Many women experience their best hair days during pregnancy. Hair grows fuller, shinier, and healthier as the body ramps up its estrogen and androgen production. Unfortunately, however, those glorious hair days don’t often stick around once the baby arrives.
Hair loss is a natural and common condition that may affect women after childbirth, and it’s only one of the significant hair changes many women experience postpartum. Here’s everything you need to know about postpartum hair loss and what you can do about it.
What Causes Postpartum Hair Loss?
First, it’s important to note that postpartum hair loss is different from regular hair loss. Dermatologists refer to postpartum hair loss as excessive hair shedding.
Hair typically grows in cycles:
- Growing phase
- Resting phase
- Shedding phase
However, during pregnancy, the drastic changes in the body’s hormones, namely estrogen, cause most of your hair to stay in a growing phase. Typically, women shed up to 100 hairs a day, but this slows down considerably during pregnancy.
After your baby arrives, hormone levels change drastically again. Estrogen levels fall, and the full, thick, shiny pregnancy hair goes into a shedding phase. Since the falling estrogen levels cause so much of your hair to go into the shedding stage at once, postpartum hair loss can be substantial and make you feel self-conscious.
When Does Postpartum Hair Loss Begin?
Many women are surprised to learn that postpartum hair loss doesn’t begin immediately after their baby is born. Instead, the excessive hair shedding starts around three to four months postpartum, with peak postpartum hair loss typically occurring at approximately five months and continuing for up to a year.
Most moms find their hair shedding slows down at about six months postpartum. But for some, postpartum hair loss can take longer than expected to begin, with some nursing mothers not noticing their shower drains beginning to clog until about a year after giving birth.
How to Stop Postpartum Hair Loss
The good news is that hair loss postpartum should resolve on its own. But if seeing tumbleweeds of hair floating across your bathroom floor is unbearable, there are treatments that can help.
Get a New Mom Haircut
While “mom cuts” may get a bad rap, the truth is that sleepless nights and hormone drops make a wash-and-go style much more desirable once your baby arrives. As an added benefit, a shorter cut can hide thinning hair by creating more volume, giving your hair a fresh new look and blending in new hair regrowth.
One more benefit of a new ‘do? Shorter hair is more challenging for tiny baby fists to snatch and yank, which can be surprisingly painful!
Detangle Before Showering
Avoid cleaning out your shower drains mid-shower by thoroughly brushing and detangling your hair before washing. First, we recommend treating your hair with Kavella’s Scalp and Hair Oil to stimulate new growth and protect your hair, then gently brushing and detangling your dry hair before washing.
Hair is most fragile when wet and strongest when dry, so working out any knots on dry hair will keep it as healthy as possible. Curly and textured hair types are the exception to that rule. In those cases, detangle the hair after treating it with a quality conditioner.
Choose a Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner
Weighty conditioners and hair products may aggravate hair loss postpartum. Choosing volumizing shampoos and conditioners that contain protein make it look fuller while not weighing it down. The hydrolyzed rice protein found in Kavella’s Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner increases hair volume by 12.3% after just one wash.
In contrast, heavy shampoos and conditioners can make hair look limp and put too much pressure on the hairs’ roots, accelerating shedding.
Take Care of Yourself
Eating well and taking your prenatal vitamins can go a long way toward keeping you and your hair looking and feeling their best. So make sure you and your hair get all the nutrients you need.
It’s easy to focus so much on your newborn that you forget to prioritize your needs, but you need to be healthy both physically and mentally so you’re strong enough to care for your little one.
Avoid Tight Hairstyles and Elastics
Pulling on your hair and scalp only puts more strain on your hair at the roots, so embrace loose buns and low ponytails until your hair shedding levels out. You can also avoid breaking or pulling at hair unnecessarily by using scrunchies, scarves, or barrettes to put your hair up instead of elastics.
Other Postpartum Hair Issues
While postpartum hair loss may be the most discussed hair change new moms experience, it’s not the only one. The hormone fluctuations during and after pregnancy cause all sorts of surprising hair challenges.
Over 90% of pregnant women report changes in their skin, with many of those skin changes lasting or even increasing postpartum. One of the most prevailing skin issues pregnant women report is dry, itchy skin, especially on the scalp.
What Causes Itchy Scalp Postpartum?
The reasons new moms suffer from itchy scalps vary, but they tend to have a cumulative effect. The same hormone fluctuations that cause postpartum hair loss, dehydration (especially for nursing mothers), and physical and emotional stress are all factors that drive postpartum scalp itch.
And a constantly itchy scalp is not necessarily a minor issue. Often the itchy scalp symptoms are exasperating and feel never ending. It can even interfere with a new mom’s most precious commodity: her sleep.
Postpartum itchiness is commonly worse at the scalp, which has more nerves, blood vessels, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands than the rest of the skin. These factors make the scalp more susceptible to specific skin issues, like the postpartum itchy scalp.
Additionally, the itchy scalp problem can open you up to other scalp issues and irritations.
What Other Scalp Issues Come with Itchy Scalp?
