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Postpartum Hair

Oct06

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bounceback_postpartumhair.jpgIt’s a particularly cruel twist of fate: After you have a baby, you have less time than ever to fuss over yourself. Your beauty routine gets downsized to ponytails and chapstick, on a good day. So OBVIOUSLY, this would be a FANTASTIC time for your hair and skin to go absolutely off the rails.
Yes, it’s true. Your hair falls out. I’ve written about it already, over at Ye Olde Advice Smackdown. Here, I shall excerpt a bit:

Most women actually lose, on average, about 100 hairs a day, usually when showering or brushing it out. This is hair that is no longer actively growing, and the non-growing hairs make up about 5 to 15 percent of what’s on your head. So it’s not really a big deal when you see them end up on your hairbrush in the morning.

During pregnancy, your wackaloon hormones keep your hair growing and growing. And growing. That 5 to 15 percent number plummets. So you shed less hair. Sometimes (and this was probably true for you) you shed a lot less, so your hair gets thicker and lovelier and pregnancy-glowier.

But then you pay for this postpartum. Usually around three to four months after you give birth, your hormones go wackaloon in the other direction, and your plummeting estrogen levels slow your hair growth once more. And alllll the hair you didn’t shed during pregnancy starts coming out in clumps. It’s…not fun, and it has happened to me both times, and I’m currently in the thick (thin?) of it right now.

Despite writing about the topic for an ADVICE column, I do not really have that much ADVICE about dealing with the hair loss. I do have a lot of sympathy for anyone currently experiencing it, but I found that it was one of those “only way through it is through it” sort of things. You will shed a lot of hair for awhile, and then you won’t anymore. You can certainly try different shampoos and products, but honestly, by the time you’re likely to have worked out the right combination, the problem will stop and your hair may require a completely different line-up of products.
I had the double whammy of my scalp deciding to go haywire around the exact same time. I’ve always had an oily scalp (except during pregnancy, when it because downright normal), but starting around two or three months postpartum my scalp became RIDICULOUSLY oily. My hair would not come clean, product build-up galore, greased up like a 90s grunge rocker, etc. This was another thing that sort of vanished after awhile, though only after I temporarily switched to some cheap drugstore shampoo — basically the harshest, unpronounceable-chemical-laden stuff I could find, which at least solved the build-up problem that my fancy salon shampoo did nothing for.
So if shedding is your only hair complaint, go ahead and consider yourself lucky, as other women develop all kinds of other weirdness, from dandruff to cowlicks to grays.
And then! AND THEN! I actually completely forgot about the other stage of postpartum hair bonkerness until a couple people suggested it as a topic on Twitter this week — you get these..things? Little weird clumps of wispy flyaway hair along your hairline? Forehead, temples, around your ears, nape of your neck? And they stick out and curl funny and won’t. Lie. Flat. What. The. Hell.
For me, they strike right as the shedding stops: a combination of broken, poorly nourished hair alongside regrowth of new (yet pre-pregnancy fine) hair that manage to ruin the look of even the most basic ponytail. They are really, really annoying. A few ideas for dealing with them and/or preventing more of them:
1) DON’T WRAP YOUR HAIR IN A TOWEL. Another broken record from the Advice Smackdown files, but FOR REAL. Wrapping wet hair in a towel is TERRIBLE for your hairline. If your hair is weakened for any reason — hormones, nutrition getting rerouted to breastmilk, stress, etc. — the towel will cause a LOT more breaking. (Those little shammy turbans aren’t much better. While they don’t have the weight of a towel, you generally wrap them tighter so there’s still a lot of pulling.) The best thing for fragile hair? Gently comb it out ASAP after the shower, while it’s sopping wet. Use a detangler if you have to, and then clip a towel around your shoulders until you can blow dry or it air dries enough to stop dripping. (I found squeezing the ends with a cotton t-shirt absorbs the excess a little faster.)
2) Don’t overdo the ponytails. Don’t brush and pull your hair back too tightly, either for ponytails or braids, and try try try to leave your hair down sometimes. Use claw clips, barrettes, fabric headbands instead of the elastics. If you do use an elastic, pull your hair into a ponytail with your hands instead of a brush. (Brushing hair into a ponytail is especially hard on your nape and temples.) And don’t EVER sleep with your hair in a ponytail.
3) Keep your ends trimmed. Hair damage start at the ends, typically, so regularly cutting off the split ends keeps the rest of the shaft healthy. Ask for a deep conditioning treatment if you notice a lot of breakage or the wispy flyaways. And talk to your stylist about a good at-home conditioner. Getting to the salon might not seem like a very high priority in between all the well-baby visits and such, but trying to go too long between trims makes the problem worse.
4) Tame them with products…carefully. The crazy flyaways are often on the fine side, even if the rest of your hair is not. So using products that promise a lot of hold can end up looking oily and heavy. Not really a good look for around your face. Personally, I had the most luck with spraying light hold or shine products (regular ol’ hair spray or BedHead Head Rush) into my palms and then smoothing the cowlicky-curl-things down really quickly. No creams or serums or pomades or anything that could give my scalp the chance to play oil slick once again.
5) And remember, this too shall pass. Probably. While my hair will likely never achieve the natural-born wonderfulness it had during my pregnancy (or when I was on Clomid. I may have gone completely crazy on that stuff but damn, my hair looked AMAZING.), it is definitely what I would now call back to normal. Maybe a little bit more of a natural wave than I had before, but still nice and predictably MY HAIR once again. Normal shedding, normal hairline, normal ratio of good-to-bad hair days.
Photo by ClickFlashPhotos

