During pregnancy, your hair can change right along with the rest of you! Your trusty pregnancy hormones can alter your hair texture, spur hair growth and shine, and may keep your locks from shedding in the shower. Some even report that their hair color changes when expecting! But with all this hair metamorphosis also comes concern. You may be wondering if your go-to hair products and hair treatments are safe during pregnancy? Will they even work on your newly transformed tresses? Keep reading to find out. 

Hair Care Ingredients to Avoid While Pregnant

You may have heard that there are quite a few common skincare ingredients, like retinoids, that are not safe to use while pregnant. But there are also some of hair care ingredients you should try your best to avoid while pregnant, too, including: 

  • Formaldehyde: Right now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering banning hair straightening products and hair relaxers that contain or release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde (aka formalin or methylene glycol) is a known carcinogen.  

  • Oxybenzone: While oxybenzone is usually synonymous with certain chemical sunscreens, the chemical can also be found in some hair color accelerators, hairsprays, and finishing sprays. The March of Dimes urges pregnant individuals to avoid hydroquinone since it’s been linked to DNA damage, endocrine disruption, and more. 

  • Parabens: Parabens are preservatives used in personal and hair care products, like shampoos and conditioners—but they’re also what’s dubbed endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC), which essentially means they’re chemicals that muck up your hormonal balance. EDCs like parabens can increase your chances of preterm birth—and decrease gestational age at birth, birth weight, and Baby’s body length. And according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), endocrine disruptors are among the most concerning groups of toxic chemicals for pregnant individuals. 

  • Phthalates: This is another EDC that should be avoided during pregnancy. A 2022 study in the journal Environmental Research found that hair products containing phthalates had the potential to alter hormone levels in pregnancy, possibly contributing to growth restriction and preterm birth. Phthalates, which have been banned from cosmetics in Europe, are present in any number of hair care products and, if not listed as “phthalate” on the label, will be called DEP, DBP, DEHP, or fragrance. 

Can you use hair products with fragrance when pregnant? 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) recommends seeking hair care products that are labeled “fragrance free.” The reason? The seemingly innocuous term “fragrance” actually means your shampoo, condition, hairspray, or other hair care product contains one or more of the 3,000+ ingredients used in fragrance compounds—some of which contain harmful chemicals. That means, there’s no way of knowing what chemicals make up a scent in your hair care product. Keep in mind that hair care products labeled “unscented” are not the same as those labeled “fragrance free.” Unscented products may still contain multiple harmful chemicals and scents, they’re simply combined in a way to mask an odor. 

Is it safe to use hair dye during pregnancy? 

While a 2022 report in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology raised a lot of important questions about the overall safety of hair dye, the experts at ACOG still say that hair dye is “usually safe to use during pregnancy.” In fact, a 2022 report in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology notes that, unless you have a burn or an abscess on your scalp, only a very small amount of the chemicals in hair dye—permanent, semi-permanent, or a temporary color—is absorbed through your skin. Therefore, chemicals in hair dye “are unlikely to reach the placenta in substantial amounts” to cause any harm to your baby-to-be.  

With that, leading experts still have stay-safe recommendations for individuals who are looking to dye their hair in pregnancy, including…  

  • Wait until the second trimester. Because your first trimester is filled with rapid growth and development, many experts advise waiting until the second trimester before coloring your hair, just to be extra precautions. 

  • Consult your dermatologist. If you have eczema, psoriasis, or another skin condition, it’s a good idea to ask your dermatologist for some guidance before coloring your hair. These common skin conditions may cause small lacerations on your scalp, which can weaken your skin’s protective power. Plus, skin tends to be more sensitive than normal during pregnancy. 

  • Open a window. Hair dye doesn’t exactly smell great—and if you’re dealing with morning sickness or an extra-keen sense of smell in pregnancy—you’ll want to make sure the room is well-ventilated during your hair dying process. 

  • Wear gloves. Because your skin can be more sensitive to irritation during pregnancy, it’s a wise move to always wear rubber gloves when coloring your own hair.  

  • Select a gentle hair color. Read your hair color label or ask your hairstylist for the ingredients of your go-to tint. You’ll want to select a hair dye that’s paraben-, phthalate- and oxybenzone-free. For extra peace of mind, you may want to consider a hair color that doesn’t contain ammonia or peroxide, one that’s formulated for sensitive skin, or perhaps a vegetable-based dye. 

  • Use hair color made in America. In the United States, the number of metals allowed in personal care products is regulated, but that might not be the case if your hair color was made elsewhere. Hair treatments, like hair dye, that aren’t American made have the potential to contain dangerous substances, like lead, cadmium, nickel, arsenic, or mercury. (EWG lists lead and mercury among the top toxins to avoid in personal care products when expecting.) 

  • Consider highlights. If you have sensitive skin or want to exercise more caution, mull over trading your dye job in for highlights, lowlights, or balayage. These are ways to color your hair during pregnancy that don’t necessarily involve putting hair dye directly on your scalp. 

For insight on how various hair dyes stack up to EWG’s high standards, see their top low-hazard picks, but know that there are no hair dyes that are EWG Verified. Learn what it means to be EWG Verified. 

Can I bleach my hair when pregnant? 

