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Is It Safe To Dye or Bleach Your Hair While Pregnant?

By Monica Bielanko |

My gynecologist absolutely knows my drapes don’t match my carpet.  And not because he’s been elbows deep in my uterus but because my roots are as dark as night.

But I’m about to change that.

Throughout my first pregnancy I labored under the misinformation that I absolutely should not color my hair because the chemicals would most certainly seep into my body, immediately kill the baby, and it would be all my stupid, vain fault.

I ended up dying my blond hair this ridiculously dark shade of brown to avoid feeling like Britney Spears.  You know, the barefoot in public restrooms while eating Cheetos Britney with black roots and screwy hair extensions.  You know the one.

Even though, at this point, light brown is probably my natural color I feel most natural as a blond. I was blond my entire life and when my hair gradually darkened in high school I started highlighting. Then Gwen Stefani started walking in her spiderweb when I was in college and I got a bit carried away:

Yikes!

Eventually I settled into a nice medium blonde shade.  So when I went so dark for my first pregnancy I was left feeling not quite myself. I didn’t realize how much it affected how I felt until I recently returned to blonde. It was like a sigh of relief. Finally, after gaining fifty pounds, dying my hair and staring at this dark-haired stranger in the mirror, I felt like myself again.  Of course, then I had to go and get knocked up again but what can you do?

This time around I asked my stylist her thoughts on dying/bleaching while pregnant, and she said it was fine.  She touted Aveda products, which are apparently something like 97% chemical-free.  My doctor agreed, told me to do what makes me feel good.  God bless him.  Aren’t we going through enough with the weight gain and the hemorrhoids and the peeing and puking?  Can we not get a little salon action?

Yes, yes we can.  Here’s why.

The Organization of Teratology Information Services (OTIS), which provides information on potential reproductive risks, says animal studies are reassuring and that there are no reports of hair dye causing changes in human pregnancies.  OTIS points out that very little of the chemicals in hair dye are actually absorbed into your system.

Ann Linden, certified nurse-midwife, says that if you’re still concerned, consider waiting to color your hair until the second trimester, when your developing baby is less vulnerable. Also, rather than using an all-over hair color or bleach, consider a process like streaking, highlighting, painting, or frosting, in which the chemicals have little or no contact with your scalp. (Any hair-coloring agents absorbed into your system would come through your skin, not through your hair shaft.)  And hey!  Check out all the comments from actual pregnant women and stylists in favor of dyeing while pregnant.

Two doctors from Mt. Sinai in New York say it’s safe to color your hair, but wait until after the first trimester.

This doctor from the Mayo Clinic says when you use hair dye, a small amount of the dye may penetrate your skin. Generally, however, the dye isn’t thought to pose harm to a developing baby.

AmericanPregnancy.org says the same thing.

But listen, I can provide links until you’re blue in the face. Ultimately, like everything else related to your health and safety during pregnancy, if you aren’t comfortable with it, then don’t do it. It strikes me as the same concept as drinking a glass of wine or two while pregnant. Most doctors will tell you it’s safe. But you’ll find people that will tell you that glass of beer? It will surely give your baby Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. And then they’ll yell at you for eating deli meats and hey! You! Baby killer using the artificial sweetener in your decaf coffee! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I’ll bet that isn’t even decaf! Is that ANOTHER Diet Coke you’re drinking? You know it has caffeine in it, don’t you?

Were they in my kitchen when I made my daughter a birthday cake and licked the spoon I used to mix the batter, they would’ve passed out cold on the floor. Because that teaspoon of batter I ingested had raw egg in it! RAW EGG! Your baby is probably already dead!

But back to that glass of wine many pregnant women like to indulge in. The concern lies with overindulgence, which is why the U.S. surgeon general deems it best to take the “better safe than sorry” approach and avoid alcohol entirely when you’re pregnant.  You can’t really blame ‘em.  Tell ten women a bottle of beer is okay with dinner, and one idiot out of the bunch will swill a sixer.  Every night.  And then sue the government for misinformation.  She’s probably the daughter of that lady who sued McDonalds for having hot coffee.

