Hair Dye When Breastfeeding: Safety, Precautions And Alternatives

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The lifestyle choices of the mother may affect the infant through breast milk. For instance, lactating mothers should be cautious about using cosmetics, including hair dye while breastfeeding.

Hair dyeing can be done at home or in a salon. However, regardless of the process being done at home or in a salon, a nursing mother must be careful about choosing the hair dye product.

Read the post to know the possible concerns, safe alternatives of hair dyes, and tips on safely coloring the hair for breastfeeding mothers.

Can You Dye Your Hair During Breastfeeding?

Yes, you may dye your hair when breastfeeding. According to the NHS UK, there are no contraindications for dyeing hair when breastfeeding since very little of the dye’s compounds enter the bloodstream (1). There is no evidence that the compounds reach breast milk (2). Therefore, dyeing hair during lactation is possible without being concerned about it affecting the infant.

Precautions For Dyeing Hair During Breastfeeding

Although dyeing hair during breastfeeding does not affect the baby, it is good to observe the following precautions.

1. Choose temporary hair dyes

Temporary hair dyes stay on the hair’s surface and do not enter the hair shaft (3). They could be safer when compared to semi-permanent and permanent hair dyes, which may enter the hair shaft and reach the bloodstream.

2. Use softer colors

Darker colors may contain more coloring agents and other color-fixing compounds that may be harmful. You may pick lighter or softer hair dye tones that may contain less concentration of compounds that enter the bloodstream.

3. Check for potentially harmful ingredients

Check the contents of the hair dye irrespective of dyeing your hair at home or the salon. Permanent hair dyes may more likely contain potentially harmful compounds, such as phenols, aromatic amines, and hydrogen peroxide (3).
Below are some of the potentially harmful compounds that may be found in different types of dyes (4).

  • Aromatic amino compounds
  • Naphthylamine
  • Phenylenediamines
  • Toluene
  • Ammonia
  • Silver
  • Mercury
  • Arsenic
  • Lead
  • Bismuth
  • Pyrogallol
  • Alcohol and its compounds

4. Do a strand test

Apply a small amount of the hair dye on a strand of hair and a small patch of the scalp to check its suitability. Hair dye allergy is not uncommon. The risk may be higher if you choose permanent hair dyes, which may contain paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which may cause allergies in a few people (5). Skin rash, irritation, and itching are common symptoms of an allergic reaction.

5. Dye hair when away from the baby

Dye your hair in a well-ventilated area away from the baby. Even the safest hair dyes may contain volatile compounds, which may irritate the baby’s airways. Make sure you shower and rinse away the applied dye before handling the baby again.

Wash your hairs before breastfeeding your baby. Aroma of hair dye can induce running nose and coughing in your baby. Your baby’s skin is highly sensitive, any contact with hair dye can induce severe allergy in your baby.

Possible Side Effects Of Hair Dye During Breastfeeding

You may experience the following general side effects of hair dye that may not affect breastfeeding and your breastfeeding baby (6).

  • Local skin redness
  • Itchiness
  • Split ends
  • Loss of hair’s luster
  • Scaling of the scalp
  • Hair dryness
  • Loss of hair
  • Premature hair graying
  • Slow hair growth

The side effects may vary based on the type and color of hair dye used. Side effects may more commonly occur with semi-permanent and permanent hair dyes than temporary hair dyes, which may often wash away in a couple of showers.

Possible Alternatives To Hair Dyes

Natural vegetable colors could be safe alternatives to commercial hair dyes. Homemade vegetable dyes will not last very long on the hair. However, homemade vegetable dyes are unlikely to be harmful even if they enter the bloodstream through the hair shaft.
Below are some ideas for homemade vegetable-based dyes that you may pick over commercial, chemical-based dyes.

