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Hair loss isn’t anything unusual — in fact, the average person loses about 50 to 100 hairs per day! But if you’re a mom-to-be (or a new mom), you may notice stark changes in your hair that you didn’t sign up for.
First order of business: Take a deep breath and know that you’re definitely not alone.
In pregnancy, a lot of women experience thicker, shinier and healthier hair overall — this is due to increased hormone levels which slow down the rate of hair loss, explains Papri Sarkar, MD, a dermatologist at Northeast Dermatology Associates in Boston, Massachusetts.
“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 to 6 months postpartum, when hormone levels decrease and those extra hairs the body was holding onto start shedding. Sleepless nights and stressful days spent calming a fussy newborn certainly don’t help your hair return to normal either.
Postpartum hair loss is usually temporary, but it can leave you with thinning hair and baby hairs around your hairline that can be difficult to style.
Luckily, there are a handful of products out there that can help combat pesky side effects of postpartum hair loss. Here are some of the best on the market that dermatologists recommend to their new-parent patients.
- $ = under $10
- $$ = $10–$30
- $$$ = $30–$50
- $$$$ = over $50
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.
One of the key ingredients in this conditioner is caffeine, which helps support hair growth in a gentle manner, so it’s safe (and well-priced) for everyday use.
And if you’re a whole-package kind of person, start with the brand’s shampoo.
According to Marina Peredo, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, this lightweight shampoo from ISDIN helps revitalize and nourish thinning hair without weighing it down.
“This shampoo is specially formulated with film-forming and conditioning ingredients such as zinc, biotin, and ginkgo biloba, to strengthen your hair and leave it feeling soft without a greasy residue,” she says.
One negative to note is that while this product is intended to be used regularly to stimulate the scalp and encourage hair growth, it’s on the expensive side for a shampoo.
This tried-and-true shampoo isn’t only useful for fighting dandruff — its key ingredient, pyrithione zinc (ZPT), has deep-cleaning properties that can also help with hair loss, notes Gabriel.
“Sebum, or oil, builds up at the follicle and this can convert to androgens (hormones like testosterone) which can lead to hair thinning,” she says. “This shampoo helps cut the sebum and cleans the scalp’s buildup and androgens.”
According to all three dermatologists we spoke with, this supplement has shown to yield impressive results in postpartum women.
Viviscal is made up of a combination of vitamins, minerals, and a marine complex. It’s best taken twice daily for about 3 to 6 months and can be used simultaneously with the brand’s volumizing and thickening products to help hair feel thicker in the interim.
Considerations: This is an oral supplement that may not be suitable for breastfeeding moms (you should always ask your OB-GYN before taking any supplement while nursing). Reviewers also comment on unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea and nausea and that it takes about 3 months to see results.
Nutrafol consists of plant-based ingredients and marine collagen (which the brand stresses is sourced from North Atlantic cod, as opposed to more at-risk marine life like sharks).
“It contains all natural ingredients that work to balance dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone involved in some cases of male-or-female pattern baldness,” explains Rina Allawh, MD, a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
Considerations: Like Viviscal, Nutrafol may not be suitable for use in breastfeeding (or pregnant) women, as well as those with medical conditions that require the use of blood-thinning drugs. Also, a few reviewers comment on symptoms of nausea, frustrating packaging, and a high price tag.
A note on safety
As they’re not regulated by the FDA, oral supplements are tricky. Before taking any sort of supplement while pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to consult a lactation specialist or your OB-GYN.
This FDA-approved treatment may work wonders for your postpartum hair loss. It helps increase the duration of the hair growth phase, but also increases your hair’s density by gradually enlarging the miniaturized hair follicles to mature thicker terminal hairs, explains Allawh.
“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).”
Considerations: There’s some speculation over whether minoxidil, the main ingredient in Rogaine, is safe for women who are breastfeeding. However, the
For thinned hair that’s susceptible to breakage, Allawh says this serum from OGX can be a real game-changer by fighting frizz and restoring hydration to dry hair.
“It’s light, nongreasy, and adds a nice shine to the hair,” she adds.
It’s worth noting that dry hair can also be caused by a variety of factors unrelated to hormones, including 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 past postpartum.
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 that 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, sulfates, or phthalates, so if you prioritize those things in your hair products, it fits the bill.
Dealing with hair thinning or hair loss seems like a small price to pay for bringing your incredible, tiny human into the world — but that’s not to say it’s not frustrating.
Luckily, depending on what you’re willing to spend (money and time), there are products on the market that might help return some normalcy to your locks.