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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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28 Responses to “Postpartum Hair”

  1. Sara Oct 06 at 9:43 am Reply Reply

    Finally! I’ve been waiting to see this on Bounce back, if only to reassure me that it’s normal. I have tons of hair, a few inches past my shoulders and there are just balls of wadded up hair EVERYwhere in my bathroom (atleast two a day) and hair on all of my clothes. My husband even pulls hairs out of his mouth when we’re in bed together. I don’t remember this type of loss with my first, but I totally developed those patches at my hairline (at the nape of my neck). It was thick too, like I had cut it. I didn’t remember until you mentioned it, I hope it doesn’t happen again. I looked like I needed a straightjacket.

  2. samantha jo campen Oct 06 at 10:01 am Reply Reply

    I wrote a post about this a few months ago (http://backtome.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/04/hair-apparent.html) and RAGED against the chunks of hair sprouting up around my hairline. IT WAS HORRID.
    Seriously, I fear getting pregnant again because of the hair trauma. I didn’t mind the hair loss as I have thick hair, but it never occurred to me that it would have to grow BACK and off-set the length balance.
    GAAH!

  3. Sheila Oct 06 at 10:09 am Reply Reply

    I look like I have sideburns right now. At least, I have these little bunches of short hair on either side of my face that I have to tuck behind my ear or else it looks like sideburns. The only other place I can see the weird new hair growth is where my hair is parted and the bangs go off to one side. There’s a lovely little fringe of very fine hair that just sits there. It’s weird because I knew to expect the hair falling out but I hadn’t thought about the next logical step: there will be more hair growing back all at once too, and in some visible places!

  4. Nicole Oct 06 at 10:23 am Reply Reply

    And then there’s the other side. Freaks like me who, 5 months postpartum (or so) still have massively growing, thick hair. And a baby that like to pull on it. And the hottest summer on record (seriously, we had the hottest day EVER here). I finally cut it shorter than its been in years.
    And its still not falling out any more than it did before I was pregnant.

  5. Olivia Oct 06 at 1:24 pm Reply Reply

    With a pixie cut, the hair loss wasn’t very noticible. Except when I run texturizer thru it, my hands come out covered in hair. The oddest thing my hairdresser and I noticed is that my hair is now a couple of shades darker.

  6. Maggie Oct 06 at 1:39 pm Reply Reply

    I totally have the sideburn issue too! It’s so ridiculous, I’m always trying to tuck the wispies behind my ears. And losing the rest by handfuls, which is even worse because my baby decided to be an early crawler (5 months!) and scoots around with handfuls of hair. I have to vaccuum at least daily, often twice, because ewwww, baby fingers full of old mommy hair. I’m seriously considering a really really short cut.

  7. Suzanne Oct 06 at 2:07 pm Reply Reply

    The shedding. OH THE SHEDDING. I’ve always lost a lot of hair but postpartum its become insane. During pregnancy I had almost forgotten what it was like to start taking a shower and end up taking a bath because the drain clogged up. Now even the washing machine can’t get long blond strands off of everything I own.
    You should add “DON’T DO ANYTHING DRASTIC UNTIL AT LEAST 6 MONTHS PAST PREGNANCY” to the This Too Shall Pass section. It’s super tempting to cut it all off or dye it all brown or -God forbid- get that cute layered cut you saw in a magazine but until your hormones start to even out again there’s no telling how it will turn out. Trust.

