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What Hair Care Products Are Unsafe During Pregnancy?

Worried about the safety of hair care products during your pregnancy? Hair products like bleach and hair dyes actually pose more risk to pregnant salon professionals, as they are exposed to the chemicals from hair products daily.

Still, being aware of the risk of some products can also give regular consumers an idea of whether a product is completely safe during pregnancy or not. After all, products that reach the scalp also reach the bloodstream, even if in small quantities.

1. Permanent Hair Colors

There are different classes of hair colors, but the ones that are permanent can pose the most risk. This is because they contain phenylenediamine, aminophenols and resorcinol, which can be harmful to the baby during the first trimester of pregnancy.

These chemicals can increase teratogenicity, or birth defects, in children, but studies have shown that they do not enter the bloodstream in sufficient quantities to cause harm.

Alternatives to hair colors while pregnant

henna hair color for pregnant women

Nevertheless, if you’re still nervous about receiving a permanent hair dye or semi-permanent hair coloring while pregnant —as they use some of the same chemicals— there are alternatives. You can choose an all-natural, semi-permanent hair dye like henna.

Some hennas, like those from the Henna Guys, are mixed with indigo or chamomile to give different shades from wine red to black. Or if you like fashion colors, try temporary hair paints. These cover your natural hair color and wash out in one wash.

Temporary hair paints can cover your natural hair color. They wash out in one wash.


2. Keratin Treatment & Products

Keratin products contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasers like Diazolidinyl and imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin and methylene glycol in order to help the keratin protein bond to the hair.

Keratin products include keratin treatments, Brazilian blowouts, Japanese straightening, keratin shampoos, conditioners, and hair masks. Formaldehyde can also be found in most nail polishes.

This ingredient can cause fertility problems before you get pregnant and miscarriages after. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

Alternatives to Keratin Products

Your hair will flourish if you keep it in its natural state while pregnant and everyone will understand why you’ve chosen to forego hair care chemicals during this time.

But if you prefer a straight look, the kind that keratin treatments deliver, consider using a silicone-based heat protectant, like Giovanni Eco Chic Frizz Be Gone, and a flat iron.

Silicone coats the hair strands and fills in missing areas of the hair cuticle in a manner similar to keratin. If you use it with a flat iron, silicone also bonds with the hair —albeit in a more temporary manner. It locks out humidity and can help keep your strands glossy and straight.

At night, apply a little extra heat protectant, just to help protect your hair from perspiration as you sleep. A straight style can last from two weeks to a month in this manner.

If you use a silicone-based heat protectant with a flat iron, it can simulate a keratin straightening treatment.

3. Relaxers and Perms

harmful product for pregnant women - perm solution

Relaxers are used to make the hair straight, and perms make the hair curly. But they use similar chemical systems to break the protein bonds inside and reform them in a straight or curly fashion.

These chemical products contain sodium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, ammonium hydroxide, or all three. If you take a sniff, you will see that they also contain formaldehyde-releasers, which could be why most salons smell heavily of these chemicals.

Alternatives to relaxers and perms during pregnancy

The thing about using chemical bond breakers is that the hair that’s growing will be in your natural texture and the rest will be chemically processed.

This leaves room for breakage while combing and detangling when your natural texture becomes too long underneath. It can break right at the line of demarcation, leaving your hair straggly.

If you know you’re going to go for another chemical process after pregnancy, as your stylist for heat straightening or curling to minimize the effects of having two different textures of hair, or use a protective style like braids.

4. Petrochemicals in Hair Products with Hold

From setting lotions to curl definers and gels, the majority of hair care stylers are petrochemical cocktails. While silicone is also petrochemical, if you use a heat protectant that contains it, it might contain two or three forms of silicone that will coat your hair.

However, many hair care products contain a plethora of petrochemicals, which can worsen their effect on the pregnant and unborn. Chemicals such as these include petrolatum, mineral oil, paraffin wax, carbomer, polyquaternium, PEG, and others.

The majority of hair care styles are petrochemical cocktails.

Alternatives to Petrochemicals

Look for natural hold ingredients like gums and natural waxes like beeswax to produce hold. There are some natural gels, like Alaffia Beautiful Curls Defining Gel, which provides a soft hold.

Otherwise, try using small amounts of oil to coat your locks. While it won’t provide as much hold, it will reduce frizz.

