There’s nothing fun about postpartum (PP) hair loss. I thought I had avoided it, but at the 4-month mark, many strands of hair were evicted from my scalp. Luckily, I ate vitamins like a madwoman and tried not to let it get me too down. But it was honestly kind of gut-wrenching. If you feel bad about PP hair loss, you’re definitely not alone. Not only was I many pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight—Celebrities, if you’re reading this, please stop sharing snapbacks seconds after you give birth. We aren’t inspired and it creates false expectations—but there was hair everywhere. I kept finding it in the crib and got terribly paranoid my baby would eat some of it. PP shedding doesn’t make a lot of sense from an evolutionary standpoint, but here we are. To find out all about PP hair loss and the shampoo that helps treat it, I spoke with HairClub medical advisor Dr. Angela Phipps (D.O., A.B.H.R.S) and Steven D. Shapiro, M.D., Board-Certified Dermatologist, and Shapiro MD founder.
All About Postpartum Hair Loss
PP hair loss is shedding on steroids. “Everyone loses 50-100 hairs a day as part of the normal hair growth cycle. For women who have recently given birth, this hair growth cycle can be altered by fluctuating hormone levels and it’s normal to experience hair loss three to six months after pregnancy. It’s a condition called telogen effluvium. While this condition is temporary, it may take up to a full year to regain your hair’s normal fullness. Dermatologists characterize this condition as excessive hair shedding. The shedding occurs due to falling estrogen levels, which are much higher during pregnancy,” explains Angela.
Postpartum hair loss is temporary due to the length of the hair life cycle being altered by the changing levels of hormones. Although it won’t last forever, it may take up to a full year to regain your hair’s normal fullness. Help is available if you’re dealing with this issue. “The FDA-approved scalp treatment minoxidil, in combination with cleansing agents and nutritional supplements, such as the fusion of vitamins B3, D, and biotin can be successful in helping to stimulate the hair follicles during this time of hormonal fluctuations. Additionally, herbal remedies such as saw palmetto and nettle have demonstrated benefits in slowing or preventing hair loss. These treatments/products help to strengthen the hair follicles that are being affected by the fluctuating hormone levels,” adds Angela. Because your baby takes in what you do, “always consult with your physician before starting any topical or oral supplementation during the postpartum period.”
Shopping for a Postpartum Hair Loss Shampoo
If you’re looking for a PP shampoo, seek out one that is “free of aggressive, moisture-leaching detergents called sulfates,” says Dr. Shapiro. “That way, you can remove oil, dirt, and buildup from your hair without compromising its delicate moisture balance. Ideally, your shampoo should contain ketoconazole, an antifungal that can fight inflammation in your scalp. This is key because inflammation can shrink and damage your hair follicles, interfering with their ability to grow hair. You also should look for a formula with the naturally-derived compounds green tea extract and caffeine. Both of these ingredients have been shown to fight the effects of DHT, a hormone known to trigger unwanted hair loss.”
We weren’t expecting to be told to stay away from shampoos with palmetto berry, but Dr. Shapiro explains that it’s another natural DHT blocker. “While saw palmetto berry is a great tool for many people fighting hair loss, it is not safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women,” he explains. “Last but not least, steer clear of formulas with parabens and other harmful additives.”
Ask Your Doctor Before Lathering Up
A postpartum hair loss shampoo can help minimize shedding by fighting off DHT, a hormone that attacks your hair follicles and may be more present in the scalp during and after pregnancy due to hormonal changes. “Additionally telogen effluvium (sudden hair loss) can be attributed to inflammation of the scalp. Ketoconazole can reduce inflammation, hence reduce shedding,” he adds. Again, be sure to consult your doctor before trying anything new. “You can never be too careful about the formulas you are using, especially when they could directly affect your baby,” he says.
Best Postpartum Hair Loss Shampoo
Dr. Shapiro recommends the Restoration Shampoo from the Shapiro MD Motherhood Collection. “My colleagues and I designed this formula to help women fight the signs of postpartum hair loss. The bulk of postpartum shedding comes about 3 months after giving birth. I’d recommend using the shampoo for at least 6 months following pregnancy. Many women choose to use it for a year or longer, which is perfectly fine. The Motherhood Collection shampoo and conditioner doubles for long-term protection against other causes of hair loss, while designed to improve the thickness of follicles and keep hair healthy and soft.”