Are you noticing that your hairbrush seems to contain more hair than usual? Are you pulling larger quantities of hair from your shower plug-hole? Is your ponytail diameter feeling thinner? Are hairs falling very easily from your head whenever you touch them? And is all of this making you feel panicked and worried that you are about to lose your hair entirely? Please be assured that what you are experiencing and feeling is very common and all is not lost.
I want to start this article by sharing my story in the hope it will reduce your anxiety about your current situation.
I knew during pregnancy that due to a hormonal shift your hair would not shed. I loved the thicker hair, other than the precious gift of a newborn child, it was the second thing I loved most about being pregnant. But I knew the drill, around three months after a baby’s arrival, your hair begins to shed and you lose all of the hair that you hadn’t lost during your pregnancy. It was three months after the birth of my second child and my hair started to shed and shed and then shed some more and then some more and then I became worried – very worried.
I became obsessed with the hair loss. I would run my fingers through my hair constantly, every time aghast that yet more was falling out. I didn’t want to step into the shower for fear I would wash all my hair away. I would wake up in a cold sweat at night, grasping at my hair just to make sure there was something still left. I went to my GP, who informed me what I was experiencing was normal, it’s just something that happened as we aged and to accept it. I couldn’t accept it, this was very traumatic to me. I was aware worrying about it was probably making the hair-loss worse, but it was impossible not to worry. I was so scared.
Other than my husband, I spoke to nobody about it. I was good at putting my hair up to hide the problem. I felt speaking about it would just add more energy to it and I already had enough energy surrounding it to light up the national grid. I felt something wasn’t right, this wasn’t the normal amount of postpartum shedding – I decided to seek further professional help. I called a trichologist. I explained everything to the very calm and understanding lady on the other end of the phone and then very reassuringly, she uttered the only words I had needed to hear this entire time – don’t worry, you are not going bald.
She advised me to revisit my GP and request a blood test. In particular she wanted to know my serum ferritin level. Within two days I had a call from the GP informing me I had iron deficiency anaemia and needed a course of iron tablets. Finally I felt like there was something that could be done. Whilst I started the tablets, I also visited the trichologist who advised I had a scalp disorder known as Telogen effluvium. It can be triggered by hormonal upsets (such as those caused by pregnancy) and also other factors such as, improper nutrition and stress. The great news – it could be reversed. My trichologist was able to provide advice, give scalp treatments and basically hold my hand whilst my hair started to sort itself out.
It took around one year before I felt confident enough to wear my hair loose again. Nowadays (with some good hair practices in place) I have a full healthy head of hair, with new hairs making an appearance all the time.
I hope this highlights to you that your current experience is only temporary – it can get better.
So, what to do now? If you have not done so yet it’s probably time to visit your GP. It is normal to lose up to 100 hairs in a day. It is also normal to experience sudden hair shedding around three months after giving birth. If however, you feel the shedding is excessive and you are experiencing any other unexplained symptoms it is important to see a GP and request a blood test. This will establish whether there are any underlying causes such as anaemia or thyroid issues etc, which will need to be treated with medication. Additionally if you are experiencing patches of baldness on your scalp (rather than the overall shedding I have described) the doctor will be able to refer you to a specialist.
A condition such as Telogen effluvium is self-correcting, but here are some measures you can take to help manage the shed and allow healthy new hair to flourish:
Improve your diet – This is always important and will help reduce the likelihood of the condition returning. You can visit a nutritionist, who can help with identifying your dietary needs and establish a plan. If this is beyond your budget, there is a wealth of free dietary information available online. I searched ‘how to reduce hair loss through diet’. Remember to consult your GP if you have any conditions or are taking any medications that may be affected by a change in your diet.
Exercise – When you exercise your body produces chemicals known as endorphins, these act as a natural sedative helping you feel more happy and relaxed. This in turn reduces your stress levels – another factor that can contribute to hair loss. Just remember to keep your exercise balanced and again to consult your GP if there are any health concerns that would make embarking on an exercise regime a risk for you.
Wash your hair frequently – when you’re experiencing hair loss, this act can be highly anxiety inducing. However, it’s actually one of the best things you can do to stimulate new hair growth. Frequent hair washing encourages healthy hair as it stimulates the scalp and creates the perfect conditions for it to regrow.
Brush your hair before you wash it – this was a piece of advice provided to me by my trichologist and is purely psychological but I found it immensely helpful in reducing the stress surrounding shower-time.
Use the right products – You don’t need to panic-buy and drop hundreds of £’s (like I did) but you should ensure you are using products that will encourage your hair to grow. I use a sulphate-free shampoo. Sulphate has been found to be one of the key culprits of hair loss and thinning hair by destroying hair follicles and inhibiting hair growth. There are numerous brands to choose from but I recommend Living Proof Full Shampoo. Keep styling products to a minimum to avoid build-up, I only use Percy & Reed Smooth Sealed and Sensational Volumising No Oil Oil For Fine Hair which is lovely and light and great for fine hair. You should consider switching to a lighter-hold hairspray too.
Additionally, I also get regular salon treatments such as the Nioxin Derma Renew, basically, a facial for your scalp. It claims to accelerate scalp surface regeneration through exfoliation and removal of build up. I just know that my scalp always feels cleaner and less itchy afterwards. If you don’t want to pay out for a salon scalp treatment, I can also recommend Kebelo Clarifying Shampoo, this can be used up to twice-a-month to exfoliate your scalp and help to eliminate product and environmental build up – I will note that whilst this product is paraben free, it’s not sulphate free, but only using it twice-a-month is less damaging than using one containing sulphates daily.
Turn the heat down – If you can leave your hair au-naturel without the use of any heated appliances, great! But if like me, that feels unachievable, try to minimise your use of the heated styling tools or turn down the heat setting. I switched my straighteners to a pair with a lower temperature. However, for the majority of the time, I allowed my wavy hair to dry naturally before running a few well placed barrel tong curls (on the lowest heat setting) throughout my head. If you are able to wear your hair curly or wavy, it does help to give the impression of fuller locks.
Stop touching it – I became obsessed and started running my fingers through my hair constantly to see how much would fall out. The best way to combat this was to wear it up. This again also helped psychologically as I saw less hair lying around the house. Just remember to be gentle putting your hair up and use grips/ties that will not damage your hair. Try using Invisibobble Traceless Hair Ring and Bracelet, which are suitable for all hair types.
Make an appointment with a trichologist – trichologists are specialists in the study of the scalp and hair. They will be able to look at your hair and scalp, diagnose a specific condition and offer products and treatments to help. Yes their services come at a cost, but I would not have coped half as well without mine. They are a great source of support. You can find a clinic local to you by searching on the Institute of Trichologists website
Consider supplements – if you’ve been advised that you have low ferritin levels (but not low enough to warrant medically prescribed iron tablets) you will potentially benefit from a supplement. These can help to raise your ferritin levels and maintain healthy hair growth. When I finished the course of iron tablets prescribed by my doctor (and on the recommendation of my trichologist), I switched to Lamberts FLORISENE®supplements to help maximise my hair growth. Remember supplements should only be taken on the advice of a specialist following blood tests.
Let me know if you have any questions or other advice to offer. Good luck to you and your soon-to-be beautiful head of hair!