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hair club for mamas

Have I told you about my hair? Probably not; I try not to talk much about it. However, I am buoyed by other ladies with more eloquent, confident writing than my own (read: Suburban Matron’s discussions of her own post-chemotherapy hair loss), and so I’ve decided to let you in. I have rarely found anyone discussing the topic of female hair loss on the web, so perhaps I can be helpful.

My hair is falling out, like, a LOT. I don’t have cancer or anything, so not to worry. It’s happened before, although both of the previous times took place from exactly three to six months after giving birth, when there are several potential reasons for the loss of hair. In fact, even excessive postpartum hair loss is a normal condition, for 40-50% of women, called Telogen effluvium. The great news is that the hair grows back.
The main reason for the postpartum loss is that pregnancy hormones cause women to retain hair that would otherwise have fallen out in normal hair growth cycles, giving pregnant women thick, luxurious hair. When pregnancy is over, that hair plus the normal amount of hair all fall out at the same time. Some lose much more than others, and little is known about why. I happen to think it comes down mostly to how we are each¬† hard-wired to respond to pregnancy and that there’s not much you can do about it if you lose more hair than normal.

My own hair loss bordered on the edge of extreme; at my best guess I lose about 60% of my hair each time it happens. Luckily, I start out with a lot, so it’s not as noticeable. But believe me, when it comes out in huge chunks in the shower, it is every bit as traumatic. If excessive postpartum hair loss happens to you, you can at least find solace in knowing you aren’t alone. Both times it happened to me so badly that I went to the doctor to have blood-work done, which (of course) all came back normal. No answers, just the wait and see approach, and it always grew back eventually.

Me and Vivi, c. 2008: In the midst of hair loss #1.

Cue to present day, and I am in month #3 of losing it (both physically and metaphorically)…AGAIN. This time I have no real reasons, no third baby. After the first go-round of hair loss, I got pregnant again, so who knows what would have happened had I not? And no answers from doctors, AGAIN.

My plan is to stop waiting and seeing and start changing up my routines to see if I can get and keep healthy hair. My first step is to go back on the multivitamin. My hair loss this time hasn’t exactly coincided with weaning Charlotte and stopping pre-natal vitamins, but it isn’t too far off. So, step #1 is begin taking vitamins again.

Step #2 is to change the way I care for my hair. While I was originally just going to begin using a shampoo bar, the frugal challenge is just the kind of encouragement I need to take the plunge into the “no poo” world. The theory behind quitting shampoo is that it helps your hair follicles return to a more natural, less oily state. Rather than washing your hair with shampoo every 1-2 days, you go 3-4 days between washes and wash it with baking soda, then rinse it with vinegar.

From what I’ve heard, it’s the in-between period when you’re retraining your hair that is the hardest, grossest phase to overcome. I’ve been keeping up with another blogger’s attempt at the “no poo” treatment. Here’s to hoping for the best!

Update (8:00pm): I can’t believe it! After five days of not washing my hair and brushing it a few times a day, I washed it tonight with the baking soda/vinegar combination, and it feels amazing! It does not smell like vinegar, and it brushed out easier than even the best conditioner I’ve tried. I didn’t think I was going to like it at all, and Nate was even more skeptical, but I passed his smell/feel test. If it continues to be this good, I am on the road to being a no-poo convert.¬†

Update #2 (1-30-12): I am still “no poo” and loving it. I wash my hair every three to four days, depending on how much exercising I do, and I make sure only to wash the ends in 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar per cup of water to keep my roots from becoming greasy. I am thinking of experimenting with lavender oil to add a scent occasionally, and I’m in the market for a squirt bottle and powder shaker.

Update #3 (6-25-12): I now wash my children’s hair in baking soda too. Because of our new shorter haircuts, we only use vinegar now once every few weeks to condition it; otherwise, our daily/weekly method is just baking soda in water. I purchased a sugar shaker from the dollar store, but I find it gets too clumpy in the bathroom closet, so I’ve switched back to keep it in a zip bag or the original box.