Hair Treatments and Pregnancy

This sheet talks about the risks that exposure to hair treatments can have during pregnancy. With each pregnancy, all women have a 3% to 5% chance of having a baby with a birth defect. This information should not take the place of medical care and advice from your health care provider.

What are the different types of hair treatments?

Hair treatments include hair coloring, hair curling (permanents), hair bleaching, and
hair straightening (relaxers) agents. Hair coloring procedures are divided into several groups determined by the length of time the color stays in the hair. These categories include temporary dyes, semi-permanent dyes, and permanent dyes.

Permanent dyes have received the most attention, and they include a variety of chemicals. Hair curling or permanent waves are produced by placing two solutions in the hair. The first solution is a waving fluid and the second is a fixation or neutralization solution. Hair bleaching involves the use of hydrogen
peroxide, and hair straighteners or hair relaxers involve a variety of chemicals.

The amount of an exposure, the timing during the pregnancy and frequency of use may
be important factors when thinking about hair treatments in pregnancy. Since many different chemicals are used and manufacturers frequently change formulations, these general guidelines are offered based upon small doses, animal data and limited data in pregnant women. Cosmetic products are frequently used, but are not generally evaluated for effects on pregnancy.

Do I absorb hair coloring/dye through my skin?

Low levels of hair dye can be absorbed through the skin after application, and the dye is excreted into the urine. This minimal amount is not thought to be enough to cause a problem for the baby.

I have my hair straightened every two months. Can I continue this into pregnancy?

A study in humans examined the use of hair straighteners during pregnancy. The use of
these products was not found to increase the chance of low birth weight or preterm delivery. The study did not address the chance of other abnormal outcomes (such as birth defects). Again, it is likely that only a small amount of hair straightening products are actually absorbed into your system, so the developing baby would only be exposed to small amounts.

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