Panicked about hair shedding following pregnancy? Don’t be, it's completely normal and extremely common. Here's how to deal with the fallout while it grows back
The sleepless nights, a crying baby…new motherhood is already filled with enough stress and so it doesn’t seem fair that hair loss should factor in too. The ‘post-pregnancy shed’ can be quite the shock but the good news? It’s totally normal, pretty common and your hair will grow back.
Post-partum hair loss affects a significant proportion of us - 50 per cent according to one recent survey - and while stress can be a cause, fluctuating hormone levels has an even greater effect. “During pregnancy, raised oestrogen levels keep hairs in their anagen (growth) phase for longer than usual,” explains trichologist Anabel Kingsley . This means that hair can feel and look thicker throughout pregnancy. However after delivery, levels return rather speedily back to normal, causing hairs to switch from their growth to shedding phase (called telogen) and result in larger amounts of hair shedding than we're used to. Breastfeeding can also contribute to this due to increases in levels of the hormone, prolactin, which is connected with hair loss too.
Severity varies from woman to woman and can range from finding a few extra strands on your hairbrush to finding balls of the stuff in the shower. For our Managing Director Gemma Bellman, who gave birth a year ago, it was quite gradual and occurred mostly around her hairline. She didn’t notice the hair loss so much as the hair regrowth, or more specifically, her ‘baby fringe’ - the undefined, wispy bits of hair that start to emerge around the hairline and temples in the months after childbirth. “My ‘baby fringe’ really kicked in around nine months post-partum,” she recalls. Finding ways to style it out while it grows out is the area she’s found particularly tricky to deal with. “It's constantly hovering around me and is almost impossible to tame. As it's still so short it has this kind of anti-gravity thing going on - like a little hairy halo I'm forced to wear everyday!”
As seen with Gemma, most cases of post-partum hair loss will resolve themselves and normally won’t result in permanent hair loss. “If post-partum hair fall is going to occur, it must be left to run its course,” says Anabel. “But try not to worry, the loss is only temporary and all hairs lost should grow back as usual.” It should settle down over the course of six to 12 months.
If you're struggling through the transitory period, your time and money are best spent on creating fertile conditions for healthy hair regrowth, volumising products and hair thickening cuts. From styling tip-offs to what to eat and what to ask your hairdresser for, here’s how to best deal with the fallout.
1. Stimulate your scalp
A healthy scalp means healthy hair, especially after pregnancy. Following a hair care regime inspired by your facial one is an approach recommended by a range of experts and includes weekly exfoliation, cleansing, moisturising and in some cases, even toning - which can be especially helpful if you suffer from a dry and itchy scalp .
Exfoliators range from beady scrubs to more sophisticatedly formulated chemical ones containing AHAs and BHAs (see my top scalp exfoliator picks here ) and as with the skin, serve as an effective way to slough off dead skin cells and remove product build-up to clear the way for new hairs. A daily scalp massage using just your fingers can also be a helpful way to boost blood circulation, stimulate the scalp and reduce stress.
Anabel also recommends incorporating anti-androgenic scalp drops into your routine such as Philip Kingsley’s Tricho 7 , £50, to further optimise the scalp environment. Containing protective antioxidants, including green tea extract, methyl nicotinate to enlarge blood capillaries and increase blood circulation, and piroctone olamine, an anti-flaking agent, it gives budding hairs a helping hand to blossom as well as shielding the ones you have already.
Specialist in-salon treatments can also be a great way to improve your scalp health too. “ Hari’s Mighty Mineral Mask , from £50, an all-natural mud mask, is prescribed for sensitive scalps and is perfect for post-partum hair care,” says Craig. “Rich in copper and iron, and packed with protein, the green lotus powder works as an anti-inflammatory for angry scalps, volume booster for lifeless hair and protection against thinning locks.”
2. Eat more protein and iron-rich foods
A well-balanced diet is vital for giving the hair the fuel it needs to grow at any life stage. However, after childbirth, it becomes especially important. “As your system rebalances, your hair is going to be last on your body’s list of priorities to nourish and it often needs some extra internal support,” says Anabel. She recommends eating “nutrient-rich meals that contain plenty of protein and iron.” Protein-rich foods include eggs, fish, lean meats, poultry, quinoa, lentils, nuts and chickpeas. Iron-rich foods include red meat, spinach, almonds, walnuts and beetroot.
3. Consider supplements
Anabel also recommends taking a multivitamin to help boost levels such as Philip Kingsley Tricho Complex , £45. This can be especially helpful if your diet’s lacking in the above foods. Consultant trichologist Iain Sallis also recommends a protein supplement like Hair Jelly , £29.95, which includes a wide array of essential amino acids as well as strengthening B-vitamin, biotin.
To improve iron levels (which Iain points out can dwindle for many women after childbirth), he also recommends Florisene for Women , £19.50, which contains an absorbable type of iron alongside essential amino acid L-lysine, biotin and selenium which help promote hair growth. It should take around three months to see a difference.
Hari’s Creative Director Craig Taylor and hair stylist Paul Edmonds also recommend the supplement, Viviscal , £22.49. Kate Hudson is also reported to be a fan, having taken it after the birth of her children. “I have seen the effects of it used by clients and models I regularly work with,” Craig tells us. “Before and after taking it, I have seen incredible results, where in the past I have often used hair extensions to help thicken up their hair. You must keep up taking the supplement and follow the instructions exactly though." Rich in biotin and zinc, it helps feed follicles from the inside out.
