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

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

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:

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:

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.


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