If you’re expecting, some things may be temporarily off-limits, like alcohol, certain medicines and even foods like raw sushi. But do you have to give up your hair coloring routine, too?
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Ob/Gyn Salena Zanotti, MD, dives into hair dye, pregnancy and what’s safe for you and your fetus.
Hair color and pregnancy
Hair color, whether you purchase it in a store or go to the salon, contains chemicals. But that doesn’t mean your hair has to go au naturel throughout your whole pregnancy.
“We don’t have much data on the safety of hair dyes during pregnancy,” Dr. Zanotti says. “But we know that your skin is a strong barrier that keeps the hair dye from getting inside your body. Chemicals in hair dyes don’t get absorbed into the body if you have a healthy scalp.”
Still, you can take a few precautions to keep your hair coloring routine as safe as possible during pregnancy:
Wait until your second trimester
The first trimester is a time of rapid growth and development for your fetus. Major organs are forming, including the brain and spinal cord. If you want to be cautious (and rest easier at night), wait until this critical period is over before reaching for the hair dye.
“Many doctors recommend holding off on hair color until week 13 of your pregnancy, just to be safe,” Dr. Zanotti says.
Take extra care if you have skin conditions
“These conditions can cause tiny breaks in the skin and may decrease some of your skin’s protection,” Dr. Zanotti says. “You may also have more irritation or sensitivity from hair dye if you have skin conditions.”
Stick to the same hair dye you’ve used in the past to lower your risk of any unexpected reactions.
Get some fresh air
A hallmark of many pregnancies is having a supersensitive sniffer. Even smells you may have tolerated before can now send you running away gagging. And most hair dyes are a bit pungent, which might not mesh well with your newly delicate sense of smell.
Save yourself some nausea or headaches by coloring your hair in a well-ventilated area. “Proper ventilation is also a good way to lower your exposure to chemicals in the air,” says Dr. Zanotti. “And if you have allergies or asthma, the smells can bother you even more.”
Do your hands a favor and cover them up before you color your hair — pregnant or not.
“Skin can be more sensitive to irritation during pregnancy,” says Dr. Zanotti. “So always wear gloves when you’re coloring your hair. Even if you’re not pregnant, though, gloves are a necessity. You don’t want to stain your hands or expose them to irritating chemicals.”
Can you color your hair while breastfeeding?
If you’re breastfeeding, you need to watch what goes into your body. Substances like alcohol and certain prescription drugs can end up in your breast milk. Tell your doctor about any medications you take if you’re planning on breastfeeding your baby.
Fortunately, hair dye won’t get into your breast milk if you use it as directed, though. “You can safely color your hair if you’re breastfeeding,” says Dr. Zanotti. “Just keep your baby out of the room when you’re coloring so the smells don’t irritate them. And you should still wear gloves and do it in a well-ventilated area.”
Can you bleach your hair while pregnant?
If you want to go for a lighter shade on your head, bleaching is usually the tool of choice. And like hair dye, hair bleaching products are likely safe to use during pregnancy.
“Many people bleach their hair during pregnancy, and the bleach does not penetrate your skin,” says Dr. Zanotti. “Follow the same precautions as you would with hair dye: Apply it in a well-ventilated area, wear gloves and wait until the second trimester for extra safety.”
Are perms and relaxers safe during pregnancy?
Perms and relaxers contain chemicals that are generally safe to apply to your hair and skin. If you have adequate ventilation and follow the directions on the product, you’re good to go.
“If you’re getting a perm or relaxer treatment done at the salon, ask them about their ventilation practices. You don’t want to be getting a treatment done with two or three other people without ventilation. The smell could be overpowering and make you feel sick,” Dr. Zanotti says.
Can I work in a hair salon during pregnancy?
Hairstylists spend a lot of time on their feet. And during pregnancy, all those hours coloring and cutting hair can be even more exhausting. (Hello, back pain!) Try taking breaks and sitting when you can. And make sure to stay well hydrated during the day.
If your pregnancy is progressing well, you can work in a hair salon with a couple of basic precautions. “Hairstylists should always wear gloves when coloring or perming hair,” Dr. Zanotti says. “And ventilation is even more important because you might be exposed to hair dye or other chemicals several times a day.”
“If you work in a salon, wear a mask at work to help reduce the risk of inhaling chemicals in the air,” Dr. Zanotti recommends. And a bonus: It can help protect you from contagious respiratory viruses, too.
Don’t stress — ask your doc
It’s hard to keep track of everything you should or shouldn’t do when you’re pregnant. If you aren’t sure if something is safe, don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare provider.
“Your doctor is here to help you have a healthy pregnancy,” Dr. Zanotti says. “If you’re concerned about something, call your doctor and ask. Then you can make the best decisions for you and your fetus.”