What To Expect (With Your Hair) When You're Expecting

Mary Claire Haver, MD
January 29, 2021
What To Expect (With Your Hair) When You're Expecting

Pregnancy changes

Whether you consider yourself to be low or high maintenance, we all have some type of cosmetic routine that we follow. Pregnancy brings its own set of beauty challenges, so maintaining that routine can become quite a task. Due to the fact that your body is changing so rapidly, it is unreasonable to think that you can continue your beauty routine exactly as it was before and still have the same results. Along with an influx of pregnancy hormones, your body is changing rapidly and everything seems to affect your appearance. It’s important to maintain a beauty routine as much as possible and confront pregnancy-specific challenges with helpful solutions.

Here is what I tell my patients about hair changes and cosmetic procedures in pregnancy...

Hormonal Hair Changes

Normally, about 80% of the hair on the scalp is in the anagen, or active hair growth phase. During pregnancy the number of hairs converting from the active growing phase to theresting (telogen) phase is decreased. This process results in a higher percentage of hair in the active growing phase, which produces the thick, luxurious, tresses that you may have never appreciated before. I have heard patients erroneously attribute this change to their prenatal vitamins, but no, this is actually due to the hormonal changes in a normal pregnancy. Sadly, this excessive hair growth is not limited to your head. Many people will also notice unwanted hair growth in many other areas of their bodies too.

MCH hair pic 2

During the postpartum period there is a rapid change in the hair follicles from the active phase back to resting phase. This results in a sudden and sometimes massive shedding of hair. This phenomenon is called telogen effluvium and starts around months 3 – 5 after a baby is born. I try to warn my patients that this process is going to happen. If I forget to mention it, I often get panicked phone calls from patients who begin to notice 10 times their normal daily allotted hair loss going down the drain after a shower. As distressing as this may be, this condition is not permanent and it will stop after a few weeks. Thankfully, the prognosis for the missing hair growing back is excellent.

Hair Coloring

I often get asked about hair dyes to cover gray hair and maintaining highlights in pregnancy. Multiple studies have looked at the safety of using commercially available products in pregnancy, and the most recent data indicates that they are considered to be safe if used in the “typical fashion”. This means using the products according to the package recommendations and not applying products directly to the scalp where they could be absorbed quickly through the skin. When I discuss strategy with my patients who do highlights and/or color their hair on a regular basis and are trying to get pregnant we usually agree on the following approach: Make a visit to the salon before you start attempting to conceive and then wait until 12 weeks of pregnancy to “touch up” roots in order to avoid any potential issues during organ formation in the first trimester.

MCH hair pic 3

Of course, Blake looks fabulous AND pregnant. If you look closely at her “reverse hombre” hairdo, it is most likely the result of not continuing her highlighting efforts during pregnancy, which allows her darker hair to grow in and the ends remain lighter in color. I think she looks pretty amazing

Chemical Hair Treatments

Chemical hair straighteners are all the rage; especially the newer Brazillian formulas which use varying concentrations of formaldehyde. When I researched studies on women in pregnancy, sadly there is little information available. One study done using the older lye-bases straighteners found a higher incidence of low birthweight babies. There is no data on chemical “perms” and pregnancy outcomes, although this type pf hair treatment is not very common anymore. For these reasons, I advise my patients to avoid these procedures in pregnancy altogether due to the lack of safety information.

Unwanted Hair removal

Shaving, waxing, and threading are all considered to be safe in pregnancy. Many people, however, feel that their skin is much more sensitive in pregnancy and feel that these procedures may be too painful to tolerate. A general rule of thumb is if it hurts don’t do it!

MCH hair pic 5

Topical Hair Removal Creams (Depilatory Products)

Sodium, calcium and potassium hydroxide are found in these products, and they are also found in large quantities in our diet. The topical absorption is minimal, so they are considered to be safe in pregnancy. They effectively remove hair at the surface, but remember the hair will grow right back at the same level it was before. This beauty regimen can be quite cumbersome because the hair grows back so quickly.

Hair Bleaching Agents

Hydrogen peroxide is the active ingredient in hair bleaching creams and are considered to be very safe as very little is systemically absorbed after application onto the skin when used in moderation.

Permanent Hair Removal

These laser and pulsed light treatments are not recommended in pregnancy because the hormonally driven hair growth associated with pregnancy will lead to an inadequate treatment response. This means that the laser and pulsed light treatments will no have the same results as when you are not pregnant, which would not be a wise use of your money. Most of these treatments are expensive and require multiple episodes of treatment, so it is best to wait until the postpartum period for best results.

So while the hair in every part of your body will change, those changes may not be for the worst. If you find yourself not happy with the hair growth, you do have options. I do warn patients not to try an extreme new look/cut/color while pregnant due to the changes you will experience during pregnancy and postpartum with your hair, face and body. What seems like a good idea rarely is. It is better to stick to your normal routine and look as much as possible and make changes when your baby (post baby body/hair) is a few months old.

Mary Claire Haver, MD

Mary Claire Haver, MD

Dr. Mary Claire Haver is a wife, mom, physician, and entrepreneur who has devoted her adult life to women’s health. As a Board Certified OBGYN in the Houston area, Dr. Haver has delivered thousands of babies, completed thousands of well-woman exams, counseled patients, taught residents, and did everything an academic professor and OBGYN could do. As her patient population aged, Dr. Haver was overwhelmed with the number of complaints and concerns her patients had with weight gain while going through menopause. For years, she told her patients to eat less and exercise more. It wasn’t until she, too, experienced the changes of menopause and mid-life weight gain that she realized this advice doesn’t work and ultimately let to her creating and developing a new program, The Galveston Diet. The Galveston Diet is the first and only nutrition program in the world created by a Female OBGYN, designed for women in menopause. The Galveston Diet helps women reach their health and wellness goals through an anti-inflammatory approach to nutrition. Dr. Haver believes in the power of nutrition to combat inflammation and highly recommends the unlimited benefits of intermittent fasting. As part of her ongoing research, she became certified in Culinary Medicine in 2019, which specializes in medical nutrition. Dr. Haver is married to her husband, Christopher Haver, since 1996. They are raising their two daughters, Katherine and Madeline, the loves of their lives.

Follow Mary Claire on Facebook @galvestondiet and Instagram @thegalvestondiet

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