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  • Jul 2 2014

    Postpartum hair loss – a royal pain (but there’s hope!)

    Although your hair is falling out all the time, to the tune of 50 to 120 strands per day, it’s possible that you may lose a few more strands when you’re “catastrophically” stressed, meaning you have had a major life change such as a divorce, lost job, or surgery, says Gerome Litt, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. “Other culprits are pregnancy or antibiotics. After a few weeks (in some cases months), it will almost certainly grow back.”

    It happens even to royalty.

    When Kate Middleton was pregnant last year with royal baby Prince George, the tabloids couldn’t get enough of speculating about whether she’d lose her glossy mane of brown hair. After she gave birth, they were all quick to hop back on the bandwagon and confirm that her hair was indeed looking “lackluster,” frizzy and missing its usual shine.

    Is postpartum hair loss a real thing, or were Kate’s postpartum frizzies (and ours) just a product of sleepless nights and a slacked-off personal care regimen? If you’ve experienced it, you’ll be happy to know that hair loss really is a medically-documented phenomenon.

    Most of the time, healthy hair is in the “anagen” phase of its lifecycle, which usually lasts for a couple of years. Then comes the short “telogen” phase, where the hairs wither and fall out. Each hair usually cycles independently, which is why you’re always losing hairs, but only one or two at a time.

    hairloss_scientificdiagram

    And then there’s pregnancy.

    The simple science of hair loss

    Pregnancy hormones knock the cycle on its butt, aligning most of your hairs in the “anagen” phase, which is great news for you, if only for nine months. That pregnancy glow everybody complimented you on may have had a lot to do with shinier, bouncier, stronger-than-usual hair.

    Sooner or later, those pregnancy hormones have to leave… along with all your strong, healthy hair. One or two or three months later (the start can vary), sinking hormone levels cause most of those extra hairs to shrivel up and fall out, leaving you looking miserable. It’s probably not much consolation to realize they would have fallen out anyway in the natural course of events.

    A few myths and facts to help you survive postpartum hair loss:

    • It seems to have nothing to do with whether or not you’re breastfeeding.
    • Washing won’t make the shedding worse (or better), so you don’t have to go greasy
    • There’s probably no product that can stop the shedding or prevent it – including vitamins
    • Using a comb won’t cause shedding – but you might get more volume if you finger-fluff instead
    • Your hair isn’t the worst anyone’s ever seen – though you may feel like it on some days.

    For most women, hair loss slows around 5 or 6 months. You may notice a regrowth of fine “baby hairs” around your forehead and hairline.

    What you can do about it

    Until that wonderful time comes, maybe it’s time for a new style that trades volume in for fun. Try a cropped, asymmetrical pixie cut or a ruffled bob to call attention away from your hair’s fullness altogether. Play around with clip-on extensions and ponies for a fun temporary look (and a glossy main, albeit a purchased one) in your natural color – or, like Kate did, go a few shades better with a chemical or “made-better-by-nature” breastfeeding-safe color. If your hair is still coming out after 10 to 12 months, check with a professional. Don’t let them blame it on breastfeeding or on haircare products unless you’re doing major heat styling.

    Other causes of hair loss include iron deficiency and hyperthyroidism, so don’t mess around if you’ve done everything right and your hair still hasn’t bounced back. Meanwhile, know who else’s hair is looking pretty patchy? The little prince himself, hehe…he’s a cutie!

    Credit: Auspic Commonwealth of Australia

    Hmm, his father Prince William is ‘challenged’ in the hair dept as well. And now that there are rumors that baby George is going to be a big brother, well… there’s one more solution, if you’re totally desperate: ever wonder why the Royal Family started wearing all those gorgeous hats?


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