Pregnancy comes with a whole host of beneficial beauty side effects: glowing skin, fuller hair, stronger nails. Unfortunately, most of these benefits are short-lived, and many women struggle with their postpartum beauty repertoire thanks to things like acne flare-ups, dryness, and stretch marks. One such plight nearly 50% of women face after giving birth to their little one? Postpartum hair loss. Contrary to popular belief, postpartum hair loss isn’t due to a lack of sleep or the overall stress of having a newborn. In fact, noticing clumps of hair on your hairbrush or your shower floor is actually a normal biological response and is only temporary (emphasis on the words “normal” and “temporary”).
If your ponytail feels lighter than it used to or you notice what seems to be a family of broken hairs at your hairline, you’re likely one of many mothers going through postpartum hair loss. Feeling like you’re losing your hair be a bit of a shock. Okay, a lot of a shock. On the bright side, most women don’t go from having thick, luscious hair to sporting bald spots on their scalp, and there are ways to manage it during this awkward grow out phase. Keep scrolling to learn why excessive hair shedding post-baby occurs, how to decipher how much shedding is normal, and how to keep your hair looking as fabulous as it did during your pregnancy.
Why Does Postpartum Hair Loss Occur?
For nine or ten months you had the hair of your dreams — it was thick, shiny, and gave hair commercial models a run for their money. But a few months after giving birth you’ve woken up from the dream to a head of thin, loose strands that seems to fall out in chunks. That newborn baby smile looking back at you was well worth it, but all of these hair changes can leave you in a state of panic wondering if your mane will ever go back to normal. The answer is yes.
“When a woman is pregnant, excessive secretion of female hormones will occur,” says Dr. William Yates, MD FACS. “This will allow hair follicles to stay in their growth cycle (anagen) and the hair will grow longer and stronger than normal.” During postpartum, however, it’s normal for hair loss to occur because there is an abrupt drop in hormones (namely, estrogen), which causes the hair to become "startled" and shed as a result. Just think of it as your hair shedding nine months worth of hair follicles.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, postpartum hair loss is not actually true hair loss — it’s “excessive hair shedding caused by falling estrogen levels.” The good news? The shedding doesn’t last forever. Postpartum shedding typically lasts six months, with many women experiencing "peak" shedding between three and four months, Dr. Yates tells TZR. And while it’s normal for a person to shed 100 to 150 hairs a day, if you are still shedding by your child’s first birthday, Dr. Yates says a visit to your dermatologist or family doctor may be in order.
Postpartum shedding can show up in a few ways, says BosleyMD certified trichologist Gretchen Friese. “Sometimes, the hair falls out all over the head where other times clumps may come out when brushing or in the shower. Often, women lose hair around their hairline, so their hair looks very fine in the front,” explains Friese. But rest assured — it won’t all happen overnight and you won’t suddenly wake up with a bald spot. Even better, there are ways to treat it.
How To Manage Postpartum Hair Loss
Consider Your Diet
A healthy diet is important to hair health and growth. For luscious locks, Friese recommends consuming foods rich in biotin, like eggs, as well as omegas like fatty fish and nuts. Protein and green leafy vegetables that contain vitamin B (think: broccoli and spinach) should also be added to your regular meals. Finally, steer clear from processed foods and refined sugar, which can shrink hair follicles or cause them to fall out.
Use Root Touch Up Sprays
Those short hairs that you’re convinced are broken baby hairs around your temples aren’t actually breakage at all. Friese says that these ‘tufts’ of short hair are really just hairs growing back in areas where you’ve lost it. While you’re giving it time to grow out fully, try a tinted root touch up spray, which can temporarily fill in any “bald” spots and make hair appear thicker in areas of need.
Avoid Tight Hairstyles
Between spit up and washing baby bottles, a topknot or ponytail is the hairstyle of choice for many new mothers. However, both Friese and Dr. Yates warn against tight hairstyles, as they can pull on the hair follicles. The constant pulling can not only cause your hair to fall out, but it can lead to breakage, which can make your strands appear even thinner. Instead, opt for hairstyles that don’t require tension (aka loose braids), and if a ponytail is a must, opt for an elastic that doesn’t have a metal bar. A claw clip is also an easy and chic way of securing your hair without that added tension.
Mind Your Scalp
A healthy scalp is step one of proper hair growth and overall stronger locks. Think: products tailored specifically for this area, such as scalp exfoliators that ward off product buildup and flakiness, as well as scalp toners that rebalance your scalp’s pH levels. Massaging your scalp — either with a scalp brush or even just your fingertips — can also help, as it improves circulation to the hair follicles, which creates a healthy environment for hair growth. In fact, in one study, a daily four-minute scalp massage over a span of three weeks helped improve hair thickness for the subjects compared to the baseline group without any hair or scalp stimulation. A little extra self-care time never hurts for new mothers, right?
Try Hair Growth Supplements
If you’re really struggling with hair loss, hair growth supplements may be worth looking into. Look for ones that contain antioxidants (such as vitamins C and E), as these help support a healthy scalp. Biotin and zinc, of which many hair growth supplements are made of, are also heavy-hitters when it comes to encouraging hair growth. Whatever supplement you choose, make sure to speak with your doctor beforehand. And remember — these aren’t FDA-approved, so if you’re looking for a miracle cure-all, you won’t find it in a bottle of supplements. It’s better to stick to a healthy diet, take good care of your hair, and have plenty of patience (and add in a supplement if you see fit) as your hair grows back in.
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