Can I dye my hair when pregnant?

There doesn't appear to be any evidence to show that hair dye is unsafe in pregnancy.

The chemicals in most permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes are not very toxic and the small amount of research that has been carried out shows that it's not unsafe to colour your hair while pregnant.

Are any hair dyes completely safe?

Semi-permanent pure vegetable dyes, such as henna, are completely safe to use in pregnancy. Henna stains the outside of each individual hair rather than using chemicals to penetrate the hair. Just be sure to avoid so-called ‘black henna’. This is sometimes used to create henna tattoos, and is actually a synthetic hair dye containing para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which can cause severe allergic reactions.

Tips on using permanent and semi-permanent hair dye in pregnancy

  • When you highlight your hair in pregnancy (rather than dyeing it), you are putting the dye only on to strands of hair rather than your scalp, so this also reduces any risk further. The chemicals used do not touch your scalp or bloodstream.
  • You may prefer to wait to dye your hair until after the first trimester of pregnancy. The first 12 weeks of pregnancy is a time of great development for the brain. After that the risk of chemical substances harming the baby is lower. 
  • If you're doing the hair dye at home
    • wear gloves
    • don't leave the dye on past the time indicated in the instructions
    • work in a well-ventilated room with open windows to avoid inhaling the chemicals
    • rinse your scalp well afterwards

Pregnancy can affect the way your hair reacts to dye

Pregnancy can affect your hair's normal condition. Hormone changes may mean that dyes don't necessarily affect your hair in the same way, so the results may not be what you expect, either. For example, your hair may:

  • react differently to colouring or perming than it usually does
  • become more or less absorbent, frizzy or unpredictable

It's always a good idea to do a strand test first, using the hair dye or treatment you intend to use. Speak to your hairdresser for advice.

Read more frequently asked questions in pregnancy

Sources

  1. NHS Choices [accessed 4/12/2017] Is it safe to use hair dye when I'm pregnant or breastfeeding? Page last reviewed: 11/05/2015 Next review due: 15/05/2018
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman, clinical guideline 62, London NICE, 2008
  3. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J, Mayes’ midwifery, fourteenth edition, Edinburgh Bailliere Tindall Elsevier, 2012
  4. Philippat C et al, Prenatal exposure to environmental phenols: concentrations in amniotic fluid and variability in urinary concentrations during pregnancy, Environmental Health Perspectives 2013; 121(10): 1225–31
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