Pregnancy made me lose my curls.

When I was little I had pretty straight hair.  When I started the earliest stages of puberty- around 3rd grade or so- my hair got super curly.  It stayed curly until I got pregnant with my daughter.  Exhibit 1:

So what happened?  Why did my hair change?  I didn’t know, but was curious and went in search of answers.

First I asked around- I found a few other moms whose hair had gotten curlier or straighter during/after being pregnant.  Since they were all scientists, they could speculate why, but nobody knew for sure.

A quick Google search turned up tons on info on post-partum hair loss, and articles about how thick and full hair can get during pregnancy, but nothing about a change in texture.  Therefore- a more in depth Google search.

Here are my findings…

Most of what I knew about hair growth, I actually learned from mice.  Hair growth is cyclical, with two primary phases:  anangen (when the follicle is actively growing hair), and telogen (when the follicle is resting and sheds the hair it had been growing).  There are a variety of mouse mutants that have long hair- thanks to changes in genes that prolong the anangen phase.  The length of the cycles vary depending on the location of the hair and are controlled by a variety of growth factors and hormones.

Source

Normally the majority of the hairs on your head are in anagen (about 90%), with 10% in telogen.  So you lose hair everyday, but since it’s the minority of hairs on your head, it’s not noticeable.

While you’re pregnant, estrogen and other hormones prolong the anagen phase, meaning you lose fewer hairs and most women report thicker, fuller hair.  Once you give birth, your hormone levels fluctuate and the follicles on your scalp that had been kept in anagen, transition to telogen and you shed lots of hair at once.  That process is called post-partum alopecia and is a form of telogen effluvium.

Telogen effluvium could explain how my curly hairs fell out, but it doesn’t explain why the hairs that grew back weren’t curly.  So, what makes hair curly?

Turns out, the shape of your hair is due to the actual shape of the follicle from which it grows.  This post by Anne Tecklenburg at Stanford was really helpful at explaining hair texture .  The take home message:

Source.

So did my follicles change their shape after I was pregnant?  Were hormones responsible for my hair getting curlier at puberty and less curly during pregnancy?

It is known that estrogen strongly influences hair growth (see here), and we know that estrogen levels fluctuate during and after pregnancy and birth.  However, the exact molecular mechanisms responsible for the change in hair texture during pregnancy may not be known- or are an area of active research.  This great piece on NPR addresses just that possibility:  A Hair Mystery:  Curly Hair Gone Straight.

The conclusion from all this- while not definitive- is that yes, hormonal changes during pregnancy can alter the texture of hair, most likely by changing the shape of the hair follicle.

A coworker of mine had her hair go from stick straight to very curly with her first pregnancy, and from very curly to wavy with her second.  As I’m now almost 19 weeks through this second pregnancy, and hair grows about 1.25 centimeters per month, I have about 5.5 centimeters of hair that has grown since I got pregnant.  While I have noticed less hair loss, so far, I don’t see it getting curlier, if anything it’s getting even straighter.

I’ll be sure to update when my hair growth normalized post-pregnancy.

Some references:

WebMD- Telogen effluvium

Standford’s Ask a Geneticist-  Hair Biology

NPR- A Hair Mystery:  Curly Hair Gone Straight

Wikipedia- Hair Follicle

Advertisements

29 Comments

Filed under #scimom, Mother, Scientist

29 responses to “Pregnancy made me lose my curls.

  1. I agree with you. This article content explain it all. Consumers with Telogen Effluvium by no means entirely lose every single of their scalp hair, although the hair may be noticeably fragile in really serious instances. Though TE is often limited to the scalp, in additional severe situations TE can affect other locations, like the eyebrows or pubic region.

    Whatever form of hair loss TE takes, it\\\’s completely reversible. The hair follicles aren\\\’t permanently or irreversibly affected; you will find just additional hair follicles in a resting state than there should certainly ordinarily be.

