To say that I’ve always had a bit of a complicated relationship with my hair would be something of an understatement. For as long as I can remember, I've spent copious hours trying to tame it into submission. My strands are textured, flyaway and plentiful – not taking the form of either my dad’s tight curls or my mum’s silky-straight hair. If left to air-dry naturally, the result can be anything from slightly crinkled waves to curls verging on ringlets.
Suffice it to say, I spent most of my teenage years totally obliterating my hair health with hair straighteners a hundred times over. It was the early noughties after all – ghd launched its first straightening iron not long after I started secondary school and poker-straight hair reigned supreme: see, the entire cast of Girls Aloud. Yet, despite fielding constant comments from peers (read: bullies) about how frizzy my hair was, I went into adulthood with less care given about what people thought of me. With that, I started to embrace my hair for what it was. Sure, it’s big and textured and has a life of its own, but I didn't need to spend big on volumising shampoos and body-building hair sprays.
That was, at least, until I had kids. Truth time: I didn’t know anything about postpartum hair loss before I had children. During both of the actual pregnancies, my hair was the best it has ever been – thick, glossy and I could stretch my wash days for about a week. However, a few months after having my son in 2019 I noticed that my hair started falling out rapidly.
How pregnancy affects your hair
“During postpartum, your estrogen levels can drop significantly below regular levels, leading to more hair loss than usual. This type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium and will most likely begin three to four months postpartum,” Trichologist Helen Reavey, founder of Act + Acre tells Cosmopolitan UK. As Reavey explains, this period of hair loss is totally normal for women to experience after pregnancies and, sure enough, a couple of months later the shedding stopped and my hair began to regrow.
It was an entirely different story after having my daughter in 2022, though. About three months after giving birth, the hair loss started as before (only this time around I wasn’t surprised). But then it didn’t show any signs of stopping. Every time I’d wash my hair, huge clumps of my hair would fall out. I felt scared to brush it because I’d fill the hairbrush twice over with the amount of hair I was losing, and even tying it into a ponytail would result in strands coming loose. Pulling it up into a top knot (standard mum uniform when you haven’t had time to wash your hair) meant that the bald patches that had started forming around my hairline were on show and I felt so self-conscious.
Becoming a parent is a huge shift in identity anyway – whether it’s your first, second or fourth time – but dealing with hair loss alongside it felt like I was truly losing my sense of self.
However, being a beauty editor means that there’s one thing that I do best – product research. So, me and my bald patches set off on a quest to get to the bottom of this hair loss problem. I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to stop it (while I still had some hair left). I also wanted to know why I was experiencing this so severely the second time around, and what I should be doing to my hair to look after it during this period of what felt like dramatic fallout.
Can you stop postpartum hair loss?
“While you can't completely stop or avoid postpartum hair loss, ensuring that you are maintaining a balanced diet and continuously taking a prenatal vitamin or supplement can lessen the amount of hair loss during postpartum,” says Reavey. The first time around, I was religious about taking my pregnancy vitamins, but the second time around they made me feel so nauseous that I could barely swallow one without wanting to throw up. It’s possible that being more erratic with my supplements during pregnancy contributed to the increased hair loss afterwards.
I immediately started researching the best vitamins for hair loss – Reavey recommends seeking out supplements high in vitamin C, biotin and amino acids – and started taking them religiously. The Hairburst Chewable Hair Vitamins seemed to work quickly – after about 4 weeks I noticed that the fallout was slowing – plus they’re delicious, so I enjoyed them being a part of my routine. The Aime Hair & Scalp Boost supplements are also highly recommended for delivering a scalp-enriching blend of probiotics, biotin, folic acid and rice protein (although not quite as tasty).
Of course, supplements take time to work. So for a quick fix in the mean time, I looked at switching up how I was styling my hair to see if I could fake the appearance of volume where it was lacking.
“Typically, the most noticeable hair shedding postpartum will occur around the face, so styles that expose this area may be best to avoid,” says celebrity hairstylist Tom Smith. Luckily, I already have a fringe (Smith suggests that postpartum can be a great time to “embrace bangs” to merge new hair growth with your existing style) but I fully embraced Smith’s other suggestion which was to switch up my parting.
“Simply swapping your parting to the opposite side can encourage extra root lift and as long as you do it immediately after washing, you should be able to control and mould any shorter areas of regrowth around your face,” Smith explains. It’s not a long-term solution, but for a superficial confidence boost it definitely works.
I also totally overhauled my hair-washing routine. Pre-kids, I could use whatever shampoo and conditioner I liked but I usually opted for moisturising formulations rich in ingredients like shea butter. However, it became clear pretty quickly that these formulas were now weighing down my thinning strands and actually causing them to become more tangled. As I wanted to avoid having to tug through knots and pull out even more hair, I switched to products that were lighter in texture and specifically designed for scalp health—again seeking out ingredients like biotin or peptides to encourage regrowth, while Reavey also suggests opting for sulphate-free formulas to keep the scalp microbiome balanced. Both Briogeo’s Blossom & Bloom Ginseng & Biotin Shampoo and Olaplex’s No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo left my hair feeling clean and lightweight.
Scalp health is key for postpartum hair loss
The most important change I made, however, was focusing on my scalp health. Reavey believes that focusing on clearing flakes, reducing inflammation and supporting a healthy scalp barrier is the best starting point to encourage regrowth and stronger strands. I implemented a weekly scalp scrub – The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Scrub makes light work of shifting product build-up without being harsh – and invested in scalp toners to boost hair health. I also really rate Philip Kingsley’s Density Stimulating Scalp Toner for refreshing the scalp – and it feels wonderfully cooling on irritated heads. After about eight weeks of following this routine, I saw the first signs of regrowth and the fallout began to slow.
Every pregnancy is different, and some will be lucky to experience no hair loss at all during the postpartum period. My daughter is now 16 months old and I’m a year on from where my hair loss first started. Today, there is new growth where there were bald patches just a few months ago, and thanks to the steps that I’ve put in place, I’m lucky that my hair actually feels stronger and healthier than it’s ever been.
The hair loss has now stopped entirely. I’ve emerged with a new-found love for my hair (I’ll never take its unruly nature for granted again) and with that a new sense of identity. Turns out, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was right in Fleabag: “Hair is everything…It’s the difference between a good day and a bad day.” Here’s to many more good days to come.
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