Postpartum hair loss is a daunting reality. This is how I found help and hope
It started in the shower. I have thick, curly hair and have a habit of losing it when washing or combing – 100 strands a day is apparently normal. What I wasn’t used to was when, about two months after giving birth to my son last May, thousands of hairs apparently started to leave my head every time I washed my hair. Soon it wasn’t just in the shower anymore: it was when I gently raked my hair into a ponytail and my hand emerged with a competing ponytail of escaping strands; or when my pillowcase seemed to be covered with floating clouds of dark coils; or, God forbid, when I brushed it and the hair of an American Girl doll was clogging the hairs. Worse yet, I started to notice patchy spots around my hair. My scalp was newly visible and I was not happy to see it. Is the top of the baby’s residual weight muffin weighing down on my caesarean scar and swollen, milk-leaking breasts not aesthetic traumatic enough to suffer? Apparently not.
I quickly discovered that this indignity was not unique to me. Other moms and my dermatologists knowingly nodded when I complained, amazed at the new condition of my hair. The shockingly common condition is called Telogen effluviumI have been informed and, according to the American Pregnancy Association, this affects 40 to 50% of new moms. The disease can actually afflict anyone with sudden severe stress, Lars Skjøth, founder and principal investigator of Danish Harklinikken Hair Clinic, tells me in his light-flooded Flatiron salon. But it’s especially common in postpartum women when their estrogen levels drop and the stress hormone cortisol rises, causing hair to go from growing, or anagen cycle, to the shedding or shedding phase. telogen. Hair usually grows back, Skjøth assures me, framing my panicked expression. But that regrowth can appear thinner and thinner, he adds, as the hair follicle itself often shrinks – a process known as miniaturization.
Once the exclusive domain of Rogaine and male pattern baldness, the hair loss conversation has taken on a facelift in recent years, led by companies like Harklinikken, which specifically target female hair loss. The opportunity for diversification has always been there: According to the American Hair Loss Association, female hair loss specifically accounts for nearly 40% of cases in the United States. “When I started, no one told women about it,” says Skjøth, who started his first clinic in Copenhagen in 1992 and has been studying hair loss in women for almost three decades. (Harklinikken opened an American flagship product in New York in 2019 and currently has a waiting list of 40,000 people for its personalized herbal treatments.)
After Skjøth searched my hair like a baboon mom for fleas, I was given my own personalized ‘snippet’ along with strict, elaborate instructions for washing my hair daily and then applying the elixir with it. a syringe in the evening followed by a tiring scalp massage. This was a significant change from my typical grooming ritual, which involves shampooing about once a week, and from the general advice from hairdressers who often discourage daily washing to minimize dryness. But cleaning and massaging the scalp is an essential step in allowing the follicle chamber to grow properly, according to Skjøth and his associates, not to mention preventing scar tissue around the follicle.