Is hair dye in pregnancy safe?

The short answer is most likely yes. Studies have shown that if you have been dyeing or perming your hair prior to pregnancy without a problem, you should be able to continue safely in pregnancy.

woman at salon - Is it Safe to Dye my Hair in Pregnancy?

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The long answer is also most likely yes – but there are things you should do to minimize any potential risk.

Why question the safety of hair dye in pregnancy?

There are about 5,000 synthetic chemical ingredients found in hair dye[1]“Hair Dyes and Cancer Risk,” National Cancer Institute, August 18, 2016, … Continue reading. Individual ingredients are not monitored for safety by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), so the overall safety of these dyes to consumers is left mostly to the manufacturers themselves[2]“Hair Dyes,” American Cancer Society, May 27, 2014, Also, new studies are popping up that link hair dye to certain cancers[3]According to the study, permanent dye use was associated with 45% higher breast cancer risk in black women . . . and 7% higher risk in white women. “Hair dye and chemical straightener use and … Continue reading.

The prevailing question is: How much of those chemicals are absorbed? Most studies agree that there is a very low risk that you will absorb very many chemicals from the process, and that the amount reaching your baby is negligible.

Here are some things to consider as you decide what is right for you.

Your skin, the largest organ on your body, does not just wrap you up and make you look pretty. (Although it definitely does that, too.)

It acts as a filter – allowing some chemicals to absorb into your skin and allowing chemicals to exit your body (such as sweat). The rate of that absorption depends on several factors, including the amount of time your skin is exposed, how intact your skin is, the thickness of your skin, the concentration of the chemicals, and the individual properties of the chemicals.

With thousands of chemicals in dye and with various amounts of exposure, it is hard to know how much you absorb. Studies cannot give a definitive answer regarding your or your baby’s total exposure. But the overall conclusion is that the risk is of an adverse reaction is extremely low.

What you can do to minimize any risk.

Even with the low risk of adverse effects, you can minimize risk further by doing the following . . .

  • Chose vegetable-based dyes.
  • Choose lighter dyes, as the darker dyes have higher concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals[4]“Hair Dyes,” American Cancer Society, May 27, 2014,
  • Choose highlights or balayage, where the dye has minimal contact with your scalp.
  • If you dye your hair at home, follow all the instructions on the box. Use gloves to reduce exposure to your skin, and rinse immediately after the allotted time. Read these precautions before chemically treating your hair at home[5]Cosmetic Safety Q&A: Hair Dyes,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, February 22, 2018,
  • Do not dye your hair if you have any cuts or burns on your scalp.
  • Wait until the second or third trimester to chemically treat your hair as your baby’s organs will be more fully developed to process any of the chemicals.
  • Treat your hair in a well-ventilated area to reduce the fumes you inhale.

What if you are a cosmetologist or hairstylist?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, “One study indicates a greater risk for miscarriage in women who apply large numbers of bleaches and permanent hair dyes, work more than 40 hours per week, and/or work in salons that offer nail sculpturing services[6]“Hair Treatment During Pregnancy,” American Pregnancy Association, October 11, 2019,”

In addition, studies have shown that professional hairdressers have an increased risk of bladder cancer[7]“Hair Dyes and Cancer Risk,” National Cancer Institute, August 18, 2016, … Continue reading.

It is important as a professional stylist to take precautions to lower your exposure. Keep your workspace well-ventilated. Use gloves. And don’t eat near your workspace.

If you want to be sure there is absolutely no harm to you or baby . . .

Simply go without, at least until you are no longer pregnant. Find another way to pamper yourself, such as a pregnancy massage, that amazing face care system you’ve wanted for so long, or a trendy haircut you finally have the guts to get.

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