In general, experts say the risk factor surrounding hair dye is relatively low for pregnant people, though you may want to make a few adjustments at your next appointment. “Generally, there is very little data regarding hair dye and pregnancy. Most data we do have is around pregnancy outcomes in cosmetologists, and the data is mixed regarding this,” explains Shaghayegh DeNoble, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., a board-certified OB-GYN in New Jersey. “But since there is very little systemic absorption of hair dye ingredients, they are generally considered safe.”
That said, if you want to be extra cautious, consider waiting until your second trimester for a root refresh. “In early gestation, the fetus experiences rapid development. A good way to minimize risk is avoiding coloring hair in the first trimester,” shares Janna Stults, certified nurse midwife at Women’s Care. “Pregnancy can enable an increased sensitivity to products because of hormonal changes. Sensitivities can include skin reactions or being averse to certain smells. To combat those, I suggest to my patients that they do a patch test on their scalp to see how their skin reacts and ensure that they will be in a well-ventilated area during the service.”
Can You Highlight or Balayage Your Hair During Pregnancy?
When you schedule a single process color, like an all-over dye, or have your roots retouched on a regular basis, more dye or bleach is coming in contact with your scalp. “To be extra safe, a pregnant person can choose to have hair dye processes that result in the least amount of contact with the scalp,” says Dr. DeNoble. If you’re concerned with scalp contact but don’t want to give up your salon services, consider transitioning to a different application method, like balayage, where hair is essentially painted to your desired placement.
“Hair is not made of living cells and dyes cannot go into the bloodstream from pieces of hair, as long as the dye does not touch the follicles at the scalp,” says Stults. “I suggest to my patients to opt for highlights or balayage versus all-over color if they have this worry.”
The word “bleach” can conjure up harsh, toxic associations, but hair bleach is generally considered safe, Dr. DeNoble says. “It is important to have good ventilation when using any chemicals during pregnancy,” she explains. “Research and data on potential harmful effects of many chemicals and environmental factors on the developing fetus are limited. It is best to avoid harsh chemicals and choose natural products as much as possible to avoid cumulative exposure to toxins.” Dr. DeNoble recommends avoiding formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, oxybenzone, and triclosan whenever possible.
A salon service you should definitely avoid while pregnant is chemical hair straightening treatments like relaxers, which have been linked to uterine cancer and other risks.1
Are There Pregnancy-Safe Alternatives to Hair Dye?
If you don’t feel comfortable with your usual color services but still want a touchup, Dr. DeNoble recommends a more natural approach. “Safer alternatives can be highlights that start partway down the hair shaft to avoid the scalp, or using more natural dyes made from henna or fruits and vegetables,” she shares. “Lemon juice can be used as an alternative to bleach, for example.” Just check with your colorist before you start playing cosmetologist in your kitchen!
You can also try a color-depositing conditioner, like those from brands such as oVertone, which dilutes color in a thick conditioner form, or opt for a demi-permanent formula without ammonia. Of course, you can also skip services altogether and treat yourself to a much-deserved refresh after baby is born.