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Should I stop dyeing my hair when I get pregnant?

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The question

Do I have to stop dyeing my hair completely when I get pregnant? I keep hearing different guidelines.

The answer

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Navigating through the abundance of medical and non-medical opinions and advice about what to do during pregnancy can be overwhelming. In pregnancy, you must be mindful of what you are exposed through food, drink and from environment as they can all be sources of toxins that could cause potential harm to your developing baby.

For any hair treatment process, including colouring, straightening or perm treatments, a small amount of chemicals can be absorbed through the scalp. Studies that have examined the use of hair dye during and after pregnancy have shown that the minimal absorption of chemicals have not shown an increased risk of harm to the developing baby.

Motherisk, a research and education program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, suggests that due to the minimal absorption of hair products through skin, hair dye during pregnancy is not concerning.

Despite the relative safety of hair dye in pregnancy, be cautious and minimize absorption of chemicals by following these recommendations:

  • Wait until after the first trimester (after 12 weeks) to use hair treatments as this time is the most vulnerable for the baby’s development.
  • Avoid products that contain ammonia as they can cause strong chemical fumes that can be inhaled.
  • Use a well ventilated area to apply hair treatment products to minimize inhalation of fumes.
  • If you are getting your hair professionally done, let your hairdresser know prior to so that he or she can minimize absorption by rinsing your scalp thoroughly and ensuring that the the treatment is not kept on longer than needed

Consider using natural options such as vegetable dyes which are chemical free and are considered safer than permanent dye treatments.

As a side note, if you work in a hair salon, there is a potentially higher risk of exposure to chemicals. To minimize your risk in pregnancy, work in a well-ventilated area, wear protective gloves and do not eat or drink in work areas to minimize exposure to the chemicals in hair products.

Send family doctor Sheila Wijayasinghe your questions at doctor@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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Read more Q&As from Dr. Wijayasinghe.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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