  2. riviera

    I am 11 weeks pregnant and have lost my natural curls! My hair is wawy but no sign of curls anywhere! Interesting that it is another effect of hormone changes. Thanks for your scientific-based answer

  3. Brandy

    So by chance any idea if our curls will come back? I’m missing them.

    • My second is now a year old, and there’s no sign of the curls returning. I’m kind of bummed about it.

      • Naomi

        my story’s a lot like yours – barely wavy til puberty, then corkscrew curls just loose enough to wrap around your finger. The curls stayed through pregnancy, but after 6 months of nursing they were noticeably straighter and continued to straighten to almost my prepubescent waves until my son was 3. At that point I discovered that I had some major hormonal imbalances (due to a lovely combo of endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, MTHFR genetic defect, subclinical hypothyroidism & adrenal fatigue) and started addressing those issues with nutritional and other lifestyle changes. Within a month my curl started to come back, but only in the new hair growth. I stuck with my program and my hair is 98% back to what it used to be pre-pregnancy. I think the biggest culprit was the impaired thyroid function, but it’s just speculation. I cut off all the ‘straight’ stuff and now have a cap of corkscrew curls again. Good luck and I hope you get your curls back!

  4. Lindsay Woodard

    The change in hair texture during pregnancy can most definitely be permanent. I had ringlet curls before I had my two girls. The younger one is now seven, and most of my hair has certainly relaxed its curls, and the sides are super straight–super annoying!

  5. Lisa

    The exact same thing has happened to me ! During puberty my hair turned from straight to beautiful ringlets and now 7 months post pregnancy the curls are gone – and I miss them! Thanks for your research and post, we will have to be more creative with our hair cuts and styling!

  6. PaperDahlia

    I’m pretty much in the same boat… i had cute soft curls as a kid, my mom always worked to then straighten my hair..puberty hit and it was super curly/kind of frizzy.. my friends used to call my long corkscrew curls ‘whips’ because if the wind blew it might hit someone in the face. LOL. However, after the birth of my son, my curls slowly seemed to soften up. Now on a good day, it might be somewhat curly, but more often than not, i’ve got soft waves. (sigh) Love them while you’ve got them, right? I definitely agree with the reasoning that hormones play a role in reshaping the follicle.

  7. Heather Moorman

    Oh NO kidding! This is happening to me right now!!! I had thick, wavy hair growing up and once I hot college it got pretty curly. Been through chemo….even curlier! Loved it! I’m 13.5 weeks along and my hair has been AWFUL! It won’t even hold a curl! Very different to be dealing with fine hair for the first time in my life. I’m NOT complaining, I would do anything for this little Love…just baffled. THANK YOU for sharing this!!! (I am going in today to have some more chopped off, just can’t handle it)

  8. rubysmama

    I have always had very thick, very straight (with a hint of a wave in places) hair. My daughter is 2 and a half, and I recently got my waist-length hair cut to my shoulders. I just noticed that there is a small section of hair near the back that is almost downright curly. Is it possible that a small section of hair could change after pregnancy?

    • christine

      I have the same hair type and that’s exactly what happened to me after having my daughter almost 5 yrs ago, just a small section in the back near the roots had grown out curly. Now after having my son last May I’ve noticed the same curly hair growing out but this time all around the crown and roots of my head! i hate it because the rest of my hair is pretty straight. It is just a brief inch or 2 and the hair closest to my roots is straight again so I’ll just have to wait it out til it grows out i guess, so strange:/

  9. Mary

    My wavy hair was unaffected by my first pregnancy but now that I am in my second pregnancy, I quickly noticed that my beautiful waves had gone flat. I came to this website to see what other mommies had to say about the prospects of getting my curls back. Looks like the odds are against it but it’s not totally out of the question. Thank you.

  10. aran

    recently came across this and thought to link it in here! 🙂

    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2014/the-physics-of-curly-hair-0213.html

  11. Yeah i agree with the point, the type of your hair is depend on your hormon and due to pregnancy it may change and it may not some times.