While “bleach” seems like it would be way too harsh and toxic to use during pregnancy, the truth is, hair bleach is generally considered safe. Like other forms of hair dye, bleach doesn’t penetrate your scalp to the extent that it’s considered harmful to you or your baby-to-be. Simply follow that same stay-safe guidelines for coloring hair during pregnancy, such as wearing gloves and holding off your dye job until your second trimester. 

Can I use hair straightener while pregnant? 

Currently, there appears to be no discernible risk of having a low birth weight infant or experiencing preterm delivery among folks who chemically straighten their hair during pregnancy, according to a 2022 report that looked specifically at Black women. Researchers went on to note that, for the average person, receiving three to four hair treatments during pregnancy “does not appear to increase risk of adverse effects on the fetus.”  

That all comes with some big caveats. For one, some people find hair relaxers aren’t as effective during pregnancy. But more importantly, ACOG warns that hair relaxers may contain chemicals that are not on the label. Some of those unnamed ingredients can very well be toxic chemicals. For example, even hair products that are labeled “formaldehyde-free” can still release the chemical when heated with a blow dryer or flat iron. In fact, most hair smoothing and straightening products release formaldehyde, according to the FDA. While there’s no direct evidence that this impacts pregnancy, a different 2022 report found a significant correlation between the use of hair straightening products and uterine cancer, which suggests that these products can cause hormonal changes. And let's not forget that the FDA has proposed banning the use of formaldehyde in hair straighteners—for everyone. 

This means it may be a good idea to stop using hair relaxers during pregnancy—and beyond. But if you choose to continue, follow the advice of the FDA’s Do’s and Don’ts, which includes not straightening your hair at home, but going to a licensed hair professional who’s trained to take precautions, like keeping the salon well-ventilated, wearing gloves, and donning safety glasses when applying hair smoothing products. At the same time, ask your hairstylist the following questions before relaxing your tresses:  

  • Does this hair straightener  contain formaldehyde?  

  • Can I see the ingredient list for this relaxer? (Formaldehyde isn’t always listed as such on the label. “Formalin” and “Methylene glycol” mean Formaldehyde, too.) 

  • Do you know the necessary safeguards to minimize formaldehyde exposure? 

  • May I see your training certificate from the manufacturer?  

  • Do you have an alternative hair smoothing product that doesn’t release formaldehyde? 

Is hair growth treatment safe during pregnancy? 

No. Do not take over-the-counter hair regrowth treatments like Nutrafol, Happy Head, or Women’s Rogaine during pregnancy or when you’re breastfeeding. Studies have shown that topically applied minoxidil, like Rogaine, may cause fetal malformation and can pass into breastmilk, which can be harmful to your nursing infant. And the American Academy of Dermatology Association warns that prescription-only hair regrowth treatments like spironolactone, finasteride, flutamide, and dutasteride may cause birth defects and are not an option for those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.  

Are hair sprays safe during pregnancy? 

Most likely. Back in 2017, a small study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that chemicals in hair spray may be linked to a urinary-related birth defect in infant boys. However, ACOG and other health organizations have yet to issue any hair spray warnings to expectant parents. That’s likely because the study’s conclusions were solely based on survey data—and the pregnant individuals evaluated were exposed to hairspray in the workplace.  

In the end, a small amount of hairspray likely won’t likely cause an issue. However, during pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to seek out hair products, including hair sprays, that are free from phthalates, parabens, oxybenzone, and fragrance. And when using hairspray, do it in a well-ventilated space.   

To be extra cautious, consider using one of the two hair sprays that have been EWG verified—or one of the many that are considered a low-hazard. And feel free to browse all that hair products included in EWG’s robust Skin Deep database. 

More On Pregnancy Health and Safety 




  • The Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth: Using Hair Dyes and Color During Pregnancy
  • Food and Drug Administraion (FDA): Use of Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing Chemicals as an Ingredient in Hair Smoothing Products or Hair Straightening
  • FDA: Hair Smoothing Products That Release Formaldehyde When Heated
  • March of Dimes: Personal Care Products and Cosmetic Use During Pregnancy
  • Environmental Working Group (EWG): 5 Things To Avoid in Your Personal Care Products If You’re Pregnant or Trying To Get Pregnant
  • Personal care products: Demographic characteristics and maternal hormones in pregnant women from Puerto Rico.Environmental Research. April 2022
  • Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC): Phthalates
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG): Toxic Chemicals: Steps to Stay Safer Before and During Pregnancy
  • Hair Dye Ingredients and Potential Health Risks from Exposure to Hair Dyeing. Chemical Research in Toxicology. June 2022
  • Skin Changes and Safety Profile of Topical Products During Pregnancy. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. February 2022
  • Cleveland Clinic: Is It Safe To Dye Your Hair While You’re Pregnant?
  • Mother to Baby: Hair Treatments
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Hazard Alert Update
  • Use of Straighteners and Other Hair Products and Incident Uterine Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. December 2022
  • Topically applied minoxidil may cause fetal malformation: a case report. Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Moleculor Teratology. December 2003
  • American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA): Thinning Hair and Hair Loss: Could It Be Female Pattern Hair Loss?
  • Maternal Exposure to Domestic Hair Cosmetics and Occupational Endocrine Disruptors Is Associated with a Higher Risk of Hypospadias in the Offspring. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. January 2017

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.