The idea of not coloring your hair during pregnancy has been around for some time; however, this is normally in relation to natural hair tones, not bright rainbow hair. Let me try to shed some light on this issue.
The reason people say you can’t dye your hair during pregnancy in the first place comes from two issues. First, there is the theory that chemical dyes can affect the development of the fetus. The second is that the hormones in your body during pregnancy can make your hair resistant to the dye and you may have trouble achieving the desired result. So let’s look at these two problems …
The theory that chemical dyes can affect the development of the fetus …
I think this theory came about in the 1980s when hair dyes were much harsher and contained chemicals (such as 4-MMPD) that were found to penetrate the skin and cause cancer in laboratory animals. But today manufacturers have stopped using such chemicals, and some brands even produce ammonia-free hair dyes, such as the L’Oreals INOA range.
When it comes to hair dyes and bleaching products, not much research has been done in this area. The limited research available is based on animal studies and suggests that it is safe to dye your hair during pregnancy. As a hairdresser, I know that many of my clients choose to dye their hair during pregnancy and I have yet to find anyone who has had problems.
Dr Miriam Stoppard (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 ‘, he goes on to say “… this means the body is dealing efficiently with the pigment. The white blood cells are cleaning it up and getting rid of it so it can’t do any harm.” Still, most doctors suggest waiting to color your hair until the second trimester, when the developing baby is less vulnerable.
However, doctors recommend that you stay away from chemical fumes during pregnancy, and for this reason, permanent ones are not recommended.
So what about temporary punk rainbow hair dyes?
Bright and original alternative colors (such as Manic Panic, Special Effects, Raw, ‘N Rage … etc) are peroxide, ammonia and fume free. This type of dye is synthetic, so it simply stains the hair cuticles in the same way that fabric dye stains the material. This means that it does not use harsh chemicals to penetrate the hair like standard hair dyes do. In fact, some rainbow hair colors have some of the same ingredients found in conditioner. Although there is no research in this area, I think you are probably safer using this type of punk temporary color instead of the standard permanent hair dyes, as it is much kinder to both hair and skin. But if you’re still not sure, I suggest you talk to your doctor.
Now, although you can wear these types of alternative colors directly over your current hair color, you will find that they only give your hair a slight hue. This is because these dyes are designed to work on previously bleached hair.
So if you are looking for vibrant and true colors, you need to pre-bleach your hair. Many pregnant women will use bleach on their scalp with no problem, but if you’re still concerned, there are plenty of ways to bleach your hair without skin contact. (Any chemicals absorbed into your system would pass through your skin / scalp, not through your hair.) Therefore, instead of using a general bleach, I suggest you try one of the following techniques as an alternative to removing your scalp:
- Sheets (also known as “mechas” or “wicks”): where small strands of hair are placed in sheets with bleach.
- Balayage (aka ‘freestyle paint’) – where bleach is painted onto random strips of hair.
- Shoe shine (also known as ‘frosting’): where bleach is applied to the ends of short hair.
- Dip Dying: Where only the ends of long hair are bleached to appear ‘dipped’ in color.
I recommend that you go to a salon for this, but if you want to bleach your hair at home I suggest you ask a friend to help you mix and apply the bleach. The ammonia in bleach can give off some smoke if you inhale directly while mixing the bleach powder with the peroxide. Therefore, work in a well-ventilated space to help minimize inhalation of fumes.
The theory that hormones in your body during pregnancy can make your hair resistant to hair dye …
Some women have reported that hair dyes are not applied to their hair during pregnancy and that hair colors become different than expected. This is possible due to hormonal changes in your body, however this is a minority of cases. Most women have no problem achieving their desired hair color. However, hormones have other effects on hair during pregnancy and even after delivery. Several women will experience that their hair becomes fuller, stronger, and shinier during pregnancy, as the body retains more protein. But after giving birth and particularly while breastfeeding, some women find that their hair becomes brittle and weak, some even experience hair loss. Hormones can do crazy things to your hair during pregnancy. Dry hair can become oilier, oily hair can become dry, curly hair can become straight or vice versa.
Also, during pregnancy, your immune response 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 to dye, I suggest you do a skin test first, as most hair dye products recommend anyway.
At the end of the day …
Based on my knowledge and my experience as a hairdresser, I would say that it is safe to dye your hair during pregnancy. However, there is no hard evidence for this yet, and at the end of the day, it is your decision and that of your baby. I would always recommend that you discuss this with both your husband / partner and your doctor before making a decision.
I think it’s important for women to feel good about themselves during pregnancy, whether it’s natural hair colors or rainbow Mohawk. But whether dyeing your hair will make you feel good or worry you unnecessarily for nine months is something to think about.