Your hair and your pregnancy
25 January, 2022
So firstly, congratulations! If you’re reading this you are probably expecting a baby or are close to someone who is, so prior to anything else, I would like to say a personal “how exciting” and express my joy at your expectant little bundle. I myself am 31 weeks at the time of writing and apart from feeling rather larger than normal, have been lucky enough to experience a straight-forward pregnancy thus far.
One of the many little changes to my body that I have noticed is how thick, full and healthy my hair has been throughout my pregnancy and this post explores why that is and what to expect post-partum!
Usually, when I wash my hair in the shower (using my Back to Basics Shampoo Bar, of course) I end up plastering what looks like a totally unreasonable amount of hair on the shower wall in a sort of ‘hair mosaic’ before scooping it up and either binning or saving for collection for the birds during nesting season. During my pregnancy however, despite combing my fingers through my hair in the shower, I am pulling out only very very small amounts. Likewise, my hairbrush is considerably less full than usual and I am finding (thank goodness) less caught up in my hoover!
So why is this happening? Well, hair normally grows in two distinct phases: active growth, and shedding (find out more here). During the shedding phase, the average person loses around 50-100 hairs a day. When you're pregnant, the extra oestrogen and progesterone in your body causes your hair to get ‘stuck’ in the growing phase i.e. it doesn’t enter the shedding phase. Losing less hair of course means that your hair looks thicker and fuller during this time.
What about after pregnancy? Well, inevitably, what goes up must come down and the post-partum drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels triggers the hair to enter the shedding phase. If this happens, please don’t be alarmed. It is completely normal and something that will right itself again as soon as your body gets back to its natural cycle of hair growth, this is usually around 3-6 months. To encourage this process of normal hair growth once more, make sure you have enough iron in your diet and of course generally look after yourself as much as is possible (exercise, diet and – erm – sleep…)
What products should or shouldn’t you be using during pregnancy?
For obvious reasons, products aren’t tested on pregnant women, meaning that finding ‘pregnancy safe’ hair care products can be a little difficult. There is no ‘safe for use in pregnancy’ label equivalent to the leaping bunny logo or B corp label. Depending on what you read you will come up with all sorts of answers as to what is an what is not safe for use in pregnancy. Despite reading countless ‘ultimate pregnancy beauty essentials’ lists published by all the big magazines, not one of them gave any reason whatsoever for why they felt confident calling the products they listed ‘pregnancy safe’.
Despite this, the minimal research that has been done into pregnancy safe beauty care has generally concluded that most every day beauty care products (like hair dye) are safe for use in pregnancy (1). Chemical relaxers and dyes have been found to be safe for personal use 3-4 times throughout pregnancy (2). The general advice that I found while searching, is that shampoos and conditioners along with other hair care products were generally thought to be safe, although a precautionary approach was encouraged. Precautions that one can take with hair care in pregnancy include:
- Waiting until after the first trimester before using any chemical treatments on hair
- Limiting the use of these treatments
- Avoiding chemical treatments that included ammonia
- Having treatments that didn’t touch the scalp eg using foils and highlights rather than a full hair dye.
The biggest concern that I could see was the potential for hair products to contain ingredients that are endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors have the potential to interfere with one or more hormone systems in the body, which play key roles in normal foetal development. Current data shows that the levels of exposure we have to these endocrine disruptors are too low to pose a real risk (3). However further studies have indicated that while individual chemicals may be no cause for concern, combinations of many of these chemicals have the potential to be harmful (4). Of course, we have no real way of knowing which chemicals we are exposed to as we are exposed to so many (household cleaning, beauty products, pesticides on food etc) and so the best advice I can give here is simply to limit your exposure where possible.
Some of the common endocrine disruptors that can be found in shampoos (and many other beauty products are):
Phthalates, in particular, should be avoided in pregnancy as there was stronger evidence linking these to adverse outcomes (5).
If you have a spare 5 minutes and fancy reading a little further into the potential risks of chemical exposure during pregnancy (and how best to limit these) I found this article from the Royal Collage of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists very useful (and easy to read).
So, I may not have all the answers to pregnancy safe beauty products, but I am pleased and proud to say that An’du’s Back to Basics Shampoo Bar is phthalate and paraben free, making it, as far as I can tell, as safe for use in pregnancy as it can be.
Written by Lizzy