When I discovered I was pregnant, the last thing on my mind was
my hair. I was too busy wondering what the baby's sex was (girl),
decorating the nursery (moon and stars) and finding the perfect
name (Tessa). But when my highlights began to grow out, I was
suddenly faced with a decision many pregnant women confront: Should
I dye or not?
Women make many lifestyle changes when that stick turns pink on
the pregnancy test. We know we need to worry about every little
thing that enters our bodies.
Some choices are clear-cut: No drinking, smoking, drugs or
sushi. But what about hair dye, perms or straighteners? Are the
chemicals involved in hair treatments safe for a pregnant woman to
When you are pregnant, everything changes. Hormones cause hair
growth to slow and as a result hair becomes thicker. We've all
heard stories of drastic changes in hair, including the chemical
treatments simply not working.
And everyone is different. So the results of any chemical
treatment are also uncertain.
But when it comes to safety, there are questions. Since there
are ethical implications of experimenting on humans-especially
pregnant humans-no official studies have been done on the effects
of hair dye on women and the fetuses they carry.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says
dyeing hair during pregnancy is safe. Your Pregnancy & Birth:
Information You Can Trust from the Leading Experts in Women's
Health Care, a booklet published by the group, says: "Some
substances once were thought to be harmful but now are considered
safe during pregnancy. For instance, many women worry that using
hair dye during pregnancy may be harmful to their babies. But hair
dyes are believed to be safe to use during pregnancy."
Still, Therese Doyle, director of Midwest Midwifery in Addison,
suggests women err on the side of caution.
"We counsel women to use hair dye in a well-ventilated area and
to wait until after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy simply because
nobody knows the effects."
Many moms and doctors feel hair treatments such as highlights
are safer since they are less invasive than applying color to the
entire head. Highlights and color treatments that are applied using
foils do not touch the scalp, keeping chemicals from absorbing into
Mary Zack, a neo-natal nurse and mom of four, chose to get
highlights during her last pregnancy.
"My OB said it was safe to get highlights because they are only
applied to the hair and don't touch the scalp," says Zack of
Bolingbrook, who delivered a healthy baby boy.
Shane Talbott, of Duo Salon in Chicago, told us in an e-mail
what he suggests to pregnant clients: "I usually recommend that we
extend the time in between appointments an extra two or three weeks
to get the maximum time out of a hair color service before doing
the next touch up."
What if you have decided the best route is to stay away from the
chemicals, but the gray is creeping through? What can you do?
Check out your nearby natural food store, and you will find a
large section of so-called "natural" hair dyes. Some of these are
safer. Yet, it is important to check the labels because some of
these products contain the same chemicals you may be trying to
If you feel adventurous, you can go the route many poor college
kids use: Kool-Aid. It's a very cheap temporary dye that does not
contain the heavy chemicals of normal dyes. (Warning: A quick check
of some Web sites about this process indicated it is crucial you
use only unsweetened Kool-Aid.)
Still, word is this is best for blondes, although it may work
for brunettes and redheads. But again, some Web sites suggest the
best results from Kool-Aid come after you have bleached your dark
hair. So, even this seemingly easy process might take you back to
the chemical stuff you were trying to avoid.
You might just want to forget the dye. Try a new haircut that
minimizes the attention to your roots. Browse magazines for new
styles and talk to your stylist.
Consult with your girlfriends about styles before you choose
one. Pregnancy hormones have led women to some unfortunate choices
in the past. Even better, join www.thehairstyler.com
($14.95 for a three-month membership). The membership allows you to
upload a picture of yourself and view more than 5,000 different
hairstyles on your face.
Talbott also recommends changing your normal shampoo and
conditioner during pregnancy.
"Since your body and hair are changing, it is likely that a
different product will take better care of your hair while you are
pregnant. I notice that sometimes a woman's hair and scalp can get
a bit oily during pregnancy, and a balancing shampoo and
conditioner can be helpful."
This is an updated version of a story that originally ran in
Michelle Sussman is a mom, wife, and writer in Bolingbrook who
chose not to highlight her hair during pregnancy.
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