Postpartum hair loss is real – here’s how to deal with it

Experts weigh in on how to manage new mother hormones.

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My hair has always been a big part of my identity. I’ve been dark and light, tall and short, and curly and straight. But it wasn’t until a few months after I had my son that I experienced — gulp — hair loss.

Maybe it was because my sleep deprivation while on maternity leave, which happened to be during the pandemic, was in knots, but I didn’t notice the extent of the thinning until my hairdresser nervously pointed it out during a blowout. “Just wanted to let you know,” she said, handing me a mirror so I could see my white scalp popping through the top of my head. I felt a pit in my stomach.

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Getty Images

I did what most people wouldn’t do: I posted a photo on Insta. I got tons of messages from other moms telling me they had gone through similar postpartum hair experiences. Turns out about 50 percent of women experience hair loss after giving birth. I contacted my trusted dermatologist, Dendy Engelman, MD, who assured me that postpartum hair loss was normal. She also ordered blood work (to make sure everything was okay; it was) and together we started a new chapter in my hair journey. While there is no single, magical solution (dang it), the beauty experts (derms, hair stylists, chemists, trichologists, etc.) all tell us to be patient – that it takes time (usually a few months), but that it is temporary is. Here’s the advice I’ve gathered and used to get me through it.

Why Does Hair Loss Happen After Childbirth?

This phase of hair loss, called telogen effluvium, results from stress on the body during childbirth. Factors such as blood and fluid loss, lack of sleep, and postpartum depression can all contribute to hair loss. Giving birth can also alter your hair growth cycle, moving a greater amount of hair from the active growth phase (called “anagen”) to the resting phase (called “telogen”). These follicles are more likely to fall out due to everyday habits such as brushing or washing (normal shedding results in up to 100 hairs per day; postpartum hair loss is more than 100).

Hormones also play a big role. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone keep your hair in the growing phase (thus the thicker locks) for longer, but as hormones stabilize, the hair loss that didn’t happen when you had your bump is now happening all of a sudden.

When does hair loss start after childbirth?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, postpartum hair loss usually peaks about four months after giving birth.

How long does hair loss last after giving birth?

Any hair loss associated with childbirth should begin to flatten out about a year after giving birth. If it persists beyond this point, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist or trichologist who can diagnose what is going on.

How to deal with hair loss after giving birth

Eat right.

Focus on foods packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids — these ingredients help your body make hair. Green vegetables are also good. You can also consider a supplement like Nutrafol ($79 for a month’s supply), which some experts swear by. It contains biotin, kelp and zinc, but requires you to take four large pills a day, something I was not good at TBH.

Soothe your scalp.

Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp. When your scalp is clogged with buildup (say, a week of dry shampoo, ahem), the hair follicles have no environment to thrive. Wash at least every few days and try an exfoliating scalp treatment that deeply cleanses the scalp without stripping your natural oils. The simple act of massaging your scalp not only serves as a little piece of self-care, but it also helps boost circulation.

Baby your baby hair.

When my hair first started coming back, I was excited, but I didn’t realize that the regrowth phase is a long, weird phase. While it’s tempting to flat iron those suckers every day to tame them, the less damage (heat styling, color, etc.) the better. The last thing you want is for the new baby hairs to break! My trick: I slip on a wide headband (like the one I wear when I wash my face) as I get ready to let the shaky hairs lie flat. In a pinch, I use a spoolie (a clean mascara brush) to smooth the hair into a ponytail or bun. A clean toothbrush and a bit of hairspray also work.

Fast forward and I now have a 3 year old and a 1 year old and my hair is sooo much better (I still have some baby hairs). It is not as full and thick on top as it is when washing, but it is long and healthy and I am slowly getting my hair confidence back. I like the trick of applying hair powder or brown eyeshadow on my part to fake fullness. After you have a baby, you deserve a medal – not bits of hair in your hand, but remember: postpartum hair loss is normal, it’s temporary, and the hair hacks above will hold you back until you’re ready to do your next hair turn around.

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Postpartum hair loss is real – here’s how to deal with it

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