5. Hair Bleach

harmful product for pregnant women - hair bleach

While there’s no evidence that hair bleach is harmful to pregnant women and their babies, hair bleach is one of the strongest hair chemicals available. There is some concern that if it reaches the scalp, it can be harmful.

Alternatives to Hair Bleach

If you’re worried about keeping up with your hair bleach treatments while you’re pregnant, you’ll probably just end up sporting an ombre look, and that’s okay.

There are no natural remedies that can get your hair as light as bleach can, and it probably won’t look nice to try.

Alternatively, you can use temporary hair paint to color your hair pink, blue, or any fashion color. Mysteek Naturals hair waxes can give you the ability to color dark and light areas of your hair at once.

6. Shampoos With Salicylic Acid and Sulfates

We all know that sulfate shampoos are a little harsh. But did you know that sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are actually corrosive and can cause problems with the kidneys, liver, and nervous system?

So what should you do if your hair is oily and you need something stronger than what sulfate-free shampoos deliver? And what about scalp acne?

Salicylic acid is good for oily hair and scalp acne but it can also cause intracranial bleeding in your infant in the last trimester.

Alternatives to Shampoos with Salicylic Acid and Sulfates

apple cider vinegar for pregnant women

If you have oily hair or scalp acne, stay with a mild shampoo. Using a sulfate shampoo on a regular basis can actually increase your scalp imbalance and cause excess oil and acne. Instead, try adding an apple cider vinegar rinse to your routine.

When used in a 1:5 solution with water and massaged into the hair and scalp, it gets rid of excess sebum on the hair and helps cleanse the inside of the hair follicles, as well. Vinegar also helps balance the scalp so that your problems with oily hair become less.

Expert’s Tip: Apple cider vinegar helps balance the scalp so that your problems with oily hair become less.


7. Hair Products with Added Fragrance

Shampoos, conditioners and hair masks are all highly scented. That makes for a luxurious experience while caring for your hair, but it can also be dangerous for pregnant women.

This is because most of the time, when “fragrance” is on the label, it’s made with phthalates. This is an ingredient most of us know to watch for.

But the problem is that it’s allowed to be hidden inside the label of “fragrance”. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and negatively affect the reproductive hormones in the body.

Did You Know: Fragrance can contain phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors.

Alternatives to Hair Products with Added Fragrance

Look for essential oil blends with orange, cedar, patchouli and peppermint in your hair formulas. If it is natural, these essential oil blends might also be organic and pose little risk to you and your baby.

MildByNature Citrus Squeeze Thickening Shampoo is a mild shampoo with powerful cleansing properties and a lovely, all-natural scent.

Studies Conducted in Hair Salons Can Be Flawed

It’s important to note that many scientific studies are produced by the same industries that wish to declare an ingredient or product safety.

Independent studies are needed to assess the chemicals in hair care products. Additionally, it should be seen how different chemicals react with one another, as they are rarely used alone.

How Pregnant Hairdressers Can Avoid Possible Harm 

How Pregnant Hairdressers Can Avoid Possible Harm from Products

The risk for women who get chemical treatments at a salon three or four times during their pregnancy is said to be low.

But because pregnant hairdressers are exposed to different chemicals on a daily basis, it’s a good idea for them to wear gloves and ensure that their salons have proper ventilation.

They should also avoid standing for long periods of time and limit their work week so that it is under 40 hours. This can allow their bodies to rest properly so that their health is maintained.


Can hair products affect pregnancy?

Studies say that the percentages of harmful ingredients in hair products are too low to harm you or your baby.

However, studies have not been done on the effects of multiple chemical ingredients when combined into a typical hair product.

What shampoo should I avoid when pregnant?

It’s best to use a mild, sulfate-free shampoo that doesn’t contain salicylic acid.

Are hair serums safe during pregnancy?

If you use natural hair serums that do not contain petrochemicals like mineral oil, they should be okay.

Also, if they contain essential oils, you should have been using them before pregnancy so that your body doesn’t have to adjust to their properties.

What can I use instead of hairspray?

You can try natural hair sprays like Shear Miracle Organic Hair Spray.

Can I use biotin shampoo while pregnant?


Is hair toner safe during pregnancy?

It’s best to avoid harsh chemicals during pregnancy and hair toner uses harsh chemicals.

Is hair oil safe during pregnancy?

Yes, as long as it is all-natural and free of petrochemicals like mineral oil.

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