Hair Dye Use and Pregnancy Risks

bottle of air dye on scalp

If you're a frequent colorer when it comes to hair, there are a few things to know about how those chemicals can affect your unborn child. If you aren’t a natural blonde, brunette, or redhead, you may be one of the hundreds of women that uses hair dye as a secret weapon to feel confident and look beautiful. Now that you are pregnant, you may be wondering what many woman wonder: is it safe to continue coloring your hair during your pregnancy? The answer is probably. There have been numerous studies on hair coloring and pregnancy and at this point, there has been no evidence that coloring your hair causes birth defects. So, pregnant women who enjoy coloring their hair don't necessarily need to let their roots grow wild, but you should know the facts before busting out the bottle of hair dye.

If Hair Dye is Safe, Why Am I Told Not to Color My Hair in the First Trimester?

Even though there has not been any evidence of hair dye causing birth defects, we are just not sure of its safety. The first trimester is when all of your baby’s major organs are forming. Your doctor may recommend postponing coloring your hair until you are in your second trimester or avoiding hair coloring all together.

In 1978, the FDA proposed warning labels on hair dye that contained two coal-tar ingredients. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD found that rodents that were fed these compounds from coal-tar in certain hair dyes were more likely to develop cancer than rodents that were not fed these compounds. However, it is worth noting that in this study rodents were fed large amounts of these compounds, more than what anyone would ingest. It also did not assess the risks of these components being applied to the skin. Other studies on hair dye have shown that only a small percentage of hair dye is actually absorbed through the scalp and gets into the body. Manufacturers have stopped making their hair dye with these ingredients, but many have been replaced with compounds with similar structures.

Can Hair Dye Be Absorbed Into My Skin and Hurt My Baby?

pregnant woman with blonde hair

Only a small amount of hair dye gets absorbed through the skin when it is applied. This amount is so small that it is not thought to be harmful to the baby. The research that is available does not show any evidence of birth defects related to using hair dye.

Animal studies have been done with doses 100 times higher than what you would use on your hair. These studies have not shown any abnormal fetal development or birth defects in animals. There have been so few studies on hair dye and human pregnancy that we just don’t have enough information to say whether or not hair dye could be dangerous in human pregnancies, so the best course of action is to proceed with caution.

Safety Tips for Coloring Your Hair During Pregnancy

applying hair dye to scalp

  • Avoid coloring your hair during the first trimester.

  • Choose a hair dye that will stay on your scalp for the least amount of time as possible.

  • Wear gloves when you color your hair.

  • Rinse your hair thoroughly after coloring your hair.

  • Highlight or frost your hair instead. Because the chemicals are not applied directly to your scalp, less hair dye will be absorbed through your skin.

  • Use natural hair dyes such as henna. Henna is a vegetable dye and is considered to be fully safe to use during pregnancy.