Attending Cosmetolgy School While Pregnant

Can you attend cosmetology school while pregnant? Is it safe to perform cosmetology services during pregnancy? Will you miss too much of your class to graduate on time? Whether you are pregnant and touring beauty schools and considering enrolling, or if you get pregnant after you’re already enrolled, no doubt these are burning questions for you and many other current or prospective beauty school students.

The Safety of Attending Beauty School While Pregnant

One study published in Occupational Medicine in 2009 compared hairdressers, cosmetologists and teachers who are pregnant. The study concluded that there is some evidence that working as a hairdresser or cosmetologist while pregnant may reduce fetal growth, and working as a hairdresser may increase the risk of pre-term delivery or perinatal death. The study asserts that hairdressers and cosmetologists are "commonly exposed to chemicals, poor posture and psychological stress that may increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes." However Angela Hawk, a clinical instructor in Maternal Fetal Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, said that many studies in animals have addressed this, and that most of them found that even when hair dye was administered in very high doses that would be also be toxic to the mother, no adverse effects were seen in the offspring.  She also pointed out that some older studies did suggest that cosmetologists might be more likely to miscarry or give birth to smaller babies, but that these studies didn't take into account other aspects of mom's health like cigarette smoking, for example. To learn more about cosmetics and ingredients you should avoid while pregnant take a look at our Toxic Cosmetics Guide which includes ingredients to avoid in cosmetics while pregnant.

"Newer studies have not confirmed these findings, which might be due to the studies themselves being done better, and actual changes in the composition of many hair dyes," Hawk said. The actual amount of dye absorbed through the scalp is very small, not more than 1% of the applied dose, and highlights alone don't even touch the scalp.

But what about the physical strain of standing on one’s feet for a full eight-hour day, and the sometimes poor posture sometimes associated with doing hair and makeup? Can those negatively impact the baby or mother? Hawk cited a large study that compared hairdressers to sales clerks since both of these professions involve standing for long periods of time.

“Hairdressers didn’t have any increase in reproductive disorders above the sales clerks,” Hawk said. “[A person working] any job that involves standing for long periods of time should take regular break every two to three hours, however, and make sure they say well hydrated.”

Hawk also advises that it’s important to pay special attention to posture, since a woman’s center of balance changes during pregnancy. Some women find that wearing a belly band is helpful for this. As long as cosmetologists have proper working conditions, Hawk says, she “wouldn’t expect any risks above and beyond that of any other profession.” Pregnant cosmetology students or salon employees should work in a well-ventilated area, wear gloves when performing chemical services, and minimize the amount of chemicals they are exposed to. Given those conditions, Hawk says that attending cosmetology school or working as a cosmetologist while pregnant is just fine.

What about while a mother is nursing her infant? Should you wait to enroll or start work again? Hawk emphasized that breastfeeding has many benefits for both mom and baby, so mom should always be given regular opportunities for pumping if you are away from your baby to attend beauty school or work in the salon. Hydration is just as important here as when you were pregnant, and again, limit exposure to chemicals by wearing gloves and wash hands well before pumping or nursing.

The Strategy of Attending Beauty School While Pregnant

Now that we know that in the proper conditions attending cosmetology school while pregnant is safe, that still leaves the question of what happens if a pregnant mother-to-be or new mom with an infant must miss an extended period of time from school. Every beauty school has a different policy for either pregnancy or medical leave of absence. Some schools have trouble accommodating extended leaves of absence due to the short duration of most beauty programs, and may advise a student to drop the program and re-enroll after the baby is born, or in some extreme cases even charge someone for each day missed after a certain point. Cosmetology typically lasts 9 to 15 months depending on your state, and shorter programs like nail technology or esthetics and skin care can last as little as 3 to 6 months.

However because cosmetology schools usually enroll classes year-round, some schools take a slightly different approach and allow students to put their education on hold and return to it later. One such example of a school leaning on the medical leave of absence policy for maternity leave is Xenon International Academy in Olathe, Kansas.

“We have had prospective students who are already pregnant who have shown interest in our academy and have enrolled,” Xenon Director Laura Miller said. “We advise them that they are able to take up to a 60-day medical leave of absence. We do encourage them to try to make it through our core curriculum first, which is approximately 7 to 20 weeks, depending on the program,” Miller explained. “This is for their benefit, so they will have that core education for when they return from their leave of absence.”

Miller said that Xenon has not been advised of any safety concerns regarding pregnant students, but they do help pregnant students work on different services if the smells of certain chemical processes (like perm solution) bother them. But if their doctor expresses concern, they say they’re happy to make arrangements to help the student during their pregnancy.

Notify your school officials as soon as possible if you become pregnant so they can help you make arrangements to finish your education in a timely manner and not lose the time, money and energy you’ve already invested in getting your training hours. And at the end of the day, every person and every pregnancy is different. We always recommend that you talk to your OB directly about safety concerns with attending cosmetology school.

Do you attend or work for a cosmetology school? What is your beauty school's pregnancy policy?