  12. Whenever you are a pregnant,hormones prolong the anagen phase, meaning you lose fewer hairs and most women report thicker, fuller hair.

  13. brooklynD

    I had long frizzy and almost damaged hair, after I had my son I was constantly losing my hair! I was in tears and so upset! I couldn’t take any vitamins since I was breastfeeding so I wanted something natural. I only used the Shielo Volumizing Shampoo 3 times and my hair completely stopped falling! Feels and looks so healthy, shinny and strong! It was so strong that I decided it was ready for some color so I dyed it and it looks awesome! The good thing is the Shielo products are known for also protecting hair color, while not having any harmful chemicals. It will solve all your pregnancy hair problems!

  14. Summer

    I had spiral curls from ages 13-22. At 22 I got pregnant for the first time. With each successive pregnancy My hair became less thick and less curly. It finally came to an ugly wave and frizz. Now at 36.5 and 5 kids later, I am 2.5 years postpartum and my crazy curls are coming back. All my new growth is kinky curls. It’s funny because I can actually see the same curl pattern growing in that I had as a teen, but my ends are still straight. Apparently the follicle can change structure with the hormonal changes. After 10+ years of being pregnant or nursing I am finally back to “normal” with no hormonal changes other than my period and my hair is becoming awesome again. Fear not ladies, your curls may come back, just after a few years of hormonal rest 😉

  15. Steph

    I too had curly/wavy hair and after my second pregnancy lost the curls. Recently I have seen my ob for issues and after blood tests she found I have estrogen dominance. So I am on a natural supplement to lower my estrogen, it’s been almost 3 months on the supplement and though I am due for a blood test recheck, my curls are coming back. I do believe the texture has to do with estrogen

    • Naomi

      Steph, I think you’re on to something there. I have been battling estrogen dominance with nutritional and lifestyle changes since last September, and noticed a definite increase in my curls back to my prepregnancy levels as soon as I started that program, but only in the new growth. And it didn’t get really curly until puberty, so I’m with you – I think estrogen is pretty key.

  16. I am having similar problems. My hair has always been very soft waves but can easily be styled straight. Following first pregnancy (son now 32 mths) I have a section of hair at the back (out of sight definitely not out of mind) which is crazy kinky curly. Completely out of sync with the rest of my hair. I am now pregnant again at 23 wks and really pinning my hopes on the possibility that perhaps after baby #2 arrives my hair will return to normal…. I wish there was someone to reassure me this will be the case!

  17. Maritza

    I am a first time mother. 16 weeks pregnant. I looked at this site because I myself have curly hair. And I’m worried about my hair going straight.

  18. Pingback: Gained a baby, but lost my curls. | Zotheysay

  19. Kaitlynn

    I loved reading this, I had fairly curly hair growing up. After I got pregnant with my first they relaxed a little, but it was still curly. After my second though it only has a little bit of wave left.. And do I ever miss my curls! My mom swears it’s because I straightened my hair “to much” when I was younger, but to me that doesn’t make sense haha.
    I’ve just started getting into natural hair care and noticed that a little bit off curl has come back, probably just since there is less crap on my head. I hope to see more return! 🙂

  20. Cassie

    Did the curls come back?

  21. Zoe

    Good article, and I enjoyed everyone’s comments.

    Had my hair cut recently, plus I’m still BF-ing (multiples if that matters). I think my hormones won’t be back on track until I stop BF.

    I miss my waves! I do really hope they come back! Not sure if there’s a good way to get them back. (besides checking for estrogen dominance?)

  22. So sad. My hair before and when pregnant was sooo curly! Now it is flatter and wavy 😦

  23. J

    Did you ever get your curls back??? Going through the same thing….

  24. Betty Dominguez

    Great article! I have kinky curls, and I’m currently 14 weeks pregnant & my hair is growing super straight! The texture feels soft, and moisturized it’s def not kinky right now. So weird !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s