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Postpartum hair loss is very normal, but it’s pesky, nonetheless. Here are some products that can make it more manageable.
- Best shampoo: Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Daily Shampoo | Skip to review
- Best conditioner: John Frieda Volume Lift Weightless Conditioner | Skip to review
- Best supplements:
- Best topical treatment: Women’s Rogaine 5% Minoxidil Topical Aerosol | Skip to review
- Best hair serum: OGX Nourishing Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum | Skip to review
- Best hair mask treatment: Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3 | Skip to review
Many women experience thicker, shinier, and healthier hair overall during pregnancy. This is due to increased hormone levels that
“Although women aren’t necessarily growing many more strands of hair, they’re keeping more of them,” she says.
But that often changes around 3–6 months postpartum, when hormone levels decrease and those extra hairs the body was holding on to start shedding. Those likely sleepless nights and stressful days spent calming a fussy newborn certainly don’t help your hair return to normal, either.
If you’re breastfeeding, postpartum hair loss may appear closer to the 6-month mark, notes Brendan Camp, MD, a Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. This is because breastfeeding prolongs the drop of estrogen levels.
While you can’t prevent postpartum hair loss, there are a handful of products that can help set you up for regrowth. Here’s what dermatologists recommend to new parents.
- $ = under $10 per bottle
- $$ = $10–$30 per bottle
- $$$ = $31–$50 per bottle
- $$$$ = over $50 per bottle
This tried-and-true shampoo isn’t only useful for fighting dandruff — its key ingredient, pyrithione zinc, also called zinc pyrithione (ZPT), has deep-cleaning properties and targets the fungus that causes dandruff to flare up. Older research has found it can help heal the scalp by normalizing keratin and sebum production.
While there is no direct evidence that pyrithione zinc is helpful for postpartum hair loss, Glenn Vallecillos, MD, a plastic surgeon who specializes in hair loss, notes that it may indirectly benefit hair growth by reducing inflammation and dandruff on the scalp.
“Pyrithione zinc has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce scalp inflammation and irritation, which may in turn support healthier hair growth,” he explains. “Additionally, pyrithione zinc is believed to have anti-fungal properties, which can help to reduce fungal overgrowth on the scalp that may contribute to dandruff and other scalp conditions.”
Head & Shoulders is a well-known brand that’s easy to find. So if you travel to visit grandparents or elsewhere, you can likely track it down in a travel size and find it in grocery stores in your destination, making it easy to sustain use. (But make sure you consult your pediatrician before traveling with your baby, as their immune systems are still developing after birth.)
When searching for a conditioner to help thicken postpartum hair, Zenovia Gabriel, MD, a dermatologist based in Newport Beach, California, suggests opting for one that’s lightweight to avoid weighing it down — like this one from John Freida.
The weighing down of certain hair care ingredients can actually lead to hair shedding. This is because your hair clumps together more easily and isn’t able to move as freely as it would if you used a lighter weight product.
One of the key ingredients in this conditioner is caffeine, which helps gently support hair growth, so it’s safe (and well priced) for everyday use.
According to all three dermatologists we spoke with, this supplement has been shown to yield impressive results for postpartum hair challenges.
Viviscal is made up of a combination of vitamins, minerals, and a marine complex. It’s best taken twice daily for about 3–6 months and can be used simultaneously with the brand’s volumizing and thickening products to help hair feel thicker in the interim.
This is an oral supplement that may not be suitable for those who are breastfeeding. (You should always ask your OB-GYN before taking any supplement while breastfeeding.) Reviewers also comment on unpleasant side effects like diarrhea and nausea, and that it takes about 3 months to see results.
Nutrafol is a popular hair supplement brand that offers a variety of products designed to support healthy hair growth. Research on this drug-free hair growth product is reportedly impressive, with many women noticing improved hair growth and thickness.
Nutrafol consists of plant-based ingredients and marine collagen sourced from North Atlantic cod. It offers a postpartum-specific product formulated with a blend of vitamins, minerals, and botanicals intended to help support healthy hair growth and reduce hair shedding. It’s also safe for breastfeeding — just make sure you stick to the postpartum product.
Vallecillos points out it contains theanine, Shatavari, DHA omega-3s, tocotrienol complex, and marine collagen with nettle and apple, and he says these ingredients help replenish the postpartum body.
“This special formulation targets the root causes of postpartum thinning: physical and emotional stress, nutrient depletion, and hormonal fluctuations,” he says. “With consistent daily use, Nutrafol Postpartum may help new mothers achieve thicker, fuller head of hair with less shedding.”
A note on safety
Oral supplements are tricky because they’re
not Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated. Before taking any sort of supplement while pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to consult a lactation specialist or your OB-GYN.
Best topical treatment
This FDA-approved treatment may work wonders for your postpartum hair loss. It helps increase the duration of the hair growth phase, but it also increases your hair density by gradually enlarging the miniaturized hair follicles to mature thicker terminal hairs, explains Rina Weimann (Allawh), MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
“Despite initial shedding, consistent use of Rogaine for months has been shown to have favorable results for both sexes,” she says. “In fact, Rogaine works so well that I caution my patients to avoid application on areas that they don’t want hair growth (i.e., face).”
