When a woman discovers she is pregnant, in most cases her natural instinct is to do everything she can to ensure her baby’s safety. As a result, pregnancy raises many questions. Is this safe to eat? Will doing that harm my baby? Among the myriad of questions pregnant woman ask, many ask about the safety of beauty treatments. And perhaps the beauty treatment that raises the most questions and controversy is the use of hair dye in pregnancy.
There is very little research on the potential risks associated with using hair dye in pregnancy. In the past, hair dyes routinely contained formaldehyde and other potentially dangerous chemicals and, were that the case today, the choice would be obvious. However modern hair dyes, while chemical based, do not contain these highly toxic chemicals and there is no evidence to suggest that contemporary dyes cause birth defects or miscarriage.
As such the question of whether or not to use hair dye in pregnancy is mostly considered to be a matter of choice rather than a matter of safety. Having said that, in the interests of making an informed decision there are a few important biological issues to consider.
Skin, being the largest organ of the body, absorbs the most toxins. As such products like hair dyes are absorbed through the scalp and into the body. This has been demonstrated by research which has shown that traces of hair dye can be identified in urine.
Constant exposure to hair dye can cause irritation and skin diseases, such as dermatitis, and most women who have coloured their hair know well that not-so-comfortable hot or burning sensation of hair dye being applied to their scalp. In addition, most hair dyes contain ammonia and/or hydrogen peroxide, the vapours from which are harmful respiratory tract irritants and can promote allergies, sinusitis and hay fever.
These issues are the reason why all hair dyes display warnings about wearing gloves and applying the dye in a well-ventilated room, whether you are pregnant or not!
The first trimester of pregnancy is when all of a baby’s major organs are forming. Therefore many women prefer to avoid colouring their hair during this time. Indeed, many women choose to stay away from colouring their hair altogether until their pregnancy is over. There is certainly something to be said for adopting a chemical free, easy-to-manage style instead.
However, that said it is important for women to feel good about themselves during pregnancy. Many women do not relish the idea of regrowth growing halfway down their heads, especially if they are a brunette who prefers to be blonde. As such there is certainly room for a happy medium between pouring chemicals on your scalp and starting a collection of hats!
The recent release of organic hair products has the potential to provide a real breakthrough for women who want to avoid chemical exposure when using hair dye in pregnancy. Organic hair care products, including hair colours, shampoos and styling products, are reputed to produce comparable if not better results than their chemical based counterparts, in terms of hair quality, feel and shine. As such, organic hair products may provide opportunities to colour your hair without having to ponder the effects of harsh chemicals on your body.
A word of caution. As with chemical-based dyes, not all organic products are created equal. In reading the constituent label on some organic products you are likely to find many naturally occurring abrasives which are also used in chemical dyes. Before using any new product, organic or otherwise, ensure you read the product label and safety warnings, and consider performing a patch test to rule out skin irritation before proceeding with a full treatment.
Deciding whether to use hair dye in pregnancy is a personal decision. Whether colouring your hair will make you feel good, or cause you to worry needlessly for nine months, is certainly something to think about in making your choice.
If you choose to colour, consider utilising organic alternatives. If you decide to stick with your favourite home or salon chemical-based hair dye in pregnancy, consider these precautions:
© Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond
Page first published 15th January 2012