Whether you consider yourself to be a low or high maintenance type of girl, we all have some type of cosmetic routine that we follow. Pregnancy brings its own set of beauty challenges, so maintaining that routine can become quite a task. Due to the fact that your body is changing so rapidly, it is unreasonable to think that you can continue your beauty routine exactly as it was before and still have the same results. Along with an influx of pregnancy hormones, your body is changing rapidly and everything seems to affect your appearance. It’s important to maintain a beauty routine as much as possible and confront pregnancy-specific challenges with helpful solutions. As an OB/GYN, I am routinely asked about what cosmetic procedures and options are considered safe in pregnancy. Here is what I tell my patients…
Hormonal Hair Changes
Normally, about 80% of the hair on the scalp is in the anagen, or active hair growth phase. During pregnancy the number of hairs converting from the active growing phase to theresting (telogen) phase is decreased. This process results in a higher percentage of hair in the active growing phase, which produces the thick, luxurious, tresses that you may have never appreciated before. I have heard patients erroneously attribute this change to their prenatal vitamins, but no, this is actually due to the hormonal changes in a normal pregnancy. Sadly, this excessive hair growth is not limited to your head. Many women will also notice unwanted hair growth in many other areas of their bodies too.
During the postpartum period there is a rapid change in the hair follicles from the active phase back to resting phase. This results in a sudden and sometimes massive shedding of hair. This phenomenon is called telogen effluvium and starts around months 3 – 5 after a baby is born. I try to warn my patients that this process is going to happen. If I forget to mention it, I often get panicked phone calls from patients who begin to notice 10 times their normal daily allotted hair loss going down the drain after a shower. As distressing as this may be, this condition is not permanent and it will stop after a few weeks. Thankfully, the prognosis for the missing hair growing back is excellent.
I often get asked about hair dyes to cover gray hair and maintaining highlights in pregnancy. Multiple studies have looked at the safety of using commercially available products in pregnant women, and the most recent data indicates that they are considered to be safe if used in the “typical fashion”. This means using the products according to the package recommendations and not applying products directly to the scalp where they could be absorbed quickly through the skin. When I discuss strategy with my patients who do highlights and/or color their hair on a regular basis and are trying to get pregnant we usually agree on the following approach: Make a visit to the salon before you start attempting to conceive and then wait until 12 weeks of pregnancy to “touch up” roots in order to avoid any potential issues during organ formation in the first trimester.
Of course, Blake looks fabulous AND pregnant. If you look closely at her “reverse hombre” hairdo, it is most likely the result of not continuing her highlighting efforts during pregnancy, which allows her darker hair to grow in and the ends remain lighter in color. I think she looks pretty amazing
Chemical Hair Treatments
Chemical hair straighteners are all the rage; especially the newer Brazillian formulas which use varying concentrations of formaldehyde. When I researched studies on women in pregnancy, sadly there is little information available. One study done on women using the older lye-bases straighteners found a higher incidence of low birthweight babies. There is no data on chemical “perms” and pregnancy outcomes, although this type pf hair treatment is not very common anymore. For these reasons, I advise my patients to avoid these procedures in pregnancy altogether due to the lack of safety information.
Unwanted Hair removal
Shaving, waxing, and threading are all considered to be safe in pregnancy. Many women, however, feel that their skin is much more sensitive in pregnancy and feel that these procedures may be too painful to tolerate. A general rule of thumb is if it hurts don’t do it!
Topical Hair Removal Creams (Depilatory Products)
Sodium, calcium and potassium hydroxide are found in these products, and they are also found in large quantities in our diet. The topical absorption is minimal, so they are considered to be safe in pregnancy. They effectively remove hair at the surface, but remember the hair will grow right back at the same level it was before. This beauty regimen can be quite cumbersome because the hair grows back so quickly.
Hair Bleaching Agents
Hydrogen peroxide is the active ingredient in hair bleaching creams and are considered to be very safe as very little is systemically absorbed after application onto the skin when used in moderation.
Permanent Hair Removal
These laser and pulsed light treatments are not recommended in pregnancy because the hormonally driven hair growth associated with pregnancy will lead to an inadequate treatment response. This means that the laser and pulsed light treatments will no have the same results as when you are not pregnant, which would not be a wise use of your money. Most of these treatments are expensive and require multiple episodes of treatment, so it is best to wait until the postpartum period for best results.
So while the hair in every part of your body will change, those changes may not be for the worst. If you find yourself not happy with the hair growth, you do have options. I do warn patients not to try an extreme new look/cut/color while pregnant due to the changes you will experience during pregnancy and postpartum with your hair, face and body. What seems like a good idea rarely is. It is better to stick to your normal routine and look as much as possible and make changes when your baby (post baby body/hair) is a few months old.