Postpartum itchy scalp frequently coincides with postpartum hair loss, and one can aggravate the other. In addition to this, many new moms also report experiencing a trifecta of hair and scalp issues once dandruff appears, adding to their itchy scalp and hair loss.
The hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy can cause the skin and scalp to become more oily, causing itchy skin and dandruff, and even flaking and scaling of the scalp.
How to Treat an Itchy Scalp?
The good news is that many postpartum hair loss treatments also treat postpartum itchy scalp issues. How can you stop postpartum hair loss and balance the oil that causes dandruff and itchy scalp?
Pretreating the Scalp
Kavella’s Scalp and Hair Oil serves as an essential element in evening out the skin on the scalp. With rosemary and thyme to stimulate hair growth and reduce itching and dandruff, soothing peppermint and anti-fungal cedarwood, the essential oil blend works to calm the scalp while stimulating hair growth.
In addition, the Kavella scalp and hair oil offers antioxidants, DHT inhibitors, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Treating the scalp 10 minutes before shampooing can calm irritation and reduce bacteria buildup.
Choosing the Right Shampoo and Conditioner
A scalp treatment alone may be enough for some moms to remedy itchy scalp symptoms. Still, if your itchy scalp is aggravating, or if you are also experiencing dandruff and hair loss, you may want to ramp up your treatments by adding Kavella’s Clarifying Shampoo.
This clarifying shampoo treatment detoxifies the scalp, reducing oil buildup and increasing circulation with aloe vera, rosemary, thyme, and willow bark. Pair with either Healing Tea Conditioner or the Volumizing Conditioner mentioned above to keep hair from feeling weighed down.
For fine hair, focus your shampoo on the roots and conditioner on the ends to avoid the hair from feeling weighed down. Additionally, if you’re struggling with an oily scalp, conditioning the scalp will only make the skin feel oilier, so apply your conditioner to the ends of your hair to keep your scalp free of buildup.
Wash Hair and Scalp Regularly
While this may feel like a big chore when you’re barely sleeping and your baby doesn’t want to be put down, taking the time to treat your scalp and wash your hair at least twice a week will help reduce buildup and itchiness.
However, washing your hair every day may have the opposite effect. If you wash your hair daily, you may strip your hair of the natural oils it needs to maintain a balance in the fight against dandruff and dry scalp. Instead, aim for two to three scalp treatments and shampoos a week to keep your hair and scalp healthy.
Hair Texture Changes
While it’s less common, hair texture may change during and after pregnancy. Women may end up with thicker, thinner, curlier, or straighter hair than they had pre-pregnancy.
What Causes Hair Texture Changes Postpartum?
While hormones are to blame, changes in hair texture are a little more complicated than just fluctuating estrogen.
The gene for straight hair is recessive, meaning unless both parents have it, you’re not likely to get it. However, the gene for curly hair isn’t completely dominant. So you can have the gene for curly hair, and it could lie dormant until it’s activated. Which means your hair would be straight.
Fluctuating hormones, stress, and age can all activate a dormant gene. Women often experience hormone-related changes in their hair texture during puberty, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause.
Hormones can also affect muscles. Muscle tone changes can affect the shape of hair follicles and their direction of growth. For example, straight hair follicles grow straight, but curly hair follicles have more hook shapes.
How to Manage a New Hair Texture?
If your new hair texture persists for over a year after giving birth, it’s likely to stay that way. Embracing your new hair is the first step. Women whose hair went from straight to curly may feel like their hair just got frizzy. However, when you treat curly hair like straight hair, it becomes frizzy.
Figuring out what your hair is trying to do allows you to work with your new hair. But, of course, the best resource you have in embracing your new hair is your stylist, who can help you determine a cut and style that work for your hair, regardless of its texture changes.
Unfortunately, scheduling a hair appointment isn’t always high on new moms’ priority lists, so in the meantime, here are some common texture changes that new mothers notice and how to work with them.
Curls benefit from air drying as much as possible, or from using a diffuser if you need to blow dry. Regardless, take some time to reduce the moisture in your hair as best as possible to limit the amount of time you expose your curly hair to heat.
After washing, apply styling products and wrap hair in a microfiber towel or a t-shirt to absorb excess water and reduce frizz. Then use a volumizing mousse and coax hair into a curl pattern with finger coils to give curls back their natural lift.
Newly Wavy Hair
New waves have the added benefit of making hair look fuller, despite the ravages of postpartum hair loss. A key element of going from straight to wavy hair is keeping the hair and scalp hydrated.
Naturally wavy hair benefits from some grit and texture to hold it in place and give you easy, naturally beachy waves. After showering, apply Salty Sugar Texture Spray to sections of hair and twist hair, and scrunch it up toward the scalp.
Newly Straight Hair
In contrast, straight hair often benefits from heat styling to get that shiny, glossy look. After showering:
- Apply a leave-in treatment that smooths hair and reduces frizz.
- Apply a heat protectant spray throughout your hair before blow-drying.
- If you use hot tools after drying, reapply heat protectant spray, but allow hair to dry completely before applying hot tools.
If you’re still at a loss for managing your new hair texture, check out some of the our previous blogs for styling straight and curly hair, or go to YouTube to find videos on fast and easy hairstyles for your new hair texture.