Is It Safe to Bleach My Body Hair During Pregnancy?

Bleach Hair Pregnancy

Note: The Pregistry website includes expert reports on more than 2000 medications, 300 diseases, and 150 common exposures during pregnancy and lactation. For the topic Hair Treatments, go here. These expert reports are free of charge and can be saved and shared.


Since women should avoid chemicals in beauty products while pregnant, you may wonder if you should skip bleaching your hair or lightening body hair until after your delivery. Not necessarily. While bleaching products do contain chemicals, the percentage of chemicals in beauty products, as well as how they are absorbed and metabolized is also considered when deciding if a beauty product is safe to use during pregnancy.

Hydrogen peroxide is the main ingredient in several beauty products designed to alter hair color or lighten the appearance of body hair. Products used to bleach hair usually contains between six and 10 percent hydrogen peroxide while bleaching creams used on body hair contain even less. Research has shown that bleaching creams, with their low concentration of hydrogen peroxide, are also only superficially absorbed and metabolized quickly. Products used to bleach hair and body hair are considered safe to use during pregnancy, although some experts suggest  minimizing exposure during the first trimester when the fetus is most sensitive to chemicals. Hair grows faster during pregnancy so you may find that you have to touch up your roots more often than you normally would.

During a root touch up, the dye can be absorbed through the skin, so you may want to wait until after the first trimester for your first touch up. Also, many women become very sensitive to smells during pregnancy. Be warned that the smell of bleaching products, which can also contain ammonia, might make you nauseous.

Although the chemicals in hair dye are not considered toxic, the concern is that at some levels they may have an effect that has not yet been reflected in studies.

Skin lightening products are another story. While products used to bleach body hair are considered safe, some skin lightening products can be dangerous for both mother and child. Skin lightening products contain a variety of ingredients. Some products only use vitamins to brighten skin, while others contain hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. Yet others use hydroquinone. A skin lightening cream containing the active ingredient hydroquinone might be used to treat pregnancy-related melasma, but these creams must always only be used under the supervision of a doctor. Some skin lightening products even contain mercury salts, which are definitely not considered safe during pregnancy. This ingredient can cause a variety of neurological problems and harm your unborn child. Before using any skin lightening product, discuss the ingredients with your doctor.

If you do want to bleach body hair, go ahead, once the first trimester is past. Bleaching your hair is considered safe but there are some ways to maximize safety.

  • A safer alternative to bleaching all of your hair is getting highlights or streaks. With this beauty procedure, color is painted on to the hair shaft about one-half to one-inch away from the roots of the scalp, so the dye or bleach doesn’t touch the skin.
  • Whether you get your hair treated in a salon or dye it at home, make sure there is plenty of ventilation to minimize inhalation.
  • If you’re applying bleach to your hair or any hair on your body, always wear gloves to minimize skin exposure.
  • Consider switching to coloring products with fewer chemicals. For example, semi-permanent dye contains less ammonia or peroxide and has the potential to blend in well with permanently dyed hair.
  • When dying your hair, leave the product on for the minimum amount of time and rinse your scalp well when you’re done.
  • Looking for a chemical-free hair coloring alternative? Try vegetable-based dyes such as henna. Or lighten hair by applying chamomile tea and sitting in the sun.

It’s also important to note that your hair may react differently to treatments when you are pregnant. Because of the influence of pregnancy-related hormones, your hair may be more absorbent and thus react differently to coloring. Hair may also be frizzier.

Bleaching products are also considered safe to use while breastfeeding. Since very little of the chemicals used in bleaching hair or body hair enters your bloodstream, not much is likely to be passed on to your breastmilk. For maximum safety, you can apply the same chemical exposure cautions that you did when pregnant.

Joan MacDonald
Joan Vos MacDonald has written about health and fitness for newspapers, magazines and websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the author of two books on health-related topics, "Tobacco and Nicotine Dangers," for young adults, and "High Fit Home," a design book about fitness and architecture. She lives in upstate New York near her children and grandchildren.

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