  8. Heidi Oct 06 at 3:35 pm Reply Reply

    Also, it might not come right away.
    I don’t know if it had any effect on it, but I had a C-Section and was only able to nurse for three weeks.
    My hair was just all pregnancy pretty until about week seven. Then, HOLY HELL, it made up for lost time. My thick, glorious, enviable hair became thin as hell and DANDRUFF.
    Mah GAWD the dandruff. It was BAD. I mean, I was militant about getting in at least a five minute shower EVERY DAY. But it didn’t matter what I did or used, it was CRAZY. It got to the point where my doctor said to buy some Selsun Blue and mix in some tea tree oil with it. My hair smelled like a turpentine factory, but the dandruff was somewhat abated.
    As for the hair falling out…It lasted until I was about 4 months post partum, and eventually my usual thick hair came back. I also MUST agree with Amy…Be gentle with the ponytails. I had a few cloth covered, totally unstylish scrunchies that I used. Hell, I wasn’t going anywhere anyway, what did I care? They were MUCH gentler than regular old elastics.

  9. Cheri Oct 06 at 9:09 pm Reply Reply

    All the hair falling out– it KILLED the vacuum cleaner. Not kidding. Here’s my question for anybody here- Does anybody now have curly hair postpartum? I have had stick straight hair my whole life, and now the 6 or so inches closest to the scalp is curly- its bizzare. My second baby is almost 2 so figure this hair is the last year or so’s growth. I want to cut it but I am afraid of having half curly half straight hair. Should I get it permed? Gah.

  10. Calee Oct 06 at 11:26 pm Reply Reply

    Headbands and side swept bangs! I didn’t loose too much hair, but the fuzzies were the worst. Thankfully, they grow out, but there was a really lousy few months for my hair.

  11. www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnjOyqinG4Jd Oct 07 at 5:07 am Reply Reply

    yes, the ponytail. i’ve had mine up in a pony pretty much constantly since i gave birth, even while sleeping, as those fun (not!) night sweats made it impossible to leave down. even with cutting 4 inches off, i’m still overheating (especially when nursing), so the hair stays up in a pony all the time. yes, i’ve paid the breakage price, so have all these flyaways around my face. oh well, they bother me less than hair on my neck making me all sweaty!
    i’m 10wks postpartum and haven’t hit the falling out stage yet, but the texture has changed to the rougher side.

  12. Nel Oct 07 at 9:52 am Reply Reply

    I haven’t been pregnant (yet), but it sounds like I already have postpartum hair. Those fly aways around my hair and neck like have been a problem for YEARS. I’m dreading it getting worse after pregnancy. But thanks for the advice!

  13. Spring Oct 07 at 11:39 am Reply Reply

    My formerly stick straight hair also went pretty wavy during my pregnancy and has remained that way 5 months postpartum (it is now falling out by the freakin’ handfuls though), and I’m kind of hoping it stays forever curly. I like it.

  14. tracylynne Oct 07 at 11:58 am Reply Reply

    I had the opposite happen while I was pregnant-my hair did not grow except an inch. I dyed my hair from bleach blonde to dk brown to avoid having to have my roots done while pregnant. I also got a trim and hightlights. My hair was bone dry when I was pregnant too. Now 12 wks later its soft, growing and super healthy….I still have one piece that sticks straight out when I try to put it in a pony tail.

  15. jennifer Oct 08 at 11:29 am Reply Reply

    One word for this hair loss and it is the best word my doctor has said. NIOXIN. It works for the hair falling out. My hair was falling out from six months after giving birth and at the one year point I asked and she suggested. Within a month my hair was thicker and fuller. I only used the first set of the shampoo and conditioner then stopped because I had my wonderious result. Now I use it to grow out short hair cuts or when my hair begins to get thin do to stress. It takes some time and you do need to follow the instructions but it does work.

  16. Lucy Oct 08 at 9:11 pm Reply Reply

    Just wrote about this last week (http://moderndayrickyandlucy.blogspot.com/2009/09/hair-today-gone-tomorrow.html). It’s truly awful! And now to make it all even more fun, my hair completely knots up so I’m not only losing hair by the fistful, but I’m having to fight my way through knots every time I shampoo. Yea.

  17. Allyson Oct 09 at 10:43 am Reply Reply

    The best thing that I have found to use on fly away hair is plain old aloe vera gel. It’s non-drying and it does the trick. I live by it!

  18. Maria Oct 09 at 3:49 pm Reply Reply

    Did anyone notice a change in their hair part after delivery?? Mine completely changed but only towards the back of my head and now only likes to go in one direction (opposite of how I like to blow it). Very strange!

