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Can You Color Your Hair While Pregnant?

Wondering if it’s safe to keep dyeing your hair while pregnant? Here’s what the experts have to say.
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By Nehal Aggarwal, Editor
Updated October 25, 2023
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There are many things doctors say to steer clear of during pregnancy—beyond the well-known raw sushi and alcohol. With so many rules and restrictions, it’s only natural to wonder which of your routine activities are safe to do, and which you should put on pause for a while. One of the biggest questions many moms-to-be have: Can you dye your hair while pregnant? Here, experts break down exactly what to know about whether or not it’s safe to bleach, highlight or color your hair while you’re expecting.

Different Types of Hair Dye During Pregnancy

Before we get into pregnancy-specific information, it’s important to know there are different types of hair dye commonly used: permanent, semi-permanent and temporary. Below, Helen Reavey, a celebrity hair stylist and founder of haircare brand Act+Acre, breaks down what to know about each one:

  • Permanent hair dye: “[This] penetrates the hair shaft and chemically changes the color of the hair,” Reavey explains. In other words, it permanently changes hair color and will last until the hair grows out or is cut off. It usually contains ammonia and peroxide, which “work together to lift the hair cuticle and allow the dye molecules to penetrate the hair cortex.”

  • Semi-permanent hair dye: Rather than penetrating the hair shaft, this type of dye only coats it with the color. “It does not contain ammonia or peroxide and instead relies on other types of chemicals, such as anionic or cationic dyes, to deposit color on the hair,” Reavey says. This type of dye lasts for a few weeks to a few months and will gradually fade over time with shampooing and due to environmental exposures.

  • Temporary hair dye: Temporary dye also coats the outside of the hair shaft (rather than penetrating it), but Reavey says it tends to be less vibrant and long-lasting than the other two types of dye.

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However, not all of these hair dyes are equally safe for use during pregnancy. Keep reading to know what types of dye are safest for you and baby.

Can You Dye Your Hair While Pregnant?

According to Sherry Ross, MD, an ob-gyn and women’s sexual health expert, research shows that “in general, hair dye does not cause harm to a developing baby.” During pregnancy, when using any type of dye, the concern is less about what goes into the hair and more about what’s absorbed by the skin on the scalp. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), previous animal studies have found that high doses of the chemicals used in hair dye don’t cause any serious birth defects. Plus, only a small amount of these chemicals are actually absorbed into the scalp.

Still, while it’s generally considered safe to dye your hair during pregnancy, Reavey recommends avoiding it until the second trimester. “The first 13 weeks of pregnancy are critical for baby’s growth, so I’d err on the side of caution and avoid using hair dyes during this time,” she explains. Or, if you’re looking for a new hairstyle, but hesitant about completely dyeing your hair during pregnancy, Reavey recommends opting for highlights. “This will change the color and dynamic of your hair, without directly putting color on the scalp,” she says. Ross agrees, noting that treatments like highlights, streaking and frosting have little contact with the scalp and can be safer alternatives during all trimesters of pregnancy.

It’s also important to note that coloring your hair while pregnant may lead to different results than it did before baby. “Many hairstylists notice that the various coloring processes during pregnancy can be unpredictable due to the strong hormonal effect on the hair itself,” Ross says.

Can you bleach your hair while pregnant?

If you’re looking to lighten up your locks, your stylist might bleach your hair before dyeing it—but can you bleach your hair while pregnant? Bleach is considered as safe to use during pregnancy as hair dye, but, similar to the other dyes, Reavey still recommends waiting until after the first trimester. Plus, she and Ross recommend taking extra precaution to ensure the product isn’t directly applied to the scalp. “During pregnancy, your skin is often more sensitive to new ingredients, so prolonged exposure to the scalp/skin can cause irritation,” Reavey says.

When not to color your hair while pregnant

If you’re struggling with any skin issues or have any open cuts or wounds on or around the head, you should avoid coloring your hair while pregnant, Reavey says. “Although the concentration of chemicals within hair dye is typically extremely low, a cut or open wound can increase the chances of product absorption into the bloodstream,” she explains.

Is It Safe to Dye Your Own Hair While Pregnant?

Wondering if it’s safer to get your hair colored at a salon or do it yourself at home? Reavey says it’s “a topic of ongoing debate and research,” and thus far there’s no clear answer as to whether one is safer. Currently, there are pros and cons to both. While dyeing your hair during pregnancy allows you complete control over the type and amount of dye used, it also means handling the dye yourself, Reavey explains. At a salon, a professional handles the dyeing process for you and may have better control of applying the dye to the hair rather than the scalp. To that end, Ross suggests having it “done at a hair salon by someone who’s comfortable working on pregnant women or waiting until after pregnancy.”

Can you work as a hair stylist while pregnant?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer here, as each person’s circumstances will vary. While Ross says that pregnant hairdressers may be exposed to harmful and toxic fumes while working on their clients, a 2008 study notes that, as long as pregnant hairdressers follow certain precautions, it’s generally safe. “Ensure you’re taking care of yourself and listening to your body when it comes to taking a break or needing to rest,” Reavey says. And always consult with your medical provider for any questions and concerns.

