My short, wispy fringe is not some kind of fashion statement. I try to keep it hidden but when my hair is newly washed thick tufts of it stand up on end. It looks ridiculous but at least it shows my hair is recovering from what is fetchingly known as postpartum hair loss.
Apparently 50 per cent of women suffer from thinning hair after they've had their baby. My hair came out in handfuls after I stopped breastfeeding Alfie. So much so that I had to get a plumber to unblock the drain in the shower.
All too late I met Anabel Kingsley, a trained trichologist (like a dermatologist but for the hair and scalp) who has met countless women suffering from postpartum hair loss. Her father is hair guru Philip Kingsley, who invented the phrase 'bad hair day' and has spent his career researching the hair and scalp health. I spent this morning at their clinic in Mayfair quizzing Anabel about postpartum hair loss.
When does postpartum hair loss take place?
The shedding starts six to 12 weeks after you've had your baby. Unless you're breastfeeding, in which case it will be delayed until 6 - 12 weeks after you've stopped feeding. Many women don't connect the two things and panic when their hair starts to fall out nine months after giving birth!
What exactly is postpartum hair loss?
Post-partum hair loss is caused by plummeting oestrogen levels. In pregnancy high levels of oestrogen keep your hair in growth phase. That's why it often looks better than ever! Once you've given birth and oestrogen levels fall, all the hair that would have been shed over the past nine months falls out at once. You can get a vast reduction in the volume of your hair. We're not completely sure why some women experience hair loss after pregnancy and others do not - it can also occur during one pregnancy, but not another. I.e. if you lose hair after your first baby, it does not mean that you will experience this again after your second or third!
Can you do anything to prevent it?
Sadly not. But you can stop a second type of shedding, which can be brought on by stress, a lack of sleep and poor nutrition after you've had your baby. Hair is a non-essential tissue, so nutrients are first delegated to parts of your body that need them the most - like your heart! This means that your hair is usually the first thing to suffer from a deficiency or internal upset. I advise everyone, especially those experiencing hair loss, to eat well and take care of themselves. This means eating plenty of protein and iron rich foods - and also avoiding stress as far as possible and getting plenty of rest. I also recommend taking vitamin and mineral supplements that are specially geared towards the hair's unique needs, but you should always discuss with your doctor before taking them.
What else can you do to help promote new hair growth?
It's important to remember that the health of your scalp is important to the health of your whole body, so try to put good quality ingredients on your hair. An exfoliating scalp mask once a week can help: by removing the dead skin you will help create the optimum environment for new hair growth. At Philip Kingsley we also sell Trichotherapy drops to promote new hair growth.
I read somewhere that PH balancing shampoos can help after postpartum hair loss. Is this true?
Back in the day (and I'm talking the 1920/30s here when soap was still used to wash the hair and blow-dryers were as big a hoovers) "shampoos" were highly alkaline, making the hair dull, brittle, tangled, rough and overall pretty miserable looking. However, all modern shampoos are PH balanced - and the term 'PH balancing' is just a marketing ploy used! Do shampoo frequently, though, as a clean scalp is a healthy scalp. Don't stress too much about the shampoo you use, just make sure it is appropriate for your hair texture and, most importantly, that you like the results!
Any tips for making lank, flat hair look instantly more lustrous?
Go for any product that's going to put body in your hair. A volumising, thickening spray will work well, although choose one that protects the integrity of the hair, too.
And any tips for a good hair cut?
Don't be tempted to layer the hair - it will make it look even finer. Try a shorter cut. This will instantly make your hair healthier and will be more convenient too.
If hair loss continues for more than a few months and you're worried, go and see a trichologist or a doctor. Try not to stress, though - the hair will grow back. I've never come across a case of postpartum hair loss being permanent.