Can I Use Hair Dye During Pregnancy?
There are a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to pregnancy, it can be hard to keep up with what is considered safe. If you’re used to covering up your grays, getting regular hair treatments, or if you’re just looking for a change, you may be wondering what hair treatments you’re able to get while pregnant. Let’s talk about it.
What to know about hair dye
There are a few different types of dye used to color hair. The three most common types of hair coloring are permanent color, semi permanent color, and temporary color. Temporary color is often referring to some sort of color depositing product that stains the hair without the use of chemicals.  Semi permanent color and permanent color often contain chemicals that actually react to one another in order to produce a certain color.  There are also natural ways to dye hair such as henna, which comes from plants. Some types of henna do contain other chemicals, though, so keep this in mind.
Is hair dye toxic?
The ingredients in hair dyes have changed over the years. Earlier types of hair dye contained chemicals such as aromatic amines, but were eventually removed from products due to potential (but still low) cancer risk.  Recent hair coloring products are still being studied, but most agencies and experts agree that there is minimal risk of hair dye causing cancer or having negative health effects, especially when someone does not have frequent workplace exposure. [1-2] Natural dyes such as henna are also thought to be nontoxic alternatives to chemical dyes. While there is little data to suggest hair dyes are toxic, some people may have allergic reactions to some chemicals or ingredients in hair treatment products. Read about what chemicals to avoid while pregnant →
Is it safe to use hair dye during pregnancy?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that most experts believe hair dye during pregnancy is nontoxic and unlikely to harm the fetus.  Studies have tested the effects of high amounts of hair dye and have found no evidence of birth defects. [3-4] Some healthcare professionals may suggest that pregnant individuals wait until the first trimester has passed to dye their hair, as there is a lot of vital development occurring in the first few months of pregnancy. [5-6]
If you have any issues with your skin or scalp, you may be at a higher risk of having a reaction.  Our skin does a great job of protecting us, and typically there is only a small amount of chemicals absorbed through the scalp (if any); however, underlying conditions could impact this. It’s best to speak directly with your healthcare provider about the use of any hair treatments or hair dyes while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Are other hair treatments safe during pregnancy?
So we’ve established that hair dye is likely safe to use during pregnancy, but what about other hair treatments? Some common treatments may include perms or relaxers and bleaching or highlights.  A perm or relaxer uses chemicals to change the hair pattern, either straightening or adding curl to the hair permanently. Bleaching the hair is done when someone wants to remove pigment from their hair to make it a lighter color. Bleaching can be done all over the head or can be done in smaller sections, such as highlights. Research suggests that these hair treatments are equally as safe during pregnancy as hair dye.  Treatments are unlikely to harm the fetus and are considered safe while pregnant. 
Safety tips for hair treatments during pregnancy
You should speak with your healthcare provider before any cosmetic treatments or procedures to ensure you’re making the most informed choice for yourself and your pregnancy. If you move forward with any hair treatments, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are being as safe as possible [6-7]:
- Wear gloves: If you yourself are attempting to dye your hair or someone else’s hair, wearing gloves is a great way to protect additional skin from coming into contact with the hair products. This can help protect you from potential chemical burns or allergic reactions. If the treatment is touching your scalp, you may still be at risk of an allergic reaction.
- Stay in a well ventilated area: Avoid small closed spaces when working with any hair treatments or when visiting a salon. While the smell of hair treatments is unlikely to cause any damage, it can irritate the eyes, nose, and mouth if you aren’t in a well ventilated room.
- Ensure your scalp is healthy: If you have problems with your skin or have any reason to believe your scalp is not in a good condition, you may want to hold off on any treatments. Chemicals may exacerbate any issues such as eczema or psoriasis and broken skin allows more product to pass through the protective barrier and into the bloodstream. You should also pay close attention to your skin after receiving any treatments to ensure you aren’t having any adverse reactions.
- Stick to highlights: Highlighting the hair means you are putting dye on smaller sessions of the head and not directly on the scalp. This can limit your exposure to the dye or chemicals even further.
- Do a patch test: A patch test is a great way to see if you will have any adverse reactions to the treatment. This can be done by applying a small amount of the product to unbroken skin, somewhere such as the inner elbow, to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction. 
- Follow the instructions: Be sure to follow the instructions carefully with any product you’re using. Don’t leave any dyes or treatments on the hair for longer than is recommended.
Signs of an allergic reaction
Be sure to keep an eye out for any signs of an allergic reaction, especially if you’re using a new product. A common pollutant in hair dye is a chemical known as paraphenylenediamine (PPD). PPD is found in high amounts in dark hair dyes specifically and is considered safe for general use.  However, those that are allergic to PPD may notice uncomfortable symptoms. Common signs of an allergic reaction include [8-9]:
- Itching (localized or all over)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Scaly or dry skin
- Blistered or inflamed skin
- Watery or itchy eyes
- Burning sensation
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Rapid heart rate
The best way to avoid having an allergic reaction is to have a professional complete a patch test. It’s also important to follow the instructions on the product you’re using. If you notice any concerning symptoms, seek medical care immediately and wash your scalp thoroughly to get rid of any remaining product. 
The short answer
If you are pregnant and wanting to get some sort of hair treatment done, most research suggests that hair dyes, hair bleaching, relaxers, and perms are unlikely to cause harm to your pregnancy. Some healthcare professionals suggest waiting until the formative first trimester is over to undergo any treatments. Allergic reactions may appear to some of the ingredients in hair products, so it’s recommended that you do a patch test to ensure no adverse reactions will occur. It’s also recommended that you use gloves, stay in a ventilated area, and follow instructions exactly. Those with skin conditions or sensitive skin may be more susceptible to adverse reactions. You should speak to your healthcare provider directly to get their advice regarding hair treatments.
- Hair Dyes and Cancer Risk. American Cancer Society. Revised November 22, 2022. URL. Accessed April 2023.
- Lademann J, Richter H, Jacobi U, et al. Human percutaneous absorption of a direct hair dye comparing in vitro and in vivo results: implications for safety assessment and animal testing. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008;46(6):2214-2223. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2008.02.018
- Is it safe to dye my hair during pregnancy? ACOG. October 2020. URL.
- Chua-Gocheco A, Bozzo P, Einarson A. Safety of hair products during pregnancy: personal use and occupational exposure. Can Fam Physician. 2008;54(10):1386-1388.
- Is it safe to use hair dye when I'm pregnant or breastfeeding? NHS. July 2021. URL. Accessed April 2023.
- Zanotti S. Is It Safe to Dye Your Hair While You’re Pregnant? Cleveland Clinic. December 28 2021. URL.
- Hair dye reactions. NHS. October 27 2021. URL. Accessed April 2023.
- Allergies. Cleveland Clinic. December 12 2022. URL.