4. Don’t fear washing your hair
Often the sight of an increased strand-count in the shower post-pregnancy, can make you want to put off washing it. However, stopping washing your hair as much because of fears of accelerating the hair loss is something you needn't be worried about. “You will lose the same amount of hairs whether or not you wash your hair once a week or once per day, this really has no impact on hair fall,” says Iain. Left washing your hair a few more days? He warns not to be alarmed by the extra fallout. "You'll have lost the same amount of hairs per day but ’saved them up’ for when it's washed...which can be very traumatic!"
How often should you wash it? If your hair's a little sensitised after giving birth, aim for two to three times a week. “Don’t wash your hair too much or too vigorously and don’t go overboard on product - this will dry the hair out causing it to break easily and appear even thinner,” advises Craig. “Use gentle pressure to help reduce the stress to the scalp and hair.” Keeping your scalp clean will also aid healthier hair regrowth.
5. Wear softer styles
Waiting for your ‘baby bangs’ to mature can result in a range of growing pains and finding ways to deal with them in the interim can be particularly tricky. The secret to styling them out though, lies in choosing less tension-fuelling hairstyles. As Craig points out: "Avoid drawing attention to them too much or making the problem worse by avoiding tight, pulled back styles such as ponytails and topknots."
This is a strategy that Gemma’s also found particularly helpful. “I find wearing my hair down, rather than slicked back in a pony or bun, helps to hide my hairy halo best,” she says. Her daughter’s collection of sparkly hair clips also come in handy. “When on mummy duty, I share my daughter's fabulous array of tiny glittery clips (Primark all the way) to pin it down - though this look doesn't make it out of the house (much)!”
6. Try a ‘gringe’
Seen on the likes of Kate Middleton and Sienna Miller after they had their children, having a ‘gringe’ or grown out fringe cut in can be used as a stealthy way to allow your 'baby fringe' to grow undetected underneath. “A sweeping fringe is great for framing your face and disguising the ‘baby fringe,’” advises Craig. “It’s just enough to give a new mum the sense and confidence of a new look, without being too demanding in terms of maintenance and styling time. It’s also more versatile than a shorter, more solid fringe, so allows for changes in length and style.”
Work with your stylist to decide the best length and style to suit your hair texture and density and provide as many details as you can about your current hair regime - if you don’t have much time in the mornings, make sure to let them know so that you don't end up with a fringe that requires half an hour’s worth of smoothing, straightening and styling.
7. Go for a blunt cut
When it comes to the rest of your haircut, opting for a slightly shorter and and heavier style can help hair to appear fuller and thicker. It’s an approach favoured by hair stylist Paul Edmonds both for expectant and new mums. “I like to create a maximum look for minimum care - blunt edged bobs softened with internal layers and those with longer layers, kept blunt. Once the baby is born these styles are often far more manageable, as we all know finding the time to even shower and style the hair is almost impossible!” Blunter cuts are also a great way to give longer styles extra weight too.
8. Use a volumising shampoo
To prevent roots from falling flat, a volumising shampoo can make a world of difference. Today’s formulations serve multiple purposes - noticeable lift that doesn’t weigh hair down and hydration too. Shu Uemura Muroto Volume Shampoo , £18.80, (as well as the conditioner and treatment in the range) is a prime example of this and Paul’s top pick. Containing mineral-rich deep sea water and Himalayan crystals it leaves hair both fuller and healthier looking.
L'Oreal Professionnel Mythic Oil Nourishing Shampoo , £12.40, is also a great option, and Craig’s top pick thanks to its moisturising cocktail of argan oil and myrrh extract - the ideal combo for hair that’s dull and dehydrated.
9. Try a little alcohol...
It goes without saying that after childbirth, you deserve a drink. But hair can also benefit from a bit of a buzz too courtesy of your hair thickening products. “While using products that use alcohol are considered to be unkind for hair, it is by far the best ingredient for thickening and hold,” says Craig. “This has been the case for the last century and still is today. I use hair mousses and setting lotions for prepping hair to create a thicker, more swollen texture for hold and building body. Experiment with different products to find what works best for your hair type and how you like your hair to feel.”
Try Charles Worthington’s new Thicker and Fuller Densifying Mousse , £7.99, and EIMI’s Volume Perfect Setting Lotion Spray , £9.50, to provide added bounce and body to fine hair.
Alcohol can be drying though, so balance it with nourishing shampoos, conditioners and hair masks. Gemma loves Løre in this regard - a range of six multi-tasking formulas designed to simplify your hair care regime and is unisex too (just make sure your partner doesn’t have easy access to it!). If you’re looking for an at-home leave-in, Coco and Eve Like a Virgin Nourishing Coconut & Fig Hair Masque , £34.50, is a seriously hydrating choice (and even comes with a handy detangling brush for smoother application) as is Sachjuan’s Overnight Hair Repair , £35, in case you’re looking for something that works while you sleep. When you’re finally able to that is.
10. Use a gentler brush
Hair can be brittle after pregnancy and that dreaded ‘snap’ when you’re gliding your hairbrush through it is one sound you don’t want to hear when fear of shedding is on the mind. In order to prevent unwanted snags, Craig recommends avoiding over-brushing and investing in a good-quality brush like the Tangle Teezer , £11, to ease knots without pulling. I’m also a massive fan of the new Manta Brush , £25, an innovatively shaped and bristled number created for breakage-prone hair types, as well as Kent’s Oooh That’s Nice Hairbrush , £13.73, for providing a blissful de-stressing scalp massage when on baby duty.