There's nothing like treating yourself to a new hair colour to give you a lift - whether you opt for something dramatically different, or just add some richness or highlights to your tresses.
But I often find myself wishing that hair dyes didn't contain quite so many chemicals. That eye-watering smell as the dye is applied is enough to.... Well, it's enough to make your eyes water!
Of course, the jury is out on whether hair dye is safe during pregnancy. Research is limited - but does indicate that the chemicals in hair dyes would have to be applied in huge quantities to cause any harm to your unborn baby. However, like I say, research so far is limited. And I'd definitely recommend steering clear of dyeing your hair during the first 12 weeks, when baby's brain and nervous system is busily developing.
When I was pregnant, I preferred to play it safe all the way through and so I avoided my usual permanent colour and hunted out natural, semi-permanent dyes, free from chemicals such as ammonia, parabens, peroxide and PPDs (phenylenediamines are the chemical pigments found in most dyes and can cause an allergic reaction to users).
Hair Colour Guru Daniel Galvin OBE told me: "The safest option is a vegetable colour. It is semi-permanent, washes out completely and disguises rather than covers the grey 100%. The vegetable colours deposit the colour rather than lift, which means that you can go darker but not lighter. Pregnant women who are avoiding chemicals often go for this option as
it contains neither ammonia nor peroxide."
Lots of salons offer vegetable colours - ask yours for advice and about what ingredients the colours contain. Highlighting (where the hair colour has little or no contact with the scalp) is also considered safe during pregnancy and pure henna colours can be another good option.
I also recently discovered what looks like a great new permanent colour - The ECOlour - which is exclusive to the Neville Hair and Beauty Salon in London (www.nevillehairandbeauty.net) Prices start at £70.00 and the salon tell me the colours contain no ammonia, parabens or PPD. Jennie Quinn Head Colourist says: "The ECOlour is perfect for any pregnant lady worried about colouring her hair and has been becoming more popular with them. The ECOlour puts their mind at ease."
I also like the look of Organic Colour Systems (OCS) Ammonia-free Hair Colours from Herb UK. These are available at selected salons nationwide - for your nearest, visit www.herbuk.co.uk. The range was developed by a hairdresser who suffered an allergic reaction to conventional colour and contains natural extracts like aloe vera, orange and grapefruit. Most of the colours in the range do contain very low levels of PPD - European guidelines allow up to 6% in hair colour and Herb uses an average of just 0.6% - but some contain none at all, and they'll soon also be offering PPD-free semi-permanent colours at salons too.
ammonia-free colours at her London salon says: "OCS is really popular with pregnant clients because it doesn't smell and is gentler on the scalp. We get a lot of new clients who come for the first time when they're pregnant because they're looking for a gentler option. While there's no evidence that you shouldn't colour your hair when you're pregnant, women want the extra peace of mind of using something with fewer chemicals. We always skin test clients when they tell us they're pregnant even if they've had the colour before. It's essential as the change in hormones can affect your sensitivity."
If you're having a go at hair-colouring at home, do take a strand and allergy test yourself, too. As well as the hormones affecting your sensitivity to allergy, you may find your hair has become more porous and takes on colour more readily during pregnancy.
The Daniel Field Natural Colours range, £6.99 each, are peroxide, ammonia and paraben-free. They provide 100% grey coverage and are billed as being suitable for use during pregnancy. They do contain low levels of PPDs though.
Also worth checking out are Naturtint's Reflex Non-Permanent Colour Rinses, £9.99 (for stockists, visit www.naturesdream.co.uk or call 0845 601 8129) They are free from PPD, peroxide, ammonia, resorcinol, parabens and oil-stripping sulphates and come in a gel-like consistency with no mixing required. Colour can last for up to 4 weeks.
When you've got the colour of your dreams, the last thing you want is for it to fade fast. So I highly recommend using an ultra-gentle non-stripping shampoo. My latest discovery is the newly launched and gorgeous Ojon hair care rituals range, which includes Color Sustain Color Revealing Shampoo, Conditioner and Protecting Cream. (Studies have shown that Ojon's Colour Protecting Cream, a glossy leave-in cream, protects hair colour for up to 40 washes) The subtly scented products contain Tahitian Monoi Oil, fresh Gardenia Flowers and Ojon Oil. They cost from £18 and are available at John Lewis, Harrods Liberty and Fenwick stores nationwide (call 0870 034 2454 for your nearest stockist).