Glorious hair

Expecting a baby? Expect some hair changes, too. If you're lucky, you'll have fabulous, glossy, thick pregnant hair. If not? Here's advice from the pros on your hair care woes

By Alison Wood
Glorious hair

Q: My hair was great during my first pregnancy — healthy with lots of volume. But I’m pregnant again and my hair looks limp and lifeless. How can I give it some oomph?

A: Start by cleansing your hair with a thickening or volumizing shampoo, followed by a light conditioner. To style hair, opt for a pump spray or mousse; gel, pomade and balm weigh down fine hair.

Begin by rubbing a dime-sized dollop of shampoo between your palms, then apply the product to the nape of your neck, moving upwards.

Most people start at the crown which leaves too much product on top,” says Domenic Iannuzzi, co-owner of Toronto’s Epoca salon. Rinse well (product buildup accounts for most of the problems with limp hair) before applying a small amount of conditioner to ends of hair only.

To style, let hair air-dry or use your hands and a blow-dryer to remove most of the moisture before finishing it off with a round brush. “Hair can handle more stress from a brush when it’s dry, which helps prevent breakage,” says Iannuzzi. “”When it’s wet, it snaps easily, especially if it’s over-processed from highlighting or perming.”

Q: Help! Since I became pregnant, my naturally wavy hair has gone frizzy! How can I tame it?

A: Say a big hello to silicone. This magical ingredient is found in a wide array of hair care products, from shampoos to styling agents. When applied to wet hair, it helps trap moisture to fight the frizzies. It can also be used on dry hair to add shine and polish.

When choosing hair care products, look for those promising to smooth or defrizz locks. They are formulated to make the hair feel less dense. Stay away from thickening or volumizing products; they will only make hair feel bigger. Pomades and balms are an ideal way to finish curly hair. Avoid the scalp, and don’t use too much or your hair will look greasy.

Q: My hair is oilier since I became pregnant. What should I do?

A: Pregnancy can bring about all sorts of changes, including this one. Oiliness begins at the scalp so it may need a daily wash. But shampooing so frequently can leave hair dry, so it’s important to condition the ends.

You might also look into an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo, especially if your scalp is irritated. Contrary to common belief, the yeast that causes dandruff, inflammation and scaliness actually thrives on greasy scalps, according to Toronto dermatologist Charlene Linzon.

Alternated with a regular shampoo, anti-dandruff products can be very effective. Check with your doctor before using as brands vary in ingredients and strengths.

Q: I’m in my first trimester and am looking (OK, and feeling) a little wan. I’d like to get some highlights to brighten up my look, or maybe a colour change, but is it safe?

A: Pregnancy shouldn’t be a punishment, says Dr. Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk program at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. So if colouring your hair makes you feel better about yourself, know that there is no indication it increases the risk of birth defects. “We regularly follow up on this subject and there isn’t any evidence the chemicals used in hair dyes are absorbed significantly into the skin,” explains Koren.

That said, you may opt to wait until after the sensitive first trimester when all your baby’s organs develop. If you are prone to morning sickness, you may not be able to stomach the smell of the chemicals in the first few weeks anyway.

Always make sure the salon is well ventilated. If smells are particularly bothersome, Koren suggests wearing a mask. If you’d like to play it extra safe and limit your exposure to hair dyes that come into contact with your scalp, opt for highlights.

Q: I’m thinking of getting my long hair cut short before the baby is born so it will be simpler to care for. My sister says I’ll regret it. What do you think?

A: An easy-to-manage hairstyle is a great idea, but cutting it all off may not be your best option. If you’ve never worn short hair before, you may not realize that it’s often more difficult and time-consuming to style than long. You’ll also fall victim to dreaded bed-head, which you won’t be able to solve by quickly pulling your hair back into a clip or ponytail.

Another thing to consider is whether a shorter style will suit your face shape, which likely has filled out during pregnancy. “Mid-length or longer styles are often preferable because they elongate a rounder face,” Iannuzzi explains. “Layers can also soften the cheek area.”

But if you’re ready to make the change, here’s how to find your face shape:
1. Wrap your hair in a towel or put it in a ponytail. If you have bangs, clip them back.
2. Stand in front of the mirror and trace the outline of your face onto the mirror with the edge of a bar of soap (this way the mirror will be easy to clean).
3. Eyeball the outline to determine your face shape. If it’s oval, any length goes. If your face is:

Triangular – Go for a short cut with fullness at the temples.
Oblong or square – Try short to medium-length looks.
Round – Opt for long layered styles.
Heart – Try a chin-length bob or medium-length layers.

Q: When I was pregnant, my hair was luxurious and full, but since having my baby three months ago, it’s falling out like crazy. What is happening?

A: Most of us sport about 100,000 hairs on our heads and it’s normal to lose up to 100 of them a day — most noticeably on your brush, pillow or in the sink. During a normal life cycle, hairs grow for several years, rest a few months, shed, then the cycle begins again. Normally at any one time, 90 percent of your hair is in the growing phase.

During pregnancy, many women lose even less hair thanks to a lengthening of this growing phase. “The body tends to like the pregnant state,” says Linzon. But about three months following birth (sometimes longer if you breastfeed), up to 50 percent of women experience “telogen effluvium,” a condition in which the hair is pushed prematurely into the resting phase, and then falls out.

Shedding usually decreases to normal levels over six to eight months, but Linzon says there are a few women whose hair doesn’t return to its pre-pregnancy state. If this happens to you, see a doctor who can evaluate your condition. Possible causes may include a thyroid disorder, infection or even a genetic tendency towards hair loss.

This article was originally published on Apr 17, 2006

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