair coloring products.
Some of the chemicals that you can expect in hair dyes:
This chemical is used to swell the hair cuticle and allow the entry of the dye into the hair cortex, resulting to a more vibrant, longer-lasting hair color. The minute molecules of ammonia quickly evaporates upon application, which explains the strong smell released when applying the hair coloring product.
Hydrogen peroxide is used as an oxidizing agent to remove the color of the melanin in the hair. Hydrogen peroxide breaks the chemical bonds of the hair, releasing sulfur that has a strong distinctive scent.
This is a strong chemical synthesizer that is commonly found in permanent and darker shades of hair dyes. It gives permanent dyes a more natural look and allows dyed hair to be permed or shampooed without losing the new color. PPD requires an oxidizing agent to fully function as a dye. Some people develop an allergic reaction to this chemical.
This chemical ingredient is used in permanent hair dyes to produce the desired color inside the hair fibers. High doses of this chemical is linked to increased inflammatory response in some animal studies.
Resorcinol (also labeled as m-dihydroxybenzene, 3-hydroxyphenol, or Benzene-1,3-diol)
Resorcinol is often found in permanent hair dyes. Its purpose is to react with a developer or oxidizing agent to bond the dye permanently with the hair. Resorcinol is also used with other ingredients to achieve a specific color of dye. This chemical has been labeled as a skin irritant and potential endocrine disruptor, making it a banned toxic substance in some countries, particularly Canada, Japan, and the European Union.
Due this reputation, some hair dye manufacturers replace it with 2-methylresorcinol. This chemical is claimed to provide the same hair dyeing results with a gentler impact on health.
As you can see, many of the chemicals found in hair dyes have their own health risks. However, most studies, though limited, show that the toxicity is associated with higher levels of exposure with these chemicals.
Too minimal to produce pregnancy risks?
In a 2008 review on the safety of hair products on pregnancy reflected in the Canadian Family Physician, it was found that the amount of chemicals that are typically found in hair dyes and other hair treatment products are too minimal to reach their potential toxicity levels. Moreover, the amount of chemicals that can be absorbed through the scalp and the bloodstream are too small to produce undesirable effects to the unborn baby. This lead to the recommendation that hair dyeing or perming for around 3 to 4 times throughout the course of pregnancy does not increase the risk of adverse effects on the unborn baby.
Hair may be resistant to coloring while pregnant
So pregnant moms can have their hair dyed, but here’s another concern. Your hair may not be too manageable while pregnant. Thanks to the pregnancy hormones, some moms-to-be may notice that their hair may be quite resistant to hair dyes and other hair products while they are pregnant. This may lead to uneven coloring or result to a different shade than what you’ve expected.
Safety tips in using hair dye while pregnant
It is generally fine to color your hair while pregnant, but since using hair dyes, especially the permanent ones, will also mean being exposed to certain chemicals, it may be worth your time knowing some safety tips to minimize your exposure and handle hair dye more safely. Should you decide to dye your hair, here are some safety tips to remember:
Reserve hair dyeing after the first trimester of pregnancy.
The first trimester of pregnancy is when the most vital development of your baby occurs, including the formation of the brain, spinal cord, heart and other vital organs of his body. The risk of congenital defects and miscarriage are also a bit higher during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. So even if hair dyes offer minimal exposure to some chemicals, it may be best to wait until you surpass this delicate period of pregnancy before trying to dye your hair.
Have a professional take care of your hair dyeing needs.
In a 2009 study in Jordan, pregnant women who have dyed their own hair at home appear to have higher tendencies to give birth to children with disabilities when compared to the pregnant women who had been dyeing their hair with a professional salon hair stylist.
Though this is a small study involving 205 women with disabled children, it may be worth considering that hair dyes may be best selected and applied by a professional in a reputable salon. These hair stylists know the risks and the appropriate technique in minimizing exposure to the hair dye toxins. If you’re having your hair dyed at a salon, simply mention that you’re pregnant or trying to conceive so that they can follow the necessary measures to keep you and your developing baby safe.
Consider highlights rather than a full hair dye.
The chemicals in hair dye are most likely to be absorbed through the scalp, so minimizing its chances of getting in contact with the hair dye will also tend to minimize the risks. Highlights only involve dyeing the tips of the hair and an ideal option if you want to color your hair safely while pregnant. If you are worried about potential issues, avoid hair dyes that require your hair roots to be soaked in dye as it may increase the rate of chemical absorption through your scalp.
Wear gloves and cover your body when dyeing your hair at home.
Apart from the scalp, you may also absorb the dye when it gets in contact with the skin of your hands, neck or shoulders. Make sure that you gear up appropriately when coloring your hair at home.
Apply it in a well-ventilated area.
Some chemicals in the hair dye, such as ammonia and bleaching agents, can produce toxic fumes. That is why hair coloring should be done in an area of your home where there is enough ventilation, such as near open windows and doors, or at a space outside your home. When in a salon, mention that you’re pregnant and would like to request for a well-ventilated spot to minimize inhaling these fumes.
Always test a hair dye before applying it thoroughly on your hair.
Even the natural hair dyes can produce allergic symptoms to some people. It is also recommended to conduct a “patch test” before using any semi-permanent or permanent hair dye, even if you’re using your previous brand. This is to check how your skin will react to a certain hair dye.
To do this, you can dab a small amount of the hair dye solution on the skin behind your ear or inner elbow. Observe for a couple of minutes. If you develop a rash or other allergic symptoms, do not use the product on your hair.
Knowing that your hair might be quite resistant to hair dyes while pregnant, testing your dye at a few hair stands before coloring your hair entirely is also suggested to check if it will produce your desired hair color.
Can you dye your hair while trying to get pregnant?
There is no specific recommendation with regards to the use of hair dye for women who are trying to get pregnant. If you’re actively trying to conceive and would like to dye your hair, you may follow the same recommendations as that of pregnant women. However, many women simply decide to go natural and avoid the chemically-infused dyes when trying to conceive. If you have the same concern, you may feel a bit confident in using natural hair dyes such as henna or shift to organic varieties while trying to get pregnant.
Overall, you can dye your hair while pregnant (or when trying to conceive,) but make sure that you keep the safety tips in mind to minimize your exposure to the chemicals present in the hair dye.
However, if you’re worried about your baby’s health or you have a high-risk pregnancy, it may be best to simply go with your natural hair color during this time, and schedule your hair treatment needs right after giving birth.