When you go through pregnancy, you may be expecting plenty of uncomfortable side effects over the course of 40 weeks; however, the fun doesn’t stop there. Despite reading all the baby books, I was still taken aback by how long I experienced postpartum side effects, which can range from mood changes to incontinence if you have a vaginal birth. And around three months postpartum, one of the longest-lasting effects kicked in: postpartum hair loss.
Despite expecting it, I still found I was shocked at how much hair I lost, and even more so by how long it has taken to grow back in. I spoke with Christina Han, MD FRCPC, a board-certified dermatologist at False Creek Dermatology, to learn more about what causes postpartum hair loss and what can be done to help.
What is postpartum hair loss?
“Postpartum hair loss is related to a drop in hormone levels after pregnancy,” explains Dr. Han. “Pregnancy hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are present at high levels to sustain a pregnancy, but after delivery, these levels drop and can trigger hairs to fall out.”
For most people, postpartum hair loss begins around three to four months after a baby is born and can last up to six months. Regrowth can start any time around that point, but, as Dr. Han points out, it progresses slowly. In fact, she shared that it’s about one centimeter per month, so it can take several months for there to really be noticeable regrowth.
The severity of hair loss can also differ from person to person. “Depending on how much hair someone has at baseline, some people can experience worse and/or more noticeable postpartum hair loss than others,” says Dr. Han. “Rarely, some people can progress to genetic hair loss after postpartum hair loss, in which case it can be progressively chronic without further treatment. If there is no improvement in the hair loss, then it is time to see a doctor to rule out other causes of hair loss.” Common hair loss causes include stress, aggressive brushing, vitamin D deficiency, and hormones.
Solutions for postpartum hair loss
It can be very frustrating to hear this in the midst of postpartum hair loss, but one of the biggest solutions? Time. At 11 months postpartum, I am currently rocking some two-inch baby hairs around my hairline. This, Dr. Han explains, isn’t out of the ordinary. “I reassure my patients this type of hair loss is temporary and very common,” she says. “Therefore, specific treatments are not necessary other than to stay healthy with good nutrition, sleep, and stress reduction.”
Considering how difficult tweaking these lifestyle factors can be when you’re caring for a new baby, there are a few at-home treatments and products that can help speed the process along. Here are a few that Dr. Han recommends:
- Volumizing shampoos to add volume to the hair.
- Dry shampoos can be great for minimizing excessive washing between shampoos, and can also add some volume to the scalp.
- Light conditioners to use on the ends of your hair, to prevent the added weight of heavy conditioners.
- Minimize tight buns/ponytails and hairstyles that can put undue stress on the follicles.
- Try out a new hairstyle.
Products that worked for me with postpartum hair loss
I have always been the person that has had a 12-step ritual for my skincare, but when it comes to hair care, my product list is sparse. However, this changed when I started experiencing postpartum hair loss. While nothing has completely changed the effects of postpartum hair loss, these three products have been fantastic in helping to manage it.
I have never been someone who has done treatments to my hair, but this scalp serum changed my mind forever. While you can use a bit on dry hair, when I had baby hairs growing in postpartum, I would use this as an overnight treatment and found that it made my hair look healthier and more shiny than ever.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the feeling of dry shampoo in my hair, despite loving the effect it has. But this mist has made a world of difference. A few spritzes of it in my hair, and then a quick blow dry through, and I’m left with a ton of volume.
Postpartum hair loss can be alarming and can cause self-confidence issues during a particularly challenging period of a new parent’s life. However, it’s important to remember that this change is temporary (a mantra you’ll find me repeating to myself constantly). As Dr. Han explained, “It’s a lot of reassurance that it is temporary and that the hair will grow back. It can be really alarming due to the often abrupt nature and even ‘clumps’ of hair falling out or shedding even with simple things like brushing and washing. Rest assured, the hair follicles are still intact and the hairs are going to grow back.”