Between the forums, your hairdresser, and everyone else's opinion you could be really confused and concerned about the safety of colouring your hair while pregnant or trying to conceive.
The problem with a lot of personal care products is that they can contain certain chemical ingredients that are absorbed by the body and can be passed through to your growing baby.
Hair dye is especially worrying for pregnant women because it is known to be one of the most toxic beauty products we use. This is why we think your concern is valid and have done a little bit of hair dye research for you.
Hopefully, this post will take away some of your confusion and suggest some safer methods to treat your hair during this time.
Table of Contents
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WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY (maybe confusing you!)
Wella Professional, an internationally recognised German hair company teaches their trainee hair colourists that their products are safe to use on pregnant women. Saying that “although hair colour contains chemicals, they aren't highly toxic and the body does not absorb enough of them to harm a pregnant woman or her baby”
Now, call me cynical but, I think most companies are going to speak highly of their own products.
So, what do the doctors say?
Some doctors recommend not to dye your hair at all during pregnancy, others say that it's perfectly safe, while others advise you to avoid it in the first trimester only.
Why is there such a difference of opinion?
Dermatologist, Nia Terezakis, MD, a clinical professor at Tulane University, tells WebMD "We truly don't know if anything is absorbed internally, but you have many pores that are deep on the scalp, and there's always the potential, especially if the scalp is irritated. The fewer chemicals, the better."
Reports claim that there are too few studies examining the effects of chemicals in hair dye on pregnant women. But there are some, like this one on the effect of pre-pregnancy hair dye exposure on infant birth weight. And this one on the facial swelling in a pregnant woman as a result of an allergic reaction to paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a common ingredient in hair dyes
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THE PROBLEM WITH HAIR DYE (EDCs)
Whether you’re pregnant, trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatment, minimizing the burden of toxins on your organs could be a big part of your life right now.
So, it's just common sense to research the ingredients in your personal care products.
And you don't have to dive very deep down the hair-dye-ingredients rabbit hole to come across “Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals”, often referred to as “EDCs”. These chemicals mimic hormones and can affect egg and sperm quality.
Due to extensive studies on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, there is much debate when it comes to the safety of dying your hair while pregnant or trying to conceive. And if you like to err on the side of caution (and go against what your hairstylist recommends) you might want to avoid products that contain them.
Unfortunately, this is not an easy task. These are tricky chemicals to avoid because they cleverly elude ingredient lists by hiding within an ingredient itself, or the product's packaging. One of which is paraphenylenediamine (PPD).
7 HAIR DYE INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
When the fumes are inhaled it can cause lung irritation, resulting in respiratory problems. It scores 2-6 depending on usage on the EWG's Skin Deep Database and is linked to miscarriage.
2. Formaldehyde & DMDM Hydantoin
Exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to cancer, though more research is needed (source). It can also irritate the eyes and respiratory tract (source). Formaldehyde scores 8-10 on the EWG's Skin Deep Database. DMDM Hydantoin is a preservative that releases small amounts of formaldehyde gradually, so it can have similar irritant effects to pure formaldehyde.
This antiseptic chemical is a suspected endocrine disruptor commonly found in hair dye, hair products and also acne/eczema treatments (source). Avoid these ingredients on products labels: 1,3-benzenediol, resorcin, 1,3-dihydroxybenzene(m-hydroxybenzene, m-dihydroxy phenol)
4. PPD (paraphenylenediamine)
PPD is a chemical used in permanent hair dyes to fix the colouring onto the hair shaft. It scores 5-7 on the EWG's Skin Deep Database and is well known to cause allergic reactions even after previous use. If you've developed a PPD allergy will not be able to use any permanent dye, with the possible exception of Daniel Fields Water Colour.
Parabens are a type of preservative used in many cosmetics products to extend their shelf life. They are suspected endocrine disruptors that mimic the behaviour of oestrogen and have been linked to breast cancer, though more research is needed. Propyl-paraben can even be found in your pastries and cakes!
Pronounced thal-ates, this chemical compound is one of the elusive EDCs you have to hunt for on an ingredients list. Studies have shown that phthalates do not have hormone-mimicking effects on the body like most EDCs, but they have shown adverse effects on the male reproductive system, including decreased sperm count.
The term "fragrance" or "parfum" is a labelling loophole in the law that allows manufacturers to put any number of chemicals into a formula without having to disclose them. Fragrance can often contain individual chemicals associated with allergic reactions and hormone disruption.
Here are 3 safer, more natural methods for coloring your hair while pregnant or trying to conceive.
1. Ammonia-Free/Oil-Based Professional Hair Colour
Ammonia-free hair color during pregnancy and fertility treatment is a must. Finding a salon that uses ammonia-free, oil-based professional hair colour could be your best bet if you're not a Do-It-Yourself kind of girl. Depending on how well you know your hairdresser, you could ask them to get this type of dye in for you, or even offer to purchase it yourself and bring your own! I have been using oil-based hair colour since they first came out, and I absolutely love them. They are better for your health and give perfect results, just as good as traditional hair dye. I wish these brands were more widely available in local salons.
