Q. I just found out that I'm pregnant. Great news in every way—except for my hair, which I've been dyeing for so long that I'm not even sure what color my roots will be. Is there any way I can keep coloring safely? –Annabel, Boston, MA

A. Congratulations, Annabel! Here's what to expect while you're expecting: that fabled "glow," more cleavage, and thicker, glossier hair colored whatever hue you chose, as long as you're willing to make a few adjustments in your beauty regimen. It's true that traditional hair coloring has been a no-no for pregnant women. Our federal government doesn't regulate hair products—or any cosmetics, actually—and so even though chemical dyes haven't been proven harmful, they haven't been proven safe either. Many formulas contain chemicals like ammonia, which irritates the skin and lungs, and p-Phenylenediamine (PPD), which is linked to problems with the immune and nervous systems. But that doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to nine months of unattractive roots (whatever color they turn out to be).

"There've been so many improvements in non-toxic colors recently. The colors are great and companies have figured out how to make them without so many chemicals," explains eco-friendly hair guru John Masters. Masters has banned harsh chemical products in his own New York City salon, but managed not to compromise his gorgeous colors or their longevity. So ask your colorist if he or she can switch to an ammonia-free color that's low in PPD (hint: look for a European brand, since the European Union does regulate cosmetics and sets strict chemical limits). If you're a purist though, do note that while most "eco" hair color lines—both professional and at-home versions—use far fewer chemicals than do their conventional counterparts, many still use small amounts of chemical.

Want to be even more cautious? Try highlights or lowlights—they're safer than a full dye job, since the color doesn't touch your scalp where it can be absorbed into your body. And remember that the first trimester is the most critical time for chemical exposures of all kinds—which is why many obstetricians give the green light for hair color starting in the second or third trimester (and it goes without saying that you should check with your own doctor on all of this.) You might also want to consider a completely chemical-free, vegetable-based dye. The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database lists some non-toxic home color kits. Try them out at home, or ask you colorist if she'll use them for you in the salon. The color will be less intense and tend to fade faster, but your peace of mind might just be worth it.

Story by Sarah Schmidt. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

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