Postpartum Hair Loss Is Real—Here's How to Deal With It

Experts weigh in on how to manage new-mom hormones.

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

Maybe it was because my sleep-deprived self was living in a top knot during my maternity leave, which happened to be during the pandemic, but I didn’t notice the magnitude of the thinning until my stylist nervously pointed it out during a blowout. “I just wanted you to 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.

too-much-hair-loss: brush with hair in it
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I did what most people wouldn’t do—I posted a pic on Insta. I got tons of messages from other moms telling me they’d gone through similar postpartum hair experiences. Turns out, about 50 percent of women experience hair loss after giving birth. I reached out to my trusty dermatologist, Dendy Engelman, MD, who reassured me that postpartum hair loss was normal. She also ordered blood work (just to be sure all was well; it was) and, together, we embarked on a new chapter in my hair journey. While there's no single, magic solution (dang it), the beauty experts (derms, hairstylists, chemists, trichologists, etc.) all say to be patient—that it takes time (usually a few months) but it is temporary. Here's the advice that I gathered and used to get me through.

Why does postpartum hair loss happen?

This stage of hair loss, called telogen effluvium, is a result of stress on the body from giving birth. 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, shifting a larger amount of hair from the actively growing phase (called "anagen") into the resting phase (called "telogen"). These follicles are more likely to fall out from everyday habits like brushing or washing (normal shedding results in up to 100 hairs per day; postpartum hair loss is more than 100).

Hormones also play a major role. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone keep your hair in the growth phase longer (thus the thicker locks) but as hormones level out, the hair loss that didn't happen when you had your bump, happens now—all at once.

When does postpartum hair loss start?

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

How long does postpartum hair loss last?

Any hair loss associated with giving birth should start to level off about one year after giving birth. If it continues beyond this point, it's recommended to see a dermatologist or trichologist who can pinpoint what's going on.

How to Deal With Postpartum Hair Loss

Eat right.

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

Soothe your scalp.

Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp. If your scalp is clogged with buildup (say, a week's worth of dry shampoo, ahem), the hair follicles don't have an environment to thrive. Wash at least every few days and try an exfoliating scalp treatment that helps deep clean the scalp without stripping your natural oils. The simple act of massaging your scalp not only serves as a little slice of self care, but it helps rev up circulation, too.

Baby your baby hairs.

When my hair first started coming back in, I was thrilled, but little did I know that the regrowth stage is a long, weird one. 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 to do it cause breakage to the new baby hairs! My trick: I slide on a wide headband (like the one I wear when I wash my face) while I'm getting ready to help the wonky hairs lay flat. In a pinch, I use a spoolie (a clean mascara wand) to smooth the hairs back into a ponytail or bun. A clean toothbrush and a little hairspray works, too.

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's not as full and thick on top as it once wash, but it's long and healthy and I'm slowing regaining my hair confidence. I love the trick of putting hair powder or brown eyeshadow on my part to fake fullness. After you have a baby, you deserve a medal—not chunks of hair in your hand, but remember: postpartum hair loss is normal, it's temporary, and the hair hacks above will hold you over until you're ready to do your next hair flip.

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