Pregnancy comes with a myriad of skin and hair changes, from freckles that suddenly darken to hair that looks fuller and more lustrous than ever before. You can thank your hormones for that.
Trichologist Philip Kingsley conducted a study into the effects of pregnancy on the scalp and hair, and discovered that a third of the women surveyed found their hair was better than ever in pregnancy. Another third noticed no changes, positive or otherwise. And the final third found their hair was drier and in worse condition than before.
In short: there’s no universal rule dictating what you can expect in terms of skin, hair and scalp changes in pregnancy. Just know there are likely to be some.
Need a quick 411 on what you can expect from your hair during pregnancy? According to Philip Kingsley, hair will seem thicker in pregnancy because of heightened oestrogen levels and the reduced circulation of male hormones. This means your hair will stay in the growing phase – and on your head – for longer, resulting in a fuller-looking mane.
As for what happens post-delivery? Here are some other hair and scalp changes that you might experience post-baby – and might not know about (you may want to sit down for this)…
Hair Loss Is To Be Expected
There’s no easy way to put this: after nine months of hair looking thick and fabulous during pregnancy, things tend to go a bit limp afterwards. It’s not surprising to find that post-baby, your hair might be thinning, or – gulp – falling out.
Postpartum hair loss is more common than you might realise, and can affect up to 50% of women who have just given birth (according to the American Pregnancy Association).
Here’s the science bit: while you’re pregnant, you tend to have more anagen hairs (hairs in the growth phase). You also have a higher hair growth rate and diameter because of soaring oestrogen levels (see this study, in the Journal of Pigmentary Disorders, for all of the details).
After pregnancy, however, changing hormone levels mean that hair enters the shedding phase, which women typically start to notice at around three months postpartum.
There’s no need to panic – this is only temporary.
By your little one’s first birthday, your hair growth is likely to be back to normal (if you’re feeling concerned that’s not the case, then book in to see your GP for a referral to a skin specialist), according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
In the interim period, there are various measures you can take to optimise hair’s appearance: a new haircut can help hair look healthy and vibrant (and hide any shedding).
This might be the time to try that bob you’ve always wanted: after all, a shorter, shapelier ‘do is the perfect time-saver for a sleep-and-shower-deprived new mum.
Also, the AAD recommends avoiding heavy conditioners and shampoos that can weigh hair down. Instead, opt for a volumising shampoo which can make hair look fuller, and choose light-formula conditioners designed for fine hair.
Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables can also help to promote hair growth, says the American Pregnancy Association, so be sure to prioritise your nutrition post-baby.
An Itch To Scratch?
Pregnancy and weird skin issues go hand in hand. Some women find that their skin darkens in places, while others feel their skin and scalp becoming dry and itchy (check out this 2015 study from the Indian Journal of Dermatology for more details on skin changes in pregnancy).
An itchy scalp and dandruff can also appear in pregnancy (dandruff is often linked to other skin conditions like eczema or seborrheic dermatitis, according to the NHS). Dandruff happens when the cycle of shedding old skin cells speeds up, leaving bits of dead, flaky skin on the scalp. Not fun. And, for some women, the arrival of baby doesn’t relieve every skin issue. Itchiness and dryness may persist for months after giving birth.
So, if you’re dealing with a dry or itchy scalp, or need to manage a case of stubborn dandruff, look for a shampoo with an active ingredient like ciclopirox olamine. It’s one of the key ingredients in Oilatum Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo.
It helps to soothe itchy scalps, moisturises and removes dandruff flakes. If dandruff is severe, Oilatum Scalp Intensive Anti-Dandruff Shampoo contains the ingredients ciclopirox olamine and salicylic acid to help reduce flaky skin cause by dandruff - even the stubborn stuff. It also has menthol, which acts to cool and soothe the scalp.
All Greased Up
While some women get the elusive “glow” in pregnancy, others end up with skin that’s drier than ever before, and a flare-up of existing skin conditions like eczema.
Still others will find themselves faced with issues in another direction: they suddenly have acne and an intensely greasy scalp, probably the result of excess hormones in the body during pregnancy, according to the March of Dimes.
Choose a mild shampoo that won’t strip hair of natural oils but will leave your scalp feeling clean and fresh. Wash hair daily and keep it off your face to minimise your chances of skin breakouts.