Are hair treatments bad for breastfeeding or pregnancy? Bad in the sense that they may harm your child? Some research has been done to figure this out, and I’ll go through the results here.
Hair treatments while breastfeeding
While breastfeeding, the breastfeeding hormones may make your hair really dry and dull. Actually, even just giving birth and hence losing the pregnancy hormones, is enough to start losing hair. Not much fun!
Most new moms don’t have a lot of time to spare at the hairdresser, but some kind of hair treatment might seem like a really good idea to make the boring post-pregnancy hair look better.
But is it a good idea? When you breastfeed, a lot of what you put into your body will reach the baby through the milk. For example, we all know that alcohol, nicotine, and drugs will reach the baby through the breast milk. Several studies show that some environmental pollutants also gather in the milk.
So how about hair coloring, permanents, relaxation, bleaching, and other similar treatments? Well, here is some good news – they are probably OK to carry out while breastfeeding!
There are no known reports of negative effects for the baby among breastfeeding moms who receive hair treatments, and most likely for the following reasons:
- The chemicals used in permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes are not highly toxic these days.
- What’s put on your hair will not reach your baby; only what’s put on your skin and scalp
- Even though the skin does absorb substances applied to it, only very small amounts of hair dye and similar chemicals have been found to enter the bloodstream. And from the bloodstream, only a small percentage will actually reach the breast milk.
- If you have a healthy scalp, the amount of chemicals absorbed through your skin from the hair treatments will be negligible. (And dying your hair when your scalp is scratched is not much fun anyway – ouch!)
It is, of course, a bit frustrating that it is not really possible to find any research confirming that hair treatment is safe during breastfeeding. However, since carrying out such treatments is very common during breastfeeding, the complete lack of reports of negative effects of hair treatment while breastfeeding is probably a good sign that it really is safe.
Hair treatments while pregnant
So, while treatments are likely fine while breastfeeding, the uncertainty is higher during pregnancy.
There are several studies looking at hair treatment during pregnancy. Most studies find no negative effects – but there are some to consider. In animal studies, even doses 100 times higher than what would normally be used in human application, did not lead to any significant changes in fetal development. However, a recent study (2013) actually found a possible link between maternal exposure to hair dyes and hair straightening cosmetics during pregnancy and leukemia at an early age for her child. That’s scary!
If you do plan for more children, then avoiding hair treatments while trying to conceive and while being pregnant seems like a good idea. Another study from 2005 found a link between maternal hair dye use and risk of neuroblastoma in her child. On the other hand, other studies have not found any support for such links.
Conclusion & What to do
So what to do? There are no indications, but also no real research carried out on whether chemical hair treatments while breastfeeding may harm your baby, but there are some concerns about hair treatments during pregnancy. My conclusion – go ahead with your hair treatment while breastfeeding, but do it wisely.
You can fix your hair and still minimize the risk of harmful substances reaching your baby:
- Use henna or other plant-based products.
- Carefully follow the directions on the hair dye package.
- Wear gloves when applying hair dye if you carry out the treatment yourself (or even better, go to the hairdresser).
- Only leave the dye or bleach on your head only for the minimum amount of time necessary.
- Ask for organic products for your hair treatment
- Consider highlighting your hair, by putting the dye only onto strands of hair to reduce chemical exposure.
- Rinse your scalp thoroughly with water after use.
While alcohol during pregnancy is a really dumb idea, alcohol while breastfeeding is much less harmful (in small amounts). Most likely the same goes for hair dye – less harmful when your baby is nursing than when in your womb.
Now good luck! You can also check out some homemade hair treatment recipes here – they are guaranteed to be safe!
Feel free to share your thoughts about this by leaving a comment below!
- Blackmore-Prince C, et al 1999. Chemical hair treatments and adverse
pregnancy outcome among Black women in central North Carolina. Am J Epidemiol
- Angela Chua-Gocheco, MD, Pina Bozzo, and Adrienne Einarson, RN. Safety of hair products during pregnancy. Can Fam Physician. Oct 2008; 54(10): 1386–1388.
- Couto AC, Ferreira JD, Rosa AC, Pombo-de-Oliveira MS, Koifman S; Brazilian Collaborative Study Group of Infant Acute Leukemia. Pregnancy, maternal exposure to hair dyes and hair straightening cosmetics, and early age leukemia.Chem Biol Interact. 2013 Sep 5;205(1):46-52. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2013.05.012. Epub 2013 Jun 6.
- McCall EE1, Olshan AF, Daniels JL. Pregnancy, maternal exposure to hair dyes and hair straightening cosmetics, and early age leukemia.Chem Biol Interact. 2013 Sep 5;205(1):46-52. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2013.05.012. Epub 2013 Jun 6.