Hair coloring during pregnancy is a legitimate concern. After all, we want what’s best for the baby. We become more conscious of the types of food we ingest, sleeping positions, water temperature etc. and the list goes on. So what about hair coloring? Should we avoid it? Let’s weigh in.
Concern #1 for hair coloring during pregnancy
Oxidative hair coloring involves the use of several dye precursors including PPD (Para phenylene diamine, a.k.a p-phenylenediamine). PPD in particular has been known to cause allergic reactions, besides being a carcinogenic chemical.
Another chemical commonly used in synthetic hair dyes is Resorcinol. According to the CDC, resorcinol in high doses can be toxic to the eyes, skin, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, central nervous system, blood, spleen, liver, and kidneys.
However the levels used in hair dyes are low and deemed safe.
This statement does not imply that everyone responds well to this chemical. Some people are hypersensitive to the dye, experiencing redness, itching etc. Medicines in pregnancy.org states that to date, there is no evidence that resorcinol can affect the fetus. But, if the mother is experiencing symptoms of toxicity, the fetus will likely be at risk at well.
How dangerous are the dye precursors?
The fact is that if the coloring is done properly, not a lot of dyes get in contact with the skin. The dye mixture usually stains the hairline and the scalp. Only a small % of the chemicals will actually penetrate the skin and reach the blood stream. It is thus deemed ‘safe’ to have hair colored during pregnancy.
However, most doctors would recommend avoiding dying hair at least during the first trimester, where the development of the fetus is critical.
So in the end, it is a personal choice. But bear in mind: Just because there is lack of data on fetal toxicity doesn’t mean that these dyes have zero impact on fetal development. If you have a high risk pregnancy, you would definitely want to err on the safe side.
The other thing to note during the hair dying process is the inhalation of ammonia (ammonium hydroxide) or hydrogen peroxide during the dying process. Ammonia in particular is a known irritant to the respiratory tract, eyes, skins, and lungs. There is no evidence of ammonia/ hydrogen peroxide being a danger to the fetus. But, regardless of pregnancy, exposure to large concentrations of ammonia/ hydrogen peroxide fumes should be avoided, to prevent unnecessary discomforts or problems.
Final note and suggestions
If you must have hair coloring during pregnancy, choose procedures such highlights, lowlights, Ombré etc. These are only partial head treatments. In the case of highlights or lowlights, the dyes do not touch the scalp because of the aluminum foil under. As for Ombré and other techniques that use Balayage, new growth can be blended very well thereby reducing the frequency of re-dying. The bottomline is that these are low maintenance treatments.
Also, try using lighter colors versus darker ones since those tend to use less of PPD and other dye precursors.
If you plan to do an at-home coloring, have someone help you color to ensure that you minimize contact with your skin and make sure you are in a well ventilated area.
Alternatively some women opt for the vegetable-based rinses. These do not stain the hair as much as the permanent hair dyes, but they enhance the vibrancy of the hair’s natural color and provide gloss.