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Hair care during pregnancy

Advice on keeping your hair looking gorgeous throughout your pregnancy with information on the safety of colouring dyes and perming your hair when pregnant.
Pregnancy is a time of bodily change and your hair is no exception; the influx of pregnancy hormones you experience at this time often result in changes to the texture and colour of your hair and even influence how it reacts to salon treatments.

Hair texture

Many women find that their hair becomes thicker and more lustrous during pregnancy - this is largely down to increased levels of the hormone oestrogen. While your hair usually grows and sheds in a regular cycle so as to maintain its thickness and texture, during pregnancy this cycle is delayed.

At any one time during a 'normal cycle' approximately 90% of your hair is actively growing while 10% is in the 'resting phase' where growth has halted. It usually remains in this phase for about 2 months before shedding. During pregnancy increased levels of oestrogen reduce shedding thereby increasing the body and thickness of your hair as more strands remain in the resting phase. Many women report experiencing hair loss several months after they give birth or stop breast feeding. This is completely normal and is simply a result of your hair returning to its normal growth cycle and shedding the excess strands that were kept during pregnancy.

Many also notice that the texture of their hair changes during pregnancy, straight hair often begins to curl, curly hair begins to straighten, oily hair may become more oily while dry hair may become increasingly brittle. While this can be frustrating at a time when your having to deal with so many other changes, by trying out new hair care products and different styles you should be able to embrace your new hair texture (or at least manage it!) until your baby arrives when it is likely to return to normal.

Hair colouring

While many doctors recommend that you wait until after the first trimester to colour your hair with permanent dye (as this is when your baby is undergoing important neurological developments and is most vulnerable), there is little scientific evidence to suggest that colouring your hair during pregnancy is harmful to your baby. This is because the chemicals used in hair dyes are not highly toxic and direct exposure to them is relatively low.

Although each individual strand of hair absorbs the chemicals that cause the hair shaft to change colour, it is only when hair dye comes into direct contact with the scalp or skin that it is absorbed by the body. For this reason, colouring your hair occasionally throughout your pregnancy should be fine - however, if you are concerned it is best to check with your health professional first.

Many recommend highlighting or low-lighting your hair as a more preferable option during pregnancy as the dye is encased in foil and doesn't come into direct contact with your scalp at all. Pure henna or chemical-free vegetable dyes can also be another good alternative.

It is important to bear in mind that because of your changing hormone levels, hair dye may react differently with your skin and hair than it did before you fell pregnant. For this reason it may be advisable to get your hair coloured professionally at a salon. Alternatively, if you dye your hair at home you should ensure that you are in a well ventilated area and are wearing gloves. You should always do a strand test first to check whether your hair and skin are sensitive to the product . Semi-permanent dye often contains fewer chemicals than permanent alternatives and choosing products containing low levels of ammonia and peroxide is preferable.

By leaving the dye on for the minimum amount of time, you will reduce the chance of chemical absorption and minimise any extreme colouring disasters! If you can enlist a friend to dye your hair for you it will give you the chance to relax and enjoy being pampered while reducing skin contact with the dye.

Hair treatments

As with colouring your hair, there is little evidence to suggest that having your hair permed or relaxed while you are pregnant is harmful. However, as the texture of your hair changes during pregnancy it is possible that the outcome of the hair treatment may not go to plan. Your perm may end up frizzy or your straightening treatment may leave your hair looking kinked or uneven. For this reason many hairdressers recommend that you wait until after you have had your baby before having a permanent hair treatment.

Cuts and styling

During pregnancy many women decide to have their hair cut into a short style so that it is more manageable when their baby is born. While this can be really liberating, many also regret it as during the later stages of pregnancy, your hair can seem like the only part of your body that you can control and dress up.

It is also a bit of misconception that shorter styles are easier to manage; while they do take less time to dry, they will need to be washed and styled more regularly whilst longer hair can simply be thrown up into a bun or pony tail. If you do want to change to a shorter look, opting for a longer, layered bob can provide a low maintenance alternative to a shorter style and will also flatter pregnancy-related changes in the shape of your face.

Pretty slides or hair bands help to keep control of wayward hair and can make you feel a bit more glamorous when the rest of you feels like a whale! Additionally, regular conditioning treatments will help to keep your hair looking healthy and shiny so that even your hair has a 'pregnancy glow'.

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I can't wait for the growth spirt! I had my hair cut pixie crop short a while ago, but I do agree it's easier with longer hair! Still, I'm 15weeks pregnant, got plenty of time to grow out my locks!!! I'm not risking dying my hair. It's quite refreshing going back to my natural hair colour after about 14 years of dying it religiously every three to four weeks. I'll be thinking of the money I'll be saving! Hope everyone's well! xxx
by claireweston 12th Aug 2010, 8:56am
I am a licensed hair stylist, and just as a little tip: If you are concerned about dying your hair during pregnancy because of the chemicals, I would highly recommend using Chi Ionic hair color because it is non-toxic. At the hair shows the people from Chi actually eat some of the product on stage, although this is NOT recommended :) but they do it to show that there are no toxins. Also this product does not contain Ammonia so you dont have to worry about the horrible smell if you are having morning sickness. Depending on your location the price is sometimes a little higher for this brand, and really regular hair color isnt very dangerous, but if you are concerned it is definately an option.
by mzmendoza 10th Dec 2009, 9:28am