Pregnancy doesn’t come with a rule book but, wow, it really should. From how to workout to foods to avoid, there’s a lot you have to be mindful of while expecting. We checked in with the experts to find out how being pregnant impacts what hair care products you reach for, and what you’re better off giving up for 9 months – it’s totally worth the sacrifice!
“Specific ingredients for hair care products I recommend minimizing contact with (or avoiding) include shampoos containing salicylic acid,” explains Jennifer Sawaya, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist, Fellowship Trained Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgeon.
Salicyclic acid is a known acne killer (and it also works as a powerful scalp cleaner/dandruff killer) but, all expecting mamas should take heed before opting for products with any salicylic acid in it – especially during late pregnancy – because studies show it can increase the risk for intracranial bleeding.
Certain Hair Dyes
Dr. Sawaya also recommends avoiding certain hair dye ingredients, specifically she mentions “phenylenediamine, aminophenols, ethanolamine.”
If you must dye your hair, opt for formulas labeled as organic, ammonia-free, and natural. While organic and natural products can be semi-open ended, steer clear of those with parabens, para-phenylenediamine (PPD), and resorcinol. “If color treatments are performed, it is best to avoid treating the roots of the hair as this is where the product can be absorbed into the scalp and possibly systemically,” Dr. Sawaya notes.
The American Pregnancy Association also recommends not dyeing your hair until the second trimester, as the first 12 weeks are when the major developments happen, and it’s also when you’re most at risk of a miscarriage.
“Formaldehyde-containing chemical straighteners which may be listed as other names including methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, thiazolidinecarboxylic acid,” says Dr. Sawaya. You don’t want your developing fetus to meet these chemicals, plain and simple.
“Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde like chemicals present in hair processes like keratin treatments, relaxers, perms and products that smell – because pregnant women may have increased smell sensitivity,” are key to keep away from, notes Dr. Wendy E. Roberts MD , Board Certified Dermatologist and Member of DevaCurl’s Expert Curl Council
Perming Agents (Ammonium Thioglycolate)
The same rules apply to salon treatments, which should be cut back or avoided altogether. “In general, treatments that involve the use of ammonium thioglycolate formaldehyde-containing ingredients should be avoided or minimized during pregnancy and breastfeeding. These include perming and chemical straightening treatments such as brazilian blowouts and keratin treatments, as well as perms.” says Dr. Sawaya.
Chemicals in hair products to color, straighten, relax, curl, and bleach hair are all potentially harmful. “The most common chemicals used in hair colors are phenylenediamine, 3-aminophenol, resorcinol, toluene-2,5-diaminesulphate, sodium sulfite, oleic acid, sodium hydroxide, ammonium hydroxide, propylene glycol, and isopropyl alcohol.2 The chemicals used in hair straighteners or relaxers, bleachers, and permanents include sodium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, ammonium hydroxide, petroleum, and hydrogen peroxide,” adds Dr. Roberts.
If You Work in a Salon and Are Pregnant…
The risk of exposure to these chemicals is of course a greater issue for women who work in salons or have daily occupational exposure to these ingredients. “Recommendations are to wear gloves, frequently wash hands, and minimize exposure timing with these ingredients while pregnant and breastfeeding,” Dr. Sawaya contines, adding that hair care-pregnancy restrictions apply equally during each trimester.
Opt for Clean
Clean ultimately means chemical-free. If it gives you an iffy feeling, don’t risk it. “I would just stay as chemical free and natural as possible. Eat a healthy diet rich in green vegetables and legumes which are sulfur rich foods because our hair is composed of sulfur and keratin,” advises Dr. Roberts.
The best advice for anyone who is pregnant is to play it safe. Stick to clean hair products, and look for labels with as few chemicals as possible. Dr. Sawaya recommends BrioGeo, and Carol’s Daughter, for everyday use during pregnancy.
“Water, a healthy diet, essentials oils, paraben and cruelty-free products are what you should look for,” says Yene Damtew, Celebrity Hairstylist, Owner of Aesthetics salon @aesthetics.salon and Member of DevaCurl’s Expert Curl Council. “Some of my favorites include DevaCurl’s Deep sea Repair which has sea lavender for extra moisture and seaweed that Strengthen the hair. The No-Poo Original Cleansing Conditioner has peppermint oil which not only smells and feels good on your scalp, it stimulates the senses which is always helpful during your pregnancy.”
While we aren’t 1000% certain what the exact risks are when using these chemicals while pregnant, there are no studies to prove they pose no risk. So again, err on the side of caution and cut it out of your life for a year – and remember to always consult your doctor when unsure about anything. “Many ingredients that are not felt to be safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding have not been studied, but rather we do not have any safety data to support their use. It is always best to ask your individual treating physician (obstetrician) and hair stylist for their recommendations for your specific situation,” she advises.