Are hair treatments safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding? Or are they dangerous 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 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.
Several studies are 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 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.
- Mother To Baby | Fact Sheets [Internet]. Brentwood (TN): Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS); 1994-. Hair Treatments. 2022 Oct. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK582739/
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing is based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians that you find here. They write or review all health-related articles.
This Post Has 8 Comments
Hi, I have done permanent hair straightening. I am a breastfeeding mom of baby, 2 months.
My baby hates me, struggling to feed him. He is not happy with the smell and I think the breast milk taste is different.
He not having milk :) I don’t know what to do. Offer him formula, but still worried. How can I start feeding him again? :)
I am sorry to hear about your struggles with breastfeeding your baby. However, this is not likely to have anything to do with your hair straightening. It is quite common that babies have a “nursing strike”, i.e. that the breastfeeding becomes difficult for a while. It can happen for various reasons, but related to the baby or the interaction between mom and baby. It is good that your baby accepts the bottle – that way you don’t need to worry about dehydration or lack of nutrition. Can you pump and feed your baby breast milk? Otherwise, your supply will be reduced, which can make the feeding more frustrating for your baby.
For possible reasons why your baby won’t breastfeed, and what to do about it, check out this article. Also, if you can call or visit a lactation consultant or midwife where you live, do that asap. Often, with some tips and support, you can quickly get back on track with breastfeeding and without all the worrying you feel right now. Don’t give up! It is sooo common to go through periods of struggle with our babies and the best we can do is to get advice and help.
Thank God! I’m felt guilty because I had my hair treated in a local parlor. I had so much regret whenever my baby cried, thinking something had entered my milk. Now at least I know that’s not why she is crying! 🙂
Hi my baby is 3 months old, & I brest feed him, so can I do smoothing?
Hi my baby is 3 months old & i brest feed him,so can I do smoothing??
If you just go do your hair once in a while in a saloon and your baby is not even there with you, you do not put your baby at risk. The risks that have been found are related to high exposure during pregnancy.
Not good to expose ANY baby to the toxic chemicals in hair treatments. Then if you do, you wonder why s/he is attention defficient and hyperactive.