It may come as no surprise to you to hear that I have absolutely no problem with an occasional beer or glass of wine while pregnant. Neither does my doctor. I’m taking the same approach with hair coloring. So this time around I marched right into my salon and asked for my usual blond highlights. I’m due to go in again – at 37 weeks – and I’ll be there with bells on. Trying to lose the fifty plus pounds I’ve gained this time around will be hard enough. At least I’ll have a fabulous head of hair while exercising my big ass off.

It’s probably best to get your hair done professionally because you don’t have to handle the chemicals yourself and you’ll likely be in a large, ventilated salon.  But, more importantly, get thee to a stylist  because you could end up with orange hair.  Like so:

Great Hair Disaster of 2006!

But, if you decide not to heed my warning (take heed!) and try to dye your own hair during pregnancy, consider these precautions from the Food and Drug Administration:

  • Wear gloves when applying hair dye. (Duh!)
  • Apply hair dye as quickly as possible.
  • Rinse your scalp thoroughly after using hair dye.

I’m sure you would’ve done those things anyway, but, you know, I have to pretend to be informative here, right?  And bullet points always seem so authoritative and informative.

Also!  Here’s a fun website about hair coloring and pregnancy: MaternitySalon.com

Photo Credit: Neon.Mamacita

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About Monica Bielanko

monica-bielanko

Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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23 thoughts on “Is It Safe To Dye or Bleach Your Hair While Pregnant?

  1. Meg says:

    here’s my concern. the grandchildren in my family have a history of heart defects; three babies all born with some abnormality. i don’t believe hair dye caused the issues because I was celibate just like my sister, so we know nothing we did caused the problems. i have a clear conscience i did nohting wrong. i want that same feeling if baby 2 doesnt come out with a perfect heart.

    also, (oh the responses I will get breaking the unwritten law of bragging about my kid) scarlett is unbelievable smart. she blows me away with her ability to speak and understand others. I feel again, I need to give the next kid the same shot…but then again, my hair looks like Wanda Barzee’s.

  2. MonicaBielanko says:

    @Meg What does your doctor say?

  3. Meg W. says:

    I’m glad you wrote about this because I am currently in my first trimester with my first pregnancy and on top of all the miserable side effects of being knocked up I also have disgusting Britney roots. My doctor happened to tell me to avoid getting my hair colored, the whole time! WTF! Does she really expect me to look like shit on top of feeling like shit until August!!? (sorry… hormones) I think this might be where I draw the line… Scheduling an appointment a couple weeks into my second trimester now.

    And ps- I lick more than just the spoon when I make cakes. I gave up sushi, medium-rare steaks and alcohol for crying out loud… you can’t take away my yellow cake mix too!

  4. im-in-tx says:

    If you look at the research at cosmeticsdatabase.com, you’ll see that hair dye is most definitely toxic. I stopped dying my hair two years before I became pregnant (switched over to henna), because I didn’t want to take that chance with my own health. I figure: Heck, if I’m gonna give up caffeine for my pregnancy, hair dye seems like a no brainer.

  5. FTR says:

    You look better with dark hair, it is a beautiful frame for your face. The lighter hair makes you look washed out and pasty.

  6. jen says:

    Wow, FTR, you pageant queen you. You know just how to make a pregnant chick feel all warm and fuzzy… or is it worn and scuzzy?

  7. Meg W. says:

    Yeah, FTR, keep that shiz to yourself please. Monica you look beautiful either way and anyone who thinks differently can suck it.

  8. Laurie says:

    Stunned…simply stunned…at how judgmental people are. Your body, your pregnancy, your baby…YOU decide. Obviously there is a trophy for those of you who deny yourselves everything and the rest of us will be getting a whipping.

    And Monica…you look beautiful no matter what color your hair is. But really…the blonde is super terrific.

