Pregnancy causes significant hormonal changes in the body. It affects your skin and hair in many ways, positive and negative. While many women graciously accept the anticipated "pregnancy glow," a period of clear, radiant skin and thick, luscious pregnancy hair, postpartum can sing a different tune.
For many women, postpartum hair loss is a significant feat they must overcome as their hormones return to normal. Unfortunately, many family dermatologists and family physicians do not understand the emotional toll of post-pregnancy hair loss on women.
Here's what you need to know.
Is hair loss after pregnancy normal?
Absolutely! According to the American Pregnancy Association, postpartum hair loss affects between 40 - 50% of women. Hair shedding, also known as telogen effluvium, typically occurs 3 - 4 months after a stressful event (in this case, birth), which means most moms start seeing significant hair loss around the 3 month mark.
What causes postpartum hair loss?
When you are pregnant, your body produces high levels of estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is a hair-friendly hormone that helps keep hair in the anagen (growth) phase for extended periods. This is why women find their hair is shinier, thicker, and fuller during pregnancy.
After giving birth, the estrogen hormone levels begin to revert to normal. This prompts the hair to transition from the anagen phase to the hair cycle's telogen (resting) phase. The hair follicles rest for several weeks, then transition to the exogen (shedding) phase. During this period, women notice increased hair shedding, up to 400 hairs per day - compared to the standard rate of 80 - 100 hairs per day. New mothers often lose a lot of hair during this phase, as all of the new hair growth that occurs during pregnancy will most likely fall out.
Other causes for pregnancy hair loss include breastfeeding, which can deplete the body from micronutrients, and stress and sleep deprivation that slows the metabolism and keeps the hair follicles in their resting phase.
What does postpartum hair loss look like, and how long will it last?
You may notice increased hair shedding, especially while showering, brushing, and styling the hair. Often, hair loss occurs around the hairline. In most cases, hair shedding will slow down around 6 - 7 months postpartum. That said, for women with a genetic background of thin hair or baldness, hair may not regrow to its pre-pregnancy glory.
How can you treat postpartum hair loss?
While it's normal to face hair thinning after pregnancy, it doesn't mean it's a welcomed reaction! Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to prevent postpartum hair loss, but there are treatments you can try to combat thinning hair to make your hair healthier and appear fuller.
Do less to your hair
Skip the hairdryer and fancy styling tools until the thinning tapers out. Wash your hair less often and use sulfate-free products in the hair to give your locks some room to breathe and adjust. Brushing too hard can also exasperate hair shedding, so be sure to use a gentle brush when needed. If you are putting your hair up, don't use an elastic hair tie - opt for a hair clip or soft scrunchie instead to minimize potential damage.
Focus on incorporating nutritious foods
Prioritizing your nutrition is one of the best things you can do postpartum. Not only will it help you get rid of unwanted pregnancy weight, but it'll also play a massive part in your hair and skin health! Include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins into your daily rotation to ensure your body is getting what it needs. Some foods that are thought to improve hair health include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Greek yogurt
- Dark berries
Use volumizing products
Products such as volumizing shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in treatments can help add body to your hair and maintain a lustrous, full look. These products often contain ingredients like protein that help coat the hair and protect it from further damage.
Attempt to limit stress
Stress hormones such as cortisol can wreak havoc on the hair cycle. It's easier said than done with a newborn, but limiting stress can help reduce the number of hormone imbalances in your body. Accept help when offered and try to rest as much as possible. Meditation and gentle exercises such as postnatal yoga and neighborhood walks can also help mitigate stress.
Try minoxidil products
If you are not breastfeeding, and you have a genetic background of thin hair or baldness, you may want to consider minoxidil 2%. Minoxidil is an over-the-counter, FDA-approved treatment that can help stimulate regrowth by prolonging the hair's growth phase and increasing blood flow to the scalp.
What are the best supplements for postpartum hair loss?
Supporting your hair from the inside out can be one of the best ways to strengthen strands during this postpartum transition period. Many new moms will continue taking their prenatal vitamins well after delivery to support overall health. In addition, here are some great supplements to incorporate into your routine. Please speak with your doctor or dermatologist before taking a new supplement if you are breastfeeding.
B complex vitamins and biotin
B-vitamins can promote hair growth by creating red blood cells that help carry oxygen and nutrients to your scalp. Natural sources of B-vitamins include leafy greens, seafood, lean proteins, and whole grains, but various supplements are available on the market to help address any nutritional deficiencies.
Vitamin A plays a crucial part in cell growth, including hair cells. It also contributes to sebum (oil) production to protect hair strands and keep the scalp moisturized and healthy. Natural sources of Vitamin A include kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggs, and beef liver.
Zinc is an essential antioxidant responsible for cell division and wound healing. It also helps fortify hair and allows it to thrive. Natural sources of zinc include spinach, lentils, pumpkin seeds, and chickpeas.
We all know that collagen supplements can help with our bones and joint health. Recent research has shown that it can be beneficial for our skin and help boost hair regrowth. Dermatologists believe that collagen supplements can also help with postpartum hair loss.
Collagen is made of amino acids, which your body uses to build keratin in the hair. Consuming collagen peptides can replenish the loss of proteins during pregnancy and provide the building blocks needed for growing new hair. Less collagen in the scalp skin makes it weaker and more prone to hair shedding. The amino acids in collagen supplements enhance the body's ability to produce healthier, thicker hair.
The most important collagen for growing hair and healthier skin is collagen type I. It was shown to improve the elasticity and hydration of the skin and helps with hair regrowth more than the other types of collagen. Marine Collagen has more type I collagen per gram than bovine collagen; it is the best for hair regrowth. Adding hyaluronic acid and vitamin C to the collagen supplements makes it even more effective. Hyaluronic acid is a major building block of skin and hair and helps with hydration, and vitamin C is essential in building new keratin.
Probiotics are known to promote a healthy gut microbiome that can support the production of hair-loving nutrients. Additionally, probiotics can help regulate the hormones that control the hair growth phase transition.
The takeaway about postpartum hair loss
Dealing with hair loss may seem like a small price to pay for bringing a small, miniature version of yourself into the world - but that doesn't mean it's any less frustrating.
Remember that postpartum hair loss is normal and it is temporary. There are products and treatments available to help bring some normalcy to your hair. A combination of vitamins and minerals, along with the proper hair care routine, can decrease the amount of hair you lose after having a baby.
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