Hair Color and the Pregnant Client

Elements pregnant womanRarely do I get the question asked, “Should I color my hair when I’m pregnant?” but it’s something we need to be educated on, none-the-less. So here are a few guidelines you might want to consider, should the occasion demand a response.

There are various conflicting (inconclusive studies) about hair dye and associations with risk. The final analysis: When it comes to pregnancy specifically, hair color has not been proven harmful, nor has it been proven safe.

There are a few primary points we should all know about.

1. The safest is not to advise one way or the other.

Let the mother-to-be ask her physician. Every pregnancy is different and carries different risks. Suggest the client speak to her health care professional, since this is an individual, personal decision. And then follow what the physician says.

2. Know what the medical professionals are saying.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “When you use hair color, a small amount can penetrate your skin. Generally, however, the dye isn’t thought to pose harm to a developing baby.” According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG), “Hair color is probably safe to use during pregnancy because so little dye is absorbed through the skin. However, it is still important to be cautious.”

3. Let your client know that this decision is not just about color.

Pregnancy can cause sensitivity to smells. Always service clients who are expecting in well-ventilated areas, and
encourage them to alert you if smells bother them in any way.

4. Know what your supplier says, and stay abreast of the latest studies.

According to Procter & Gamble: “If a woman normally colors her hair and has safely used hair colorants before, there
is no scientifically established reason for her to stop coloring her hair during pregnancy. However, if she is
worried about using a hair colorant during pregnancy, do not convince her to continue coloring her hair if she is
still worried, for whatever reason.”

5. If the client decides to color her hair, we should always…

A) Err on the side of caution. Because the first trimester is the most critical time for chemical exposure of any kind,
most physicians advise against using hair color during the first trimester. We, as hair stylists should do likewise.

B) Recognize that the body changes in many ways during pregnancy, so always do a patch test, even if you’ve been coloring the client’s hair for years.

C)  Avoid touching the scalp with color. Use barrier creams and let your client know you are doing so. This is another reason your client should be cautioned against coloring her hair at home. There’s no way they can avoid touching the scalp while applying product themselves.

D) Offer alternatives, such as semi-permanent colorants,  or off-the-scalp highlights.

Memo: Never in my 39 years of working with hair, and 25 years of working with skin; have any of my clients had issues with hair color. No one has had adverse reactions to the color, nor the smell. However, as stated earlier…always err on the side of caution. You may have a very special situation that you, nor your client, is aware of.


Here’s What We Need to Know About Home Hair Color

Just one example of boxed hair color

Just one example of boxed hair color

Lets take a quick look at the facts of coloring your hair at home.

It’s true…the ingredients of boxed color and professional color are similar, but boxed home color is created with no idea who is going to use it. So, to work adequately for a wide variety of women with various hair colors and types, it’s harsher, with a higher developer volume than you would use. This way, a woman with light brown and dark brown hair can use the same product. But they won’t get the same results, no one will get what’s shown on the box and if a woman already has color, there’s no predicting what will happen.

Something to consider:

1. The model in the photo on the box did not do her own color!

2. Home color can’t account for hair texture or condition. Porosity, curly hair, and already abused hair can greatly affect color results and hair health. The question you need to answer is this: “Would you use harsh detergents and hot water on every piece of clothing you own?” And if your answer is yes, how’s that workin’ for ya?

3. Application is extremely important. Even a “simple” root retouch can be messy to do yourself, and if you overlap the color, you can get dry ends and color build-up. Then, you’ll have dark ends and gray that still shows at the roots.

4. Ammonia-free doesn’t mean chemical free, and home color could use a large percentage of an ammonia substitute. Ammonia does a much better job of getting you the color you want, but can be too harsh for some types of hair…another reason to let the professionals handle it.

5. People that use hair color purchased from a retailer, should understand the base of a color product, underlying pigment, and how to avoid getting orange when “just making brown hair lighter.” This is chemistry that hair stylists study before being given a license. However, it still remains a mystery to me why some stylists are allowed to place any sort of chemical on any clients head, when they clearly don’t understand the results their actions will produce. Always ask your stylist (if you have one) if she understands the color wheel. If you get a questioning look in response to that question, excuse yourself and leave!

6. You can’t really get a dimensional look from box color. The only possible “dimension” a partially grey haired person will get when using at home products, is the pigmented (hair that still has color), hair will be a totally different color than the hair that is grey. More than likely, the grey will look muddied, because grey absorbs less of the product because of the hard cuticle. If the hair is fragile to begin with, (as in already bleached/highlighted hair, it will grab drab and dark…depending on the product you’ve chosen.

In conclusion, I have to admit that I’ve seen some pretty good results come from a box. But it’s generally when the person using the product, has some understanding of HOW to use the product, and is good at it…or has someone else do the application, such as a family member, etc. However, it truly is a roulette game you play when choosing to do your own color. There have been times that the color purchased from big chain retailers, gets switched in the box while still on the shelf (by who, we’ll probably never know). I’ll never forget the call I got from a sister-in-law that had used a boxed color. The color on the front of the box was of a beautiful brunette. Well…the color she got was a fiery red! She was (needless to say), very upset. And it wasn’t the first time she got a totally different color than what she thought she was getting. And…it could have been the condition of her hair at the time of application, or the fact that she really didn’t know what she was doing. Kinda like me and my car. I just want to get in it, put the key in the ignition, and it do what it was built to do. But when it needs serviced, I don’t touch it…nor does my husband. It goes to those trained in working with the dynamics of it’s makeup.

Another time, I had lunch with a gal that had black color stains running down the side of her neck, just behind the ear. I said, “Did you color your hair recently?” I already knew the answer, just wanted to say that for shock value.