Ask Dr. Brittani Smith

Dr. Brittani Smith


Practice: Family Medicine + Obstetrics

Education: Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

Training: Tulane University + Virginia Commonwealth University

Ask Dr. Smith:

1) Is it safe for me to have chemical hair services performed such as permanent hair color, hair relaxing or a hair perm while being pregnant and breastfeeding?

Exposure to the various chemical hair services such as coloring, perm curling, enlightening/bleaching, relaxers, texturizers, and even chemical straighteners (keratin) result in very limited absorption in normal scalp skin. These chemicals are unlikely to cause adverse fetal side effects (i.e. preterm labor, spontaneous abortion) due to only a small amount of the chemical being able to cross the placenta and reach the fetus.  However, if your scalp skin is compromised by disease (i.e. burn, abscess, open wound) the level of absorption is variable. In the early 1980s, chemicals used in hair products that were reported to cause adverse effects, have since been removed.


To date the absorption of hair chemicals while breastfeeding is not considered to be a concern. The absorption of the chemical by the bloodstream is restricted with an unlikely chance of entering the breast milk or posing a risk to the infant.Quote


If you are still uncomfortable about using the various types of chemical hair services, talk to your cosmetologist for hairstyling options and alternatives.


During pregnancy, it’s vital to understand that the fluctuant levels of hormones can also change the texture of the hair. Pregnancy may cause your hair to react differently to a particular treatment. In this situation, it’s recommended to wait until after pregnancy to treat your hair.



–       Consider waiting until the second trimester to treat your hair.

–       Make sure your hair is done in a well-ventilated area.

–       Use non-chemical dyes such as henna.

–       When applying treatment wear gloves.

–       Do not leave the chemical on your hair longer than indicated.

–      Make sure your scalp is thoroughly rinsed after the treatment.

–      Never dye eyelashes or eyebrows during pregnancy.

Quote2) I work as a hairstylist, should I worry about the exposure to the various chemical products posing any harm or side effects to my unborn child?

There is no evidence of adverse effects for pregnant women exposed to these products from occupational use (i.e. hairdressing); however, it is recommended that pregnant hairdressers wear gloves to minimize exposure, work for no more than 35 hours per week, avoid standing for prolonged periods of time, and ensure that the salons where they work have adequate ventilation. Evidence suggests there is minimal systemic absorption of hair products, as such, personal use by pregnant women 3 to 4 times throughout pregnancy is not considered to be of concern.

3) I’ve heard that during pregnancy your hair grows tremendously and then after pregnancy most women lose a lot of hair.  If so, why would this occur?

A variety of hormones rise significantly throughout pregnancy, such as thyroid hormone, estrogen and progesterone. Pregnancy hormonal effects cause both an increase and decrease in hair growth. During pregnancy, the scalp hair appears thicker or denser due to the slowing of the normal progression of hairs from the anagen (the “growing” stage) to telogen (the “resting” stage), thereby creating an increase in anagen hair.


Approximately, one to five months postpartum, the percentage of telogen hairs (the “resting” stage) in the scalp increases secondary to the decrease in the estrogen levels. Additionally, during the postpartum stage, hair loss (telogen effluvium) is common for new moms.


QuoteTelogen effluvium is characterized by excessive shedding resulting in the thinning of scalp hair. Good news is that this excessive shedding is temporary and no therapies are necessary. Typically, telogen effluvium resolves within 15 months postpartum, but the scalp may never be as dense or thick as it was prior to pregnancy.


By your child’s first birthday, most women regain their normal hair growth. If your hair does not regain its normal fullness after one year, you may want to see a dermatologist. People lose hair for many reasons and an accurate diagnosis is essential for effective treatment.



Thank you Dr. Smith for sharing your expertise!


Thank you for supporting mane.ediTS!

6 Responsesso far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Awesome read!!! This will be great information for me to know in the future. Love this entire series already!!!

  2. Candis says:

    Great post! Will definitely be beneficial when I’m ready to grow my family.

  3. Tiera says:

    Great information!! Thanks for sharing!

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