2. At-Home Natural Box Dye
At-home (non-toxic) semi-permanent hair dye is a great option. Daniel Field color may not give you quite the same results that you would get at the salon, but for your peace of mind during a stressful time, they will temporarily cover your grey roots! These dyes will eventually wash out depending on your hair type and colour.
3. Henna/Herbal Dyes
If you've ever coloured your hair the herbal/Indian way then you will know about the wondrous benefits of henna. One of the oldest and most natural ways to colour your hair, henna is still very popular in India and the Middle East.
But, it is the most time consuming of the three options tough. this is because henna dye needs to be prepared overnight and must be left on the hair for 4-8 hours. But, the benefits are well worth the effort!
Henna can also be mixed with other herbal powders like Cassia, Amla, Brahmi, Shikakai, and Bhringraj to color hair in different shades. These herbs have many amazing hair benefits from thickening and conditioning, improving curl pattern and hair growth. It's basically a hair treatment and colour in one!
SIX BEST PREGNANCY SAFE HAIR DYE BRANDS
Ammonia Free - The Oil-Based Professional method
One of the oldest (non-toxic) hair brands around, Keune was developed by Dutch chemist, Jan Keuen in 1922. Now an international brand Keune is a professional product, so you will have to find your closest stockist on this salon locator. So Pure products are enriched with certified organic Argan Oil which is a new(ish) method of getting colour into the hair without having to use harsh chemicals like ammonia. Oil-based hair dyes are considered more nourishing for our hair due to the vitamins and omega fatty acids the natural oils provide. FREE FROM: Parabens, Sulfate, Ammonia, Artificial fragrance (phthalates), Animal-derived materials (vegan friendly)
*I have been using Keune to colour my hair for the last year. If you know how to mix color and developer, this one is for you!
This color line is developed with Argan Oil and a Protein Extract technology to 'fortify' the hair strand. It is specially formulated for people with 75% grey or more and rates a 2 on the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database which is considered “safe.” Again, this is a salon-only hair dye but, you can purchase them on amazon if you happen to be a colorist or your colorist is happy to let you BYO! FREE FROM: Ammonia and Fragrance, which I assume means no phthalates
AVOID L'OREAL - INOA
Your salon may offer you one of the above hair dyes from L'Oreal, which use the same oil delivery system as both Keune and Redken. But you should avoid this product if you are having IVF or are already pregnant. INOA is an Ammonia free line, but that's about the only toxic ingredient it doesn't contain. Inoa hair colour rates a 5 on the EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. It contains resorcinol which has shown strong evidence in studies of being a human endocrine disruptor.
Box Dye - The Natural Method
ONC offer at-home permanent hair colouring kits with certified organic ingredients. The application method uses heat to open the cuticles as opposed to ammonia, which is traditionally used in chemical hair dye to open the cuticle. ONC claims their formulas contain pharmaceutical grade peroxide - the kind in contact lenses and eye drops, the lowest percentage of PPD possible for optimal grey coverage, nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and amino acids. They also promise a lower pH level (closer to a neutral value) colour that does not fade and perfect gray coverage.
FREE FROM: Ammonia or Ammonia derivatives, Resorcinol, Parabens, Formaldehyde, Certified Vegan & Cruelty-Free by PETA, GMO-Free, Not tested on animals
Daniel Field is known as the pioneer of organic, mineral and natural hair dye. He has developed unique products for his salons, including his hugely popular Water Colour, a natural colour range. These are gentler safer alternatives, which are kinder to the hair than the harsher products generally used in traditional salons. This is really easy to use at home, the colour comes in powder form in a tiny bottle that you mix with water in the applicator bottle. It does not cover grey hair as good as hair dyes containing PPD, but it will get you through your pregnancy! FREE FROM: Ammonia, Alcohol, Hydrogen Peroxide, PPD
Henna- The Herbal Method
When carried out correctly henna hair dye can thicken, condition and even help hair growth. And I stress the word 'correctly' as henna alone can be incredibly drying, so must be used alongside a nourishing hair mask. As with the other hair colors mentioned in this article, there will be a number of chemicals in them, just not the same harsh chemicals in traditional dyes, which is why the Environmental Working Group rates them so well on their Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. These dyes score a 1 on the list - the best available for hair dyes. FREE FROM: Ammonia, PPD, Parabens, Peroxide, Resorcinol, Artificial fragrance (phthalates), Certified Vegan & Cruelty-Free, GMO-Free
For a full list of all the toxic ingredients, Surya Brasil does not put in their formulas click here
IT'S PURE herbal hair dyes contain 100% Soil Association certified organic ingredients. They offer 9 different colors which are pretty limited due to the fact that the formulas only contain organic herbal powders, such as Amla, Rhubarb Root, Cassia, and Indigo powders. So the color is very dependant on your original hair color and condition. These dyes contain absolutely no chemicals and are perhaps the most natural and organic on the market.
FREE FROM: Artificial preservatives, Animal-derived materials (vegan friendly), GMO-Free, Artificial additives, Not tested on animals
For more help on safer beauty products and customised non-toxic skincare programs contact us to book a consultation.
Jiang C, Hou Q, Huang Y, et al. The effect of pre-pregnancy hair dye exposure on infant birth weight: a nested case-control study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2018;18(1):144. Published 2018 May 9. doi:10.1186/s12884-018-1782-5