Postpartum Hair Loss: What Really Happens to Your Hair After Pregnancy
Experts weigh in on what can happen to your hair after giving birth because the struggle is real. Here's what to know and how to minimize the trauma that can accompany postpartum hair loss.
As it turns out, pregnancy doesn't just change a woman's body—it can also cause some strange, unexpected changes in her hair. The bad news? You might notice some excessive shedding a few months after you welcome your baby.
The good news? It's probably not forever—and in a strange way, that excess shedding may actually keep your hair looking...pretty much exactly the way it did before you got pregnant.
Here's everything you need to know about postpartum hair loss.
- RELATED: Your Postpartum Body: What to Expect
Why You Lose It
During pregnancy you may have been thrilled with your thick and lustrous mane of hair. Except for some dryness (which a little deep conditioning takes care of) you may have thought, wow, pregnancy has finally given my hair some life! But then once you have your baby — poof! You're alarmed, even shocked, to find that your hair seems to be falling out.
“During pregnancy there are lots of hormonal shifts happening and one thing that those hormonal shifts do is promote hair growth," says dermatologist Sejal Shah, M.D. "They’re actually preventing you from shedding—you shed every day, everyone sheds every day, but if you really pay attention, typically during pregnancy you don’t have that daily shedding. After pregnancy, once your hormones go back to normal, there’s a drop in estrogen. What that does is it sort of triggers that shedding to resume. But keep in mind: You’ve not been shedding for several months at this time. That hair that's been sticking to your head needs to come out.”
The phenomena is called telogen effluvium. "Generally with telogen effluvium, there's some sort of event—in this situation it's giving birth, but there can be other causes—basically a larger amount of your hair than normal is triggered to enter this resting/shedding phase," Dr. Shah said. "It takes about three months for that hair to shed out. That's why most people notice shedding around the three-month postpartum mark.
No, You're Not Going Bald
This is a temporary phase, and it's unlikely that your hair will go from extra-thick to barely there, but everyone's hormonal shift will manifest itself differently.
"It's a very natural process," Dr. Shah said. "If you have shedding postpartum, it's quite normal. It eventually will sort of go back to your normal."
But if your hair has been feeling especially thin, don't fret. While there are exceptions, Dr. Shah reassured us that most of the time, that hair loss will spontaneously normalize. "The time to recovery varies. In some people it's three months, in some people it's six months. Occasionally it can last a year," she said.
Can you stop this hair loss? Probably not, but you may be able to control it. According to Dr. Shah, good nutrition is essential for postpartum women, and it can help keep your hair strong, healthy and intact, at least to some degree. Don't skimp on your protein and iron intake! On the flipside, if the shedding seems out the ordinary, you may want to check in with your doctor to check for thyroid disorders or other health issues.
Dealing with Postpartum Hair Loss
Sometimes hair falls out all over your head. Or clumps may come out when you brush it, or in the shower. However, often women just lose a lot around their hairline, so that their hair looks very fine in the front, or as if they're going bald, says Stephanie Scuoppo, a hairstylist at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon and Spa in New York City.
Here's how to keep your hair looking good during this hairy transition:
1. Try a new cut and color.
First and foremost, pay a visit to a stylist for professional advice, says Scuoppo. It may be time to get a different hairstyle that will incorporate those fine hairs in the front. If you previously had long hair, or a layered cut with pieces that came down to the chin in the front, you may need to shorten that hair into long bangs that frame the face.
Celebrity stylist Oribe (whose clients include Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow) agrees that it's a good idea to go shorter in the front. Sexy, short-in-the-middle, longer-at-the-sides Brigitte Bardot bangs would look great, says Oribe. Layering your hair all over will also give you more fullness.
Coloring your hair is also a great way to give it body, says Scuoppo. If you feel that your hairline is receding and you have dark hair, highlighting the front can act as a camouflage. Or try glossing, a treatment that gives hair all-over shine.
2. Keep hair moussed and moist.
Oribe also says that using the right products can give the illusion of fullness. Look for a volumizing mousse at the drugstore or salon. Also, always use a conditioner or a leave-in hair moisturizer after shampooing.
3. Change the part.
If you normally part your hair in the middle, a side part can disguise thinning hair at the temples.
4. Add texture.
Sleek, straight hairstyles make thinning hair more obvious. If you usually blow out your curly or wavy hair, now may be the time to go with your natural curl. If you have straight hair, try using Velcro rollers or a curling iron to give your locks some oomph, says Scuoppo.
5. Wear hair ornaments.
Headbands, scarves, and bandannas are fun and stylish ways to disguise hair loss. They're especially popular with new moms who have little time to devote to hair care!