There’s some speculation over whether minoxidil, the main ingredient in Rogaine, is safe for women who are breastfeeding. However,
For thinned hair that’s susceptible to breakage, this serum from OGX can be a real game-changer for preventing frizz and restoring hydration to dry hair.
Hair serums work by penetrating the hair shaft to provide nourishment and hydration, explains Vallecillos. This one contains nourishing ingredients like coconut oil, which is known for its moisturizing and protective properties. “[It] can help to strengthen the hair, reduce breakage, and improve the overall health and appearance of the hair,” he says.
Hair serums like this one can be helpful for postpartum hair because they restore hydration, add shine, and improve the overall health of the hair. “Using a hair serum can help to moisturize and protect the hair, which can help to prevent further damage and promote healthy hair growth,” Vallecillos says.
It’s worth noting that dry hair can also be caused by a variety of factors unrelated to hormones. Examples include over-processing with color, using heat styling tools too often, as well as exposing hair to the elements such as the sun and water. If you’re prone to breakage and split ends, this product could be helpful even after postpartum.
Best hair mask
This one didn’t come dermatologist recommended, but hairstylists rave about Olaplex for its ability to strengthen and repair even the most damaged hair — and I can attest, it brought my hair back to life postpartum.
It’s a concentrated treatment meant to be used before you shampoo and condition your hair. It helps build back and re-fuse the bonds of the hair, leading to smoother, thicker-appearing, and healthier hair overall.
It’s formulated without parabens or phthalates. But it does contain sulfates.
Shedding can last for months, and it generally peaks 4 months after giving birth, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Most people will see an improvement within the first year of giving birth.
However, there is a distinct difference between postpartum hair loss (telogen effluvium) and shedding due to your estrogen level dropping. Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that most commonly causes non-scarring alopecia and results from a stressful event like surgery, a serious illness, or childbirth.
It is quite different than shedding caused by a drop in estrogen levels. “Estrogen levels naturally fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, and a drop in estrogen levels can cause the hair to enter a resting phase and shed, which is typically less severe than postpartum hair loss and occurs on a regular cycle,” Vallecillos says.
While both can result in shedding and thinning of the hair, postpartum hair loss is typically more severe and can last for several months. “Shedding due to a drop in estrogen levels as a consequence of the menstrual cycle, conversely, is self-limiting, much less severe, and resolves quickly when estrogen levels normalize,” Vallecillos adds.
The AAD suggests seeing your doctor if it’s been a year since giving birth and your hair hasn’t returned to its usual fullness. Your doctor can help you determine the underlying cause of hair loss and develop the correct treatment plan.
Often, hair loss following pregnancy is not really hair loss. Rather, it’s excess shedding of the hair you grew during pregnancy, according to the AAD. This excessive shedding usually starts within a few months after having a baby.
How long it lasts varies, but many people see their hair return to its normal fullness and volume before or by their baby’s first birthday.
While some cases of postpartum hair loss may be attributed to certain vitamin deficiencies, such as iron, in most cases, postpartum hair loss is actually related to telogen effluvium, a condition where hair falls out rapidly in response to stress, explains Marisa Garshick, MD, a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York.
“Telogen effluvium in the postpartum period is most likely due to the physical stress of delivery and the change in hormone levels,” she says.
“Generally, this type of hair loss is considered temporary and may occur 2–3 months after delivery, during which it can help to optimize any vitamin deficiencies, including iron, vitamin D, zinc, and B12 to strengthen and support overall hair growth.”
There’s no research to support that breastfeeding itself causes hair to fall out. However, there is research to support that hair loss is associated with the postpartum period in general.
“People are often breastfeeding during the postpartum phase, so it’s possible the hair loss that may seem to be related to breastfeeding may simply just be related to being in the postpartum stage,” says Garshick.
Postpartum hair loss may be related to changing hormone levels and delivery.
There’s little to no evidence that supports taking prenatal vitamins to prevent postpartum hair loss. However, that does not diminish the importance of taking prenatal vitamins.
When you’re pregnant, your body has drastically different needs for various vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. The National Institutes of Health recommends taking folate. The body needs more folate during pregnancy. This vitamin is essential to fetal brain and spinal column development.
Some nutrient deficiencies are associated with a reduction in hair health. Notably, during pregnancy, it is common for women to experience low iron levels.
New moms may also be low on protein, especially if they’re breastfeeding. Vallecillos explains this can directly affect hair health. “Hair is made up of proteins, mainly keratin, which requires a variety of vitamins and minerals to support its growth and maintenance,” he says.
He recommends making sure you’re getting adequate amounts of iron, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin D for overall health.
If you’re unsure about what to eat or what supplements to take before, during, and after pregnancy, speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian.
Experiencing hair thinning or hair loss can be concerning, especially when you’re postpartum and feels like a really sour cherry plopped on top of the massive hill of changes your body has endured.
But products are available to help return some normalcy to your locks. And in most cases, hair loss is temporary.