  19. stacy Oct 18 at 4:30 am Reply Reply

    Thank You!! It hadn’t even OCCURRED to my severely sleep deprived brain that the bizarre wispy sticking straight out bits all around my face could be due to post-partum!!! Seriously. I was just like, has my hair always looked this awful? What’s this stupid sh!t? Also – I break 2 of the rules EVERY day and no longer! I will not walk around for 2 hours with a heavy wet towel draped around my head, nor with a tight high ponytail all day, every day. I tried for a little bit to do the half-ponytail, and now I think I’ll try for the low, loose ponytail. I think hairspray and bobbypins will help. Also, I desperately need a haircut (no haircut in..hm, 10 months!!) and I will make an appointment this week – scouts honor!! Perhaps I will even go for some sideswept bangs… I grew them out when I was pregnant (SIGH) with the idea that a new mom doesn’t have time to blowdry and style bangs (my hair sticks straight up if I don’t blowdry it or ponytail it into submission). But maybe it will make me look like a halfway stylish person again. I live in Europe where women will have a baby and a week later are wearing skinny jeans (grrr) so, I get some “looks” when I basically look like an unwashed slob most of the time…. Sorry for the detour there. Thanks for an enlightening and inspiring post!! :-)

  20. Ariel Jan 29 at 12:59 am Reply Reply

    I am currently in the thick (or thin of it too!). No one told me about the subsequent thinning of hair followed by the annoying wisps around the crown that you can’t do anything with! And the hair falling out everywhere is not only gross but my crawling baby seems to have it wrapped around his little fingers all the time! My advice is as follows. Instead of waiting for the hair to fall out, brush it religiously especially before washing your hair. Secondly, a new product on the market that I started to try was: Invati by Aveda. I didnt actually buy it, I used the sample a couple of times and I think it made a difference to the amount of hair loss. It has some fantastic reviews too so as soon as my shampoo is finished, I’ll be buying it. Might get a side swept fringe too and see if that helps hide the wisps.

  21. sandy Feb 25 at 12:10 am Reply Reply

    Thank you..thank you.. Thank you! I feel much better. Great advice.

  22. Angela Apr 15 at 1:44 pm Reply Reply

    Thabk you so much for this! I googled broken hair around face and found this, my son is now 15 months and I didn’t have this problem before having him but never thought to relate it to pregnancy/post partum, totally makes sense!

  23. Kate May 19 at 9:50 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you so much for this! I thought I was going nuts because I don’t remember having all these wispy hairs around my hairline. I look like George Washington when I put my hair up. Not attractive! I guess it is time for some side-swept bangs lol

  24. Ina Aug 02 at 6:35 am Reply Reply

    Omg my baby is 14 weeks old now and the past week my hair has been shedding like crazy! And just last night as I shampood, my hair knotted up into a giant hair ball! I cried in the shower of the frustration I felt trying to comb it.. I even contemplated cutting it all off!!!!! Horrid experience, I now have it in two braids to avoid the knotting. I think it’s because my hair is soo overly dry from all the shampooing maybe, because all though my hair is dry my scalp is rediculously oily! Ugh I hope the madness ends soon!

  25. Aneen Bergh Nov 11 at 9:46 am Reply Reply

    For the mommys who struggle for forever tangling hair during or after pregnancy… use a silk detangler! it really works wonders!

  26. Mama C. Dec 19 at 3:39 pm Reply Reply

    I’m 12 weeks postpartum with baby #2, and this shedding business has soared to new heights. I happened upon this article while searching for a remedy for my horribly balding right hairline. Ack! I can’t wait for this shit to stop…

  27. Laura Blair May 20 at 5:52 am Reply Reply

    Thanks for your post.  It’s like therapy knowing other women have gone through this.  My baby is 8 months already and loves to add to my new hairline fringe/ sideburn look by pulling out what hair I have left.  I just hope it grows back fast.

  28. Lisa Jun 11 at 10:02 pm Reply Reply

    This also happened to me. At 12 weeks ppI went to the salon cut and highlighted my hair and it looked and felt great. That lasted a month then I noticed I was loosing/shedding alot of hair. The hair on my temple got really thin and hair was everywhere! This didn’t happen to me after I had my son in 2004! It drove me crazy. Hair fell out like crazy for 2 mnths! Then went to gt a trim and then my shedding stopped. Hairdresser said its regrowth and normal. Glad its normal just wish poor hair didn’t have to suffer so much.My sprout hair is finally getting longet

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