  9. Jillian says:

    People can be so ridiculous about being pregnant and the whole list of things you shouldn’t be doing. I think you’re right to take the moderation approach… but I’d be more concerned about the fumes in the salon than the actual dye itself. Maybe some dyes can be toxic, but you’re not ingesting them into your bloodstream. I have a 2 year old and I’m am 15 weeks pregnant with #2 and admittedly quite the jezebel. I have a half a cup of coffee almost every morning, a glass of wine about every 2 weeks (sometimes ONCE a week!), dye my hair about every three months, and eat cold cuts more often than I admit. (It’s my biggest craving- subs with extra onions and vinegar- YUM!) It’s all about moderation. Plus, you have to live your life and take care of your mental health by doing things that make you happy (within reason, of course). Oh and my son is perfectly healthy- somehow he survived my toxic, polluted womb.

  10. Gina says:

    As my favorite pizza box reads, ‘You’ve tried all the rest, now try the best.” Half-a-head-a highlights and a nice cut did it for me. Enjoy your normal self again, Mama Bielanko! Yay!

  11. GreenInOC says:

    I think you look fabumazing with blonde hair Monica!

    What about using Henna instead of chemical dyes?

  12. im-in-tx says:

    @ Laurie: Why so wound up? No one called the author names, or said she was a bad person for dyeing her hair. This is an open forum for discussion of both sides of an issue – that’s what’s happening here.

  13. me says:

    I’m not a mama or a mama-to-be, but I do totally understand the unsettling feeling of not recognizing yourself in the mirror. I’m (usually) a blonde, but every now and then I’ve switched colors up and it’s fun for a while, but then I just want to feel like myself again. I can only imagine how it’d be if I was pregnant as well, when so much else is changing as it is with my identity and my body.

    As long as the pregnant woman is consulting her doctor about these things, I think it is not in my place to judge negatively her behavior. What are we, the pregnant lady police?

  14. Gina says:

    and remember, you don’t HAVE to stay there…i mean, you could always come back east. this kinda sorta reminded me of you guys: (though we’ve never met)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEp3NKG2U5U

  15. Starla says:

    Monica, you look beautiful whatever way you wear you hair. I see and know you, in this internet world, as a blonde, But the Brunette chick works well too.
    And with the wine? I definitely would! Relax. Enjoy your pregnancy. Do what works for you.

  16. Meg says:

    Ok, so I have to say this because it’s been bugging me for days now. Drinking while pregnant? I read an article in Time a while back that said while alcohol may have no effect on one fetus, it could cause serious mental retardation in another…just a single glass. According to this articel (which I’m still searching to find because I’m a pack rat and save them) some women are pre-disposed to create FASD babies just from a bit of alcohol. So why roll the dice?

    And while some of you may berate me for writing this, calling me judgemental…I have to say for six years I worked with children who were born to mothers who made poor decisions while carrying them. It was a vicous cycle…mom drank (in this case…lots), junior was mentally handicapped, then mom abused and berated the child for their bad behavior, or low mental abilities when they (the mothers) created the problem.

    I hope, Monica, you don’t see this a judgment as you know I love you, but the whole idea of wine with a baby just doesn’t sit well with me.

  17. MonicaBielanko says:

    @Meg

    Show me the article. I think you’ve got your hands on some misinformation. Here’s a times article for you:

    http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/06/drinking-while-pregnant/

    I don’t think you’re being judgmental, I think you’re misinformed. There is absolutely no evidence that a single glass of alcohol can cause mental retardation. If you consider having an occasional glass of wine or beer “rolling the dice” go without and more power to you… but saying something like one glass of alcohol can cause mental retardation… well, just show me the article.

    The problem with universally okaying drinking while pregnant is what each woman considers “light drinking”. If your version of light is downing a sixer on the weekend, you’ve got a problem. If you are a reasonable adult and your version is a glass of wine on a Saturday night, you’re fine. Especially if your doctor agrees. Mine does. The reason the surgeon general says no alcohol period is like I said: Tell ten women a bottle of beer is okay with dinner, and one idiot out of the bunch will swill a sixer.

    Again, it’s each woman’s choice but it burns me up when a pregnant woman gets the stink-eye for having a glass of wine.

    Additionally, the fact that you worked with children born to mothers who drank “a lot” has absolutely no bearing on this discussion and it kind of bums me out that you would equate a responsible adult’s decision to have an occasional glass of wine with mothers who made poor decisions while carrying their children.