  1. Beetroot juice for violet: Blend beetroot pieces and strain the juice. Mix the juice with coconut oil, add a dash of lime juice, and apply it to your hair. You may wear a plastic shower cap on top of it and leave it for an hour. Rinse away with shampoo as usual.
  1. Coffee extracts for deep brown: Brew crushed roasted coffee beans (not instant coffee) in hot water. Strain the liquid and let it cool. You may add a tablespoon of green tea to the mix to nourish the hair and possibly improve the color’s potency. Mix the coffee mixture with a leave-in type of hair conditioner. Apply it to your hair after a shower, leave it for an hour, and wash it off.
  1. Carrot juice for orange: Blend carrot pieces, strain the juice, and mix it with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Add a bit of lime juice and apply it to your hair. Cover with a plastic shower cap and leave it for an hour. Rinse as usual.
  1. Black plum paste for purple: Cut out the pulp and skin of black plum (jamun). Blend to make a thick paste. Apply to dry hair, cover with a plastic shower cap, and leave it for an hour. Shower and rinse away thoroughly.
  1. Sage for light brown: Steep sage dry sage leaves in hot water to make sage tea. Strain the water and let it cool. Rinse your hair with cooled sage tea for a few minutes after a shower. Comb the hair and let them air dry.
  1. Chamomile tea for yellow: Steep dry chamomile flowers in hot water to make chamomile tea. Brew the flowers for longer to attain a deeper hue. Rinse your hair multiple times with cooled chamomile tea. Pat dry your hair and comb.
  1. Henna for red: Purchase natural henna powder with no added dyes or chemicals. Mix the powder in water as per instructions on the packet and apply it. Cover the hair with a plastic shower cap. You may leave it for a couple of hours to attain a deeper shade of red. Rinse and wash away later.

You may use a different quantity of vegetables or steep coffee or tea for longer to attain different intensities of hair color. You may also use other bases, such as post-shower hair gels, if you wish to leave the color on your hair for longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What hair treatment is safe for breastfeeding?

There isn’t enough research to confirm the safety of hair treatments for nursing women. Negligible amounts of the chemicals used in the treatment may enter the bloodstream. Hence, it should not pose any threat to the baby. But, you should consult a doctor about safer alternatives to avoid any potential reactions (7).

2. Can I use hair spray while breastfeeding?

Although there is not enough information about the safety of hairspray while breastfeeding, its use can be one of the reasons for sore nipples. Hence, take necessary precautions while using it (8).

There are no contraindications to using hair dye while breastfeeding. Ensure your hair dye does not include harmful chemicals such as aromatic amino compounds, silver, or mercury. Although small amounts of dying compounds may enter the breast stream, they may not cause any effects on the mother and the breastfed baby. You may try temporary dyes rather than permanent dyes since they may not enter the hair shafts. You may also try natural hair dyes such as vegetable dyes from beetroot extract, coffee extract, or henna.

Key Pointers

  • NHS UK shows no contraindications to coloring your hair while breastfeeding.
  • Remember to choose temporary hair dyes with softer colors and examine their contents before dying.
  • Always wash your hair before nursing and dye it in a well-ventilated environment away from the infant.
  • Natural vegetable colors, such as coffee extract and beetroot juice, can be used as safe alternatives to commercial hair dyes.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Is it safe to use hair dye when I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?; NHS UK
2. Breastfeeding FAQs; Stony Brook School of Medicine
3. Hair Dyes; American Cancer Society
4. Hair dye poisoning; U.S. National Library of Medicine
5. Allergy to paraphenylenediamine; DermNet
6. Khalid M AlGhamdi and Noura A Moussa, Local side effects caused by hair dye use in females: cross-sectional survey; U.S. National Library of Medicine
7. Hair treatment during pregnancy; American Pregnancy Association
8. Breastfeeding with sore nipples; La Leche League
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Dr. Prakhar Nyati

(MD)
Dr Prakhar Nyati is an eminent pediatrician and neonatologist in Indore. He has done his MBBS and MD Pediatrics from MGM Medical College, MY Hospital and Chacha Nehru Children Hospital, a renowned medical college in central India. A gold medallist in his graduation, Dr. Nyati has deep knowledge about diseases, diagnosis and treatment. He holds teleconsultations for local as well... more

Shivali Karande

Shivali holds a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and a master’s in management. After working for nearly five years in the market research sector, she discovered her passion for writing and started freelancing. Her knowledge about medicines and biology, coupled with her experience in research, helps her write well-researched, informative, and evidence-based articles. For MomJunction, she writes articles on health and... more

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