If you've seen pictures of Kate Middleton recently, you may notice gray roots peeking out at the top of her signature shiny mane. Is the glowing duchess getting lazy with her impeccable beauty routine? Unlikely.
It appears that the brunette beauty is taking a break from hair dye for her pregnancy — just as she did while carrying Prince George the first time around. Most likely, she’s heard that dyeing hair while pregnant is dangerous for the developing fetus.
I'd heard the same popular theory circulating when I was pregnant with my twins. In fact, I first heard it right after I dyed my hair in the first trimester and promptly panicked that I’d done irrevocable damage. Was my anxiety justified or is it just a rumor? A frantic call to my doctor suggested that I had little to worry about — and neither does Kate. Other doctors I spoke to confirmed that hair dye should not be a significant issue for moms-to-be.
“Although research in this area is limited, we currently have not found any link between dyeing your hair during pregnancy and any adverse obstetrical outcomes,” said Dr. Jenny M. Jaque, OB-GYN and co-founder of the women’s health information site healthgoesfemale.com. “Only a very small of amount of dye would feasibly be absorbed through the scalp into your circulation to reach the fetus, if at all.”
Dr. Pari Ghodsi, a Texas-based OB-GYN, echoed the same sentiment. “Although limited, most research indicates the chemicals found in both semi-permanent and permanent dyes are not highly toxic and are safe to use during pregnancy,” she said.
On the cosmetology side, hair professionals tend to err on the side of caution.
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“I am constantly asked this question and my answer is always that it is best to consult with your doctor,” said colorist Cassie Ryan of Bella Beau Salon in Minnesota. In the end “many women decide to keep color off the scalp.”
To ensure that, she uses foils or the balyage (hand-painting) method of highlighting, which keeps color both off the scalp and away from the skin. The resulting ombré style can be an added bonus for new moms, since the roots are purposely kept darker and allow for more time in-between dye jobs.
Whether in a salon or at home, Ryan says to always work in a well-ventilated area and leave color on for only as long as the product directions suggest. Still hesitant about using chemical treatments altogether? You might want to try pure vegetable dyes like henna that are less harsh.
For added peace of mind, you can also wait until after the second trimester when the fetal organs have already formed.
Apart from safety concerns, there are also some aesthetic differences to be aware of when coloring your hair while expecting.
“Pregnancy does change the texture of your hair slightly," said Dr. Ghodsi. "It becomes thicker and sometimes coarser and this could affect the appearance of the dye on your hair. Although, a skilled hair technician should be able to assess this and adjust accordingly.”
Ryan agrees that stylists can easily alter their treatment to fit your transformed locks. “Whether it tends to take a bit lighter or darker, it can be determined easily and the formula can be tweaked by the stylist for the months during pregnancy,” Ryan said.
If all this hoop-jumping for beauty sounds tricky, consider that if you're anything like me, you may not be done navigating hormonal changes once you get to the other side.
“One of the biggest changes to the hair typically comes after the baby is born,” said Emily Gierman, a senior colorist at George the Salon in Chicago. “Women will start to have new growth and baby hairs around their hair line. When it comes to highlighting, it can be tricky.”
It seems yet another way of Mother Nature preparing new moms before the little ones arrive.
This article was originally published Mar. 2, 2015 at 4:45 p.m. ET.