  18. Meg says:

    Monica,

    The article is in hard copy form so I can bring it to work tomorrow. It’s basically an interview with Dr. Keith K Vaux from San Diego School of medicine. He says that there is no hard proof either way as it has yet to be properly studied, although he agrees FAS happens mostly among heavy drinkers.

    But says: Low-to-moderate levels of maternal alcohol consumption have not been well studied in human pregnancy, but evidence has not suggested a threshold dose below which no effects on cognitive performance or behavior are seen. In the absence of adequate data, no level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy is known to be safe, and the US Surgeon General advises women who are pregnant or who may be pregnant to abstain from alcohol consumption throughout the gestation

  19. MonicaBielanko says:

    Meg, we could throw studies back and forth all day long. Like this one that says wine can be good for the baby:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/06/09/us-drinking-pregnancy-idUSTRE6585Z820100609

    What about the toxins we’re inhaling in this inversion we live in? I’m betting that’s scientifically worse than a glass of beer with dinner. So is going outside, “rolling the dice”? Do you eat chicken from restaurants? It’s packed with hormones… Do you have an all organic diet while pregnant? No? You know how many toxic pesticides are in the food we eat? Isn’t that “rolling the dice”?

    But I’m wondering where in the study you posted above you got “alcohol may have no effect on one fetus, it could cause serious mental retardation in another…just a single glass”

    No evidence has proven LIGHT drinking harms the fetus and throwing the term Fetal Alcohol Syndrome into a debate about light drinking seems like fear mongering to me. The discussions surrounding this topic are as toxic as breastfeeding vs. formula. But ultimately, if you feel like drinking the occasional beer or glass of wine is rolling the dice, I respect that and can appreciate your opinion, I just don’t feel the same way.

  20. the Not-so-Divine-Miss-M says:

    Unless every expectant mother is ready to pack her gear, move to Greenland (to breathe fresh, non-toxic air and drink organic non-toxic water from melting ice caps, huzza) and eat organic (non-toxic) foodstuffs, I’d say she’s rolling the dice. No, seriously. An expectant mother should eat only macrobiotic, raw food that has been harvested from the tops of the himalayan mountains by virgin hands while buddhist monks chanted and puppies and kittens joined hands and danced in a circle around it. A bit extreme? Well, in this day and age we are all struggling to do what is best for us, and we make those choices based on advice, common knowledge, medical research and ‘what-feels-good’ filtered through a dollop of common sense.
    We all have different ideas of what is sensible, good or bad for us, and when it comes to pregnancies, it’s mostly a matter of common sense. I respect and appreciate (to borrow Monica’s words) every opinion, but if I don’t feel the same way, I’m gonna do what my (m-y) common sense tells me to do.
    Because who knows what is best for each individual if not the individual her/himself?

    (well, obviously, I have all the answers. Still waiting for my patented puppy-kitten food purification method to get authenticated by leading medical authorities. So far, Ghenghis Khcat and Pup Daddy are refusing to cooperate).

  21. Jill says:

    Here’s some food for thought – and no, by no means am I an expert. I am the youngest of 3 children, and I was the only pregnancy where my mother could smoke, drink alcohol and coffee without getting sick. So, my mother took full advantage of that. It was also back in the late sixties, where the doctors (and pregnant mothers) weren’t concerned with all the outside influences. And guess what? I turned out a-okay! I am also the only one of my siblings who hasn’t battled a nicotine addiction. Maybe I got my fill in the womb? Who knows…

    Also, personal experience, I got sh!t faced drunk when I was pregnant with my first two, when I didn’t know know I was pregnant, and my babies turned out just fine.

  22. Jessiej says:

    After a hair bleaching fiasco, my hair was DRY, DRY,DRY. It felt like a brillo pad. My sister-in-law told I would need some intensive hair conditioning to get it back near normal.I had wanted to use the Hydrate Conditioner from Shielo Hair before I destroyed my hair. SO i decided to buy the Shielo Hydrate Conditioner and give it a try. After ONE application my dry, brillo bleached hair, it was shiny, soft and smelled great. My hair looked better than it did ever before. I do this once a week and my hair looks great, the color has been preserved, and I am never trying anything else. Ever.

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