Dandruff Shampoo During Pregnancy

Written by ana purna
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Dandruff Shampoo During Pregnancy
Pregnant women have to watch everything they put in or on their bodies, including dandruff shampoos. (pregnant #3 image by Adam Borkowski from Fotolia.com)

Pregnant women have special health care needs. Drugs and other substances that pose no harm to women who are not pregnant, such as pain killers and antibiotics, may threaten their health or that of their baby. Some topical remedies considered harmless in normal circumstances also come under suspicion when fetal health is a concern. Some dandruff shampoos contain drugs that concern some women and health professionals. In truth, the effects of many drugs on pregnant and breastfeeding women have not been well-studied, and so caution is warranted until more is known.

The Concern

The active ingredient in some dandruff shampoos is coal tar. According to Drugs.com, no tests have been conducted to determine if coal tar poses a danger to pregnant women or threatens fetal health or development. Still, there is concern about coal tar's safety for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Ketoconazole is another active ingredient in strong dandruff treatment shampoos. It is not known whether Ketoconazole could contaminate breast milk if it is used topically (as a shampoo or cream) while breastfeeding.

Other drugs such as selenium sulphide and pyrithione zinc are common dandruff treatments. No studies have been done, and no birth defects shown to be connected to their use.

The Family Groove website recommends avoiding products with coal tar and salicylic acid--another active ingredient in dandruff shampoos--while pregnant.


The standard recommendation to all pregnant women when it comes to medications is to consult their gynecologists. Many women choose to avoid all drugs while pregnant unless it is absolutely necessary--that is, if the harm done by not taking medication outweighs any risk to the health of the foetus.

Finding a Balance

Often, the effect of a drug (or herbal/natural remedy) on pregnant women is unstudied. Some drugs are more suspect than others, but most women will find little definitive information, and much conflicting advice. The best you can do is to find a balance you and your doctor and family are comfortable with. Several natural ingredients with unknown impact may, in fact, pose more of a risk than a single active ingredient with clinical studies supporting its safety.

Alternative Treatments

Women who suffer from dandruff during pregnancy can treat the condition using mild, herbal and natural healing agents. Tea tree oil is the active ingredient in several alternative dandruff shampoos, although because its effects during pregnancy have not been studied, some strongly advise mothers-to-be not to use it. According to Family Groove, selenium sulphide is safe, as is the brand Head & Shoulders, which uses zinc pyrithione.

Further Investigation

When you find out that you are pregnant, take inventory of all the medications and treatments that you are currently using. Bring a list and, if necessary the bottles with ingredient information, to your doctor and determine what is safe to continue using. If you or you doctor are uncertain about a particular substance, discontinue its use until you are no longer pregnant or breastfeeding.

To investigate on your own, search for all the ingredients in your dandruff shampoo on Drugs.com. The website will indicate whether any testing has been done on pregnant humans or animals, and what the recommendation is for its use.

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