Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not?

Hair Care | | auremar/123RF

Whatever your style, you’d probably want to maintain your beauty routine and continue using your favourite beauty products during pregnancy. I know I do. However (being a responsible person that I am), I couldn’t help but question whether whatever it is that I’m doing or using is safe for my unborn baby. So, like most people, I turned to google for answer. I thought that I’d be able find what I was looking for within seconds. But I was wrong. I mean, yes, there are plenty of advice online on ‘beauty and pregnancy’, but everyone’s saying different things – opinions are so varied, I didn’t find them helpful at all; in fact, they confused me even further. Out of impulse, I decided to note down the views of the majority and minority, and surprisingly (or not), it actually helps having them side by side. So, I thought I’d share my notes with you, so you can compare most of the information that’s out there and make informed decisions for yourself. I’ll start with this post, which focuses on hair care, and during the course of the week (time permitting), I will follow up with two more posts on skin care and body care. I hope you’ll find them helpful. If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

1. Hair colouring and highlighting

The majority: Well, the majority seems to think that it’s safe to dye your hair while pregnant. They say that although exposure to very high doses of chemicals found in hair dyes may cause harm, the amount you’re exposed to when you colour or highlight (especially highlight) your hair is so minimal that it’s hardly a cause for concern.­ 

The minority: To a certain extent, the minority agrees with the majority. According to them, yes, it’s safe to dye your hair while pregnant, but that doesn’t mean that you can do it as often as you like; don’t overdo it, and you should be fine.

My opinion: I don’t think the phrase ‘don’t overdo it’ is particularly helpful. I mean, how many times can you dye your hair before you’re ‘overdoing’ it? Once or twice? Three or four times? I really have no idea. I suppose, you’ll just have to trust your intuition on this. I personally wouldn’t do it at all, but that’s just me.

2. Hair perming and straightening

The majority: According to the majority (quite rightly, I think), hair perming and straightening products contain harsh chemicals that can be absorbed into your bloodstream through your scalp, and if these chemicals are in your bloodstream, they can be passed across the placenta to your baby. The same thing, of course, can happen when you dye your hair, but in their opinion, there’s a difference between perming / straightening and colouring / highlighting – perming / straightening involves a longer processing time, and thus, a longer exposure time, and this could potentially increase the amount of chemicals absorbed by your body. Despite the risk, however, the majority still thinks that you don’t have to avoid these treatments altogether during your pregnancy, but if you choose to have them done, then you should always exercise caution.

The minority: Well, I found an article, which says that with little or no evidence at all of the effect these chemicals has on the human body, getting a perm or straightening treatment is perfectly safe during pregnancy. Err… okay… a bit odd… but that’s one article. The rest, at least, agrees with the majority, but they go one step further: they suggest that it’s best to avoid these treatments completely when you’re pregnant.

My opinion: Again, I think you’ll have to trust your intuition on this. If you must perm or straighten your hair during your pregnancy, then be extra careful – perhaps, don’t ‘overdo it’? (Whatever that means). I personally wouldn’t do it at all. I mean, apart from the risk mentioned above, it’s a well-known fact that your pregnancy hormones can change the way your hair reacts to perming and straightening chemicals; you can’t predict how it’s going to turn out – you could end up with frizzy locks instead of sexy, gorgeous waves! Now, we don’t want that, do we?

3. General hair care and styling

The majority: The majority’s view is that, general hair care and styling products contain chemicals that can cause harm to your unborn baby despite the fact that some of them might be on your hair for only a short amount of time (like, shampoos and conditioners, for example). (I find it strange that they say that since they have no problem with you dying your hair as often as you like). Anyway, moving on… they say, hair care products that you leave on your hair for a long period of time (like, leave-in conditioners and serums) should be used only sparingly, especially if they touch your scalp (fair enough). Styling spray (i.e. hairspray), in particular, should be avoided because airborne chemicals can be more easily inhaled; they suggest that you use other styling products, like, gels and mousses instead. This is also because, gels and mousses rarely contain the so-called ‘toxic’ chemicals, which include: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Phthalates, Parabens, and Methylisothiazolinone – all of which have been linked to the disruption of hormones level and birth defects in animal studies. Although their effect on human foetus is unknown (since scientists just can’t go around testing on pregnant women), it’s better to be safe than sorry; so, they suggest that pregnant women should always stay on the err-side and choose their hair care products carefully.

The minority: According to the minority, products that come into contact with the skin for only a short amount of time are safe to use during pregnancy. This is because, the short exposure time means chemicals are hardly absorbed into your bloodstream. So, there is no reason for you to ditch your usual shampoos and conditioners. They do, however, agree with the majority when it comes to styling spray and products that you leave on your hair for a long period of time.

My opinion: I think this is a difficult one. I mean, unlike colouring, highlighting, perming and straightening, which you can choose not to do during pregnancy, you can’t possibly not wash or style your hair for the whole 9 months! But can you imagine how annoying it would be to have to read every single label before you buy a product? Also, there are so many chemicals out there, how could you possibly know which one is safe and which one is not, especially when expert opinions differ? My view is that, if these chemicals are so dangerous, you probably would have been cautioned by your doctor or midwife already. But I’m guessing, you haven’t. I haven’t. To be honest, I’m still using my usual shampoo and conditioner. I only ever use conditioner on the ends of my hair anyway. Besides, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that organic natural shampoos and conditioners can be quite expensive. Ogx and Dr. Organic are the only two reasonably priced brands I’ve found so far. So, if I were to switch, I’d probably switch to one of them… I don’t know… Some people suggest using baby shampoos, but I just don’t think they’re made for adult’s hair. What do you think?

In terms of styling and other hair treatment products, I think I’m in the clear – I don’t use any of them, or at least, not the commercial ones. I apply sweet almond oil on my hair after each wash, and I make my own hair mask using avocado blended with sweet almond oil when my hair needs a bit of extra treatment. Hey, it works wonderfully!


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