Precautions for Dyeing Your Hair While Pregnant

Regardless of whether you get your hair colored at a salon or do it yourself, Ross emphasizes the importance of brushing up on and following Federal Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for dyeing and bleaching hair. Below, important precautions to take when coloring your hair while pregnant:

  • Use safer hair dye: Reavey recommends opting for products like semi-permanent colors, that are ammonia-, peroxide- and paraben-free, as these are generally considered to be safer during pregnancy. “These dyes are typically a bit gentler on the hair, but still achieve the desired color and look,” she notes. Both experts also suggest using pure henna as a natural hair dye option. “Vegetable and pure henna dyes are safe to use during pregnancy as opposed to synthetic chemical agents, containing p-phenylenediamine, dihydroxybenzene, formaldehyde-based disinfectants and aminophenol, which are thought to be harmful,” Ross explains. Always read the label to ensure the dye doesn’t use any harmful ingredients.

  • Do a patch test: “Before you dye your hair, do a patch test to make sure you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients,” Reavey says. To do this, apply a tiny amount of dye onto your skin and wait 24 hours to see if you have an allergic reaction.

  • Wear gloves: The FDA and both experts recommend wearing gloves when applying hair dye to avoid any contact of the chemicals with your skin.

  • Ensure proper ventilation: Hair dye products can contain chemical fumes, so whether you’re at home or at a salon, make sure the area is well-ventilated to minimize your exposure, Reavey advises.

  • Follow the package directions: In other words, don’t leave the dye on for too long, Reavey says. Read the directions carefully and make sure you’re following the instructions for how to apply and leave in the dye.

  • Rinse thoroughly: Once you’re done coloring your hair, wash your scalp thoroughly with water to get rid of any remaining dye.

How Often You Can Color Your Hair While Pregnant

According to Ross, as long as you’re carefully following FDA safety guidelines, it’s safe to get your hair dyed every six to eight weeks.

Of course, though experts say it’s safe, some pregnant people may prefer to just skip out on coloring their hair until after baby’s arrival—and that’s okay too! “Dyeing your hair during pregnancy is a personal and practical decision,” Ross says. “If you don’t want to dye your hair during pregnancy, don’t feel pressured to do so. Embrace your beautiful and evolving self!”

How to make dyed hair last longer during pregnancy

But what if you have previously colored hair and want to maintain it without dyeing it again? Are there ways to make your color last so you don’t have to get it redone frequently during pregnancy?

Reavey recommends the following tips:

  • Don’t over-wash hair: It’s well known that dyed hair fades a little with each wash. To make the color last longer, “limit washing your hair to two to three times a week, or use dry shampoo between washes,” Reavey says.

  • Use sulfate-free shampoo and a good conditioner: Sulfates are known to cause dryness and strip hair of any dye, Reavey says. (Luckily, many hair brands are increasingly moving toward sulfate-free products.) Plus, using a good-quality conditioner regularly can help hair to look healthy and vibrant.

  • Don’t style hair with heat: Heat style tools can also cause hair color to fade at a faster rate, Reavey says, so limit how often you use hair dryers, flat irons and curling irons. Ross also warns that any chemical-based curling and straightening procedures should be done after pregnancy. “It’s probably best to avoid processes that involve scalp contact,” she reiterates.

What to Know About Dyeing Hair While Breastfeeding

According to both Ross and Reavey, previous research has shown that it’s unlikely dyeing hair while breastfeeding poses any increased risk to baby. “As long as you follow the same guidelines recommended during pregnancy, there should be no harm done to your breastfed baby,” Ross reassures. That said, Reavey emphasizes the importance of using safer dyes that are ammonia- and peroxide-free.

“Always err on the side of caution, when using any chemicals during pregnancy and while breastfeeding,” Ross says. “When in doubt, always talk to your healthcare provider for guidance.” Ultimately, there are so many things that pregnancy can change—from what you eat to how often you feel comfortable coloring your hair. Rest assured, experts believe dyeing your hair during pregnancy—especially after the first trimester—is completely safe. But if you still have doubts, don’t be afraid to let your color grow out. Odds are—thanks to pregnancy—you’re already rocking some seriously luscious locks!

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

Sources

Sherry Ross, MD, is an ob-gyn, women’s sexual health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. and She-ology, The She-quel: Let’s Continue the Conversation. She earned her medical degree from New York Medical College.

Helen Reavey is the founder and creative director of hair wellness brand Act + Acre. She’s also an international fashion and celebrity hair stylist whose work has been featured in several magazines. Reavey earned her bachelor’s degree from Ulster University in Northern Ireland.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Is it safe to dye my hair during pregnancy?, October 2020

The College of Family Physicians in Canada, Safety of hair products during pregnancy, October 2008

Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Cosmetics Safety Q&A: Hair Dyes, June 2022

Learn how we ensure the accuracy of our content through our editorial and medical review process.

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