Hair Care Products and Pregnancy: What to Avoid?

During pregnancy, it is generally safe to continue using most hair care products, including shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. However, you should still err on the side of caution to keep yourself and your baby healthy. Just like what you put inside your system matters during pregnancy, what you use on your body (including skin and hair) also counts. Keep reading to learn more about what hair care products to avoid on your journey to motherhood.

Key takeaways:

Hair care while pregnant – things to know:

Taking care of yourself when you're expecting is as important as taking care of the baby. However, there are certain aspects of hair care routines that you should be aware for the well-being of you both.

Dye hair only after the first trimester

There’s limited scientific evidence on hair dye’s safety during pregnancy. Nonetheless, most experts, such as those of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, deem it safe to color your hair while pregnant.

According to The American Pregnancy Association, hair dyes are not toxic for your baby if used correctly. This is because your scalp absorbs a minimal amount of these chemicals, so negligible amounts enter the bloodstream. Therefore, only a tiny quantity would reach your baby, if at all.

With that said, hair dyes do contain potentially toxic chemicals. Therefore, the American Pregnancy Association recommends waiting until at least the second trimester before planning to dye your hair.

Why wait until the second trimester? Your baby's body structure and organ systems begin to form during the first trimester. So, avoiding coloring your hair during this crucial period helps ensure the safe development of your baby. Moreover, research shows that babies of hairdressers frequently exposed to hair dyes also suffer from birth problems. Thus, it’s safer for pregnant women to limit their exposure to hair dye as much as possible.

Be wary of phthalates in hair products

Phthalates are gelling agents used in shampoos, mousses, hairsprays, conditioners, and hair color. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identifies a phthalate, dimethyl phthalate (DMP), in hair sprays that help keep your hair smooth and bouncy. Studies show that phthalates are endocrine disruptors — chemicals that throw off your hormonal balance.

If taken by pregnant women, these chemicals can cause genital abnormalities in their babies. Phthalates can also block the action of primary hormones called androgen in male babies, leading to abnormalities like undescended testis.

Be cautious of some essential oils

Even though earning a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status, essential oil (EO) use during pregnancy is still highly controversial. Certain essential oils, such as basil, rue, and thyme, may be toxic for you or your baby.

The primary concern about the effect of EOs on pregnancy is their ability to induce abortion. As per the medical literature review, some EOs may negatively alter your baby's reproductive hormones and development.

In addition, there have been reports of congenital disabilities in animal models treated with EOs during pregnancy. Therefore, it is wise to avoid using these oils while expecting.

Avoid perming or relaxing hair

Many women love to straighten or relax curly hair permanently. However, these relaxers contain a critically hazardous chemical called sodium hydroxide or lye that people use to unblock drains.

The risk of breast and uterine cancers is evident from scientific studies in women who heavily use these lye-containing hair relaxers. With that said, few studies have been done to examine the effects of hair relaxers on pregnant women.

Because hair relaxers contain caustic chemicals, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider before embarking on such processes when pregnant.

Avoid keratin treatments

No doubt, keratin treatments temporarily straighten your hair, making them smooth, shiny, silky, and frizz-free. However, most contain a toxic chemical known to cause cancer called formaldehyde.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also highlight the correlation between formaldehyde exposure and miscarriages in pregnant women.

Moreover, research reveals that if used by pregnant women, this detrimental chemical increases the odds of miscarriages. Hence, it’s best to delay your plans of getting a keratin service when you’re expecting.

During pregnancy, you are extra careful about what you eat and the physical activity you participate in to avoid harming your baby's health. You're also cautious about handling toxic chemicals and substances used for household cleaning. So why should applying hair care products be any different? Because many hair care products contain caustic chemicals, it only makes sense to avoid using them until your doctor is sure they won't harm your baby's health.

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