Anya Goy answers your hair questions and problems with professional advice, tips and recommendations. Discover the truth about using hair dye and bleach when you are pregnant.
I have heard lots of things about hair colour not being safe to use when you are pregnant, but does this mean temporary unnatural colours as well? What do you think?
The Pregnant Punk
Hello Pregnant Punk,
Congratulations on this exciting time in your life! Now the idea of not dying your hair during pregnancy has been around for some time, however this is normally in relation to natural hair shades, not bright rainbow hair. So let me try and shed some light on this topic for you.
The reason people say you can’t dye you hair during pregnancy in the first place, comes from two issues. First is the theory that the dye chemicals may affect the development of the unborn baby. The second is that the hormones in your body during pregnancy can cause your hair to become resistant to the dye, and you may have problems with achieving the desired result. So lets look at both these issues…
The theory that the dye chemicals may affect the development of the unborn baby…
I believe this theory came about back in the 80′s when hair dyes were much harsher and contained chemicals (such as 4-MMPD) which was found to penetrate skin and cause cancer in laboratory animals. But today manufacturers have stopped using such chemicals, with some brands even producing ammonia free hair dyes such as L’Oreals INOA range.
In regards to hair dye and bleach products there hasn’t been much research in this area. The limited research that’s available is based on animal studies and suggests that it’s safe to dye your hair during pregnancy. As a hairdresser I know many of my customers choose to colour their hair during pregnancy, and I have yet to come across anyone who has had problems.
Dr Miriam Stoppard (a parenting expert) said ‘The very powerful pigments in the darker shades of hair dye penetrate the scalp in a few minutes and can be detected in white blood cells in a few hours’ she goes on to say “…this means the body is dealing efficiently with the pigment. The white cells are mopping it up and getting rid of it so that it can’t do any harm.” Still most doctors suggest waiting to colour your hair until the second trimester, when the developing baby is less vulnerable.
However doctors do recommend you should stay away from chemical fumes when pregnant, and for this reason perms are not recommended.
So what about temporary punky rainbow hair dyes?
Bright, funky alternative colours (such as Manic Panic, Special Effects, Directions, Crazy Colour… etc.) have no peroxide, no ammonia and no fumes. This type of dye is synthetic, so it simply stains the hair cuticles in the same way cloths dye stains the material. This means its not using harsh chemicals to penetrate the hair as standard hair dyes do. In fact some rainbow hair colours have some of the the same ingredients as found in conditioner. Although there is no research in this area, I think you’re probably safer using this type of punky temporary colour rather than standard permanent hair dyes, as it is much kinder to both hair and skin. But if you’re still unsure I suggest you talk to your doctor.
Now although you can use these kinds of alternative colours directly over your current hair colour, you will find they only give your hair a slight tone. This is because these dyes are designed to work on pre-bleached hair.
So if you are after vibrant, true colours, you do need to pre-bleached the hair. Lots of pregnant women will use bleach on their scalp with no problems, but if you’re still concerned there are lots of ways to bleach your hair without any skin contact. (Any chemicals absorbed into your system would come through your skin/scalp, not through your hair.) So rather than doing an all-over head bleach I’d suggest you try one of the following techniques as an ‘off scalp’ alternative:
- Foils (also know as ‘streaking’ or ‘highlighting’): Where small strands of hair are placed in foils with bleach.
- Balayage/Ombre (also known as ‘freestyle painting’): A gradient gradual blend of colour, fading from natural root to dyed mid-length and ends.
- Shoe Shine (also know as ‘frosting’): Where bleach is brushed over the tips of short hair.
- Dip Dying: Where only the tips of long hair are bleached to appear ‘dipped’ in colour.
I recommend you reference the ‘Safe Pre-Lightening’ chapter of my book “Any Colour of the Rainbow” to see how foil is used in off-scalp bleach application.
The ammonia in bleach can give off some fume if you inhale directly while mixing the bleach powder with the peroxide. So work in a well-ventilated space to help minimise inhaling any fumes. Alternatively you can use an ammonia free bleach (reference the ‘Lightening Products’ chapter of “Any Colour of the Rainbow” for details).
The theory that the hormones in your body during pregnancy can cause your hair to become resistant to hair dye…
Some women have reported hair dyes not taking to their hair during pregnancy, and hair colours turning out different to what was expected. This is possible due to the hormonal changes in your body, however this is a minority of cases. Most women have no problem with achieving their desired hair colour. Hormones do however have other effects on your hair during pregnancy, and even after giving birth. A number of women will experience their hair becoming fuller, stronger and more shiny during pregnancy, as the body retains more protein. But after giving birth and particularly during breast feeding some women find their hair becomes brittle and weak, some even experience hair loss. Hormones can do crazy things to your hair during pregnancy. Dry hair may become oilier, oily hair may become dry, curly hair may become straight or vice versa.
Also during pregnancy your immune responses changes so you may be more vulnerable to having an allergic reaction to hair dye, even if you’ve never had one before. So if you intend on colouring I suggest you do a skin test first, as recommended by most hair dye products anyway.
At the end of the day…
To the best of my knowledge and as my experience as a hairdresser I would say it’s safe to colour you hair during pregnancy. However there is no hard proof of this as yet and at the end of the day it’s your decision and your baby. I would always recommend you discuss this with both your husband/partner and your doctor before you make up your own mind.
I believe it’s important for women to feel good about themselves during pregnancy, be that natural hair colours, or rainbow Mohawk’s. But whether colouring your hair will make you feel good or cause you to worry needlessly for nine months is something for you to think about.
Create salon perfect rainbow hair at home…
Discover Anya’s eBook guide: ‘Any Colour Of The Rainbow – The Ultimate Guide to Alternative Hair Colour‘. This guide covers everything from safe bleaching with ammonia free bleach to creating stunning multi colours with foil. Find out all the best products, how to do pastel colours, how to maintain vibrant colour, create ombre colour like to professionals and so much more…