- Written by Queen Munguti for Kenyakidz
Kenyan women risk permanent hair loss if they braid or weave their hair during their last few weeks of pregnancy, a move often done to prevent hair loss but might actually be having an opposite effect.
“Hair loss during that period is actually triggered after giving birth and not while breastfeeding as people believe,” said Muli Musyoka, a trichologist and founder of Hair Hub which specialises in hair restoration. “The fluctuation of hormonal levels, the body stress experienced during child birth and the reduced levels in iron is what causes the hair loss or post-partum alopecia.
“So when a woman decides to braid or weave their hair to prevent hair loss when breastfeeding, they are worsening the situation because they risk pulling out hair follicles at the front, which will not grown back causing permanent hair damage.”
When a woman is pregnant, they body produces more of the female hormone, oestrogen, than normal, which is good for the hair. Their hair blossoms and the follicles stay longer on the growing phase than usual and that is why sometimes post-menopausal women take natural oestrogen for their hair growth.
When they deliver, the delivery process is stressful to the body and as they lose blood, they in turn lose iron, which is very important to the body and hair growth.
“After delivery the level of oestrogen drops to normal, which contributes to hormonal fluctuation which triggers the body to lose hair because it is connected to a lot of nerve endings which depict different changes in the body system,” he said.
“If the body stress is too much, the hair becomes susceptible to it triggering shedding. And people with low levels of iron more often than not lose hair.”
For hair to go through the growing phase to the shedding phase it will take three months, that is usually while breastfeeding and that is why most women think it is breastfeeding that is causing the hair loss. But in five months or so, hair loss caused by post partum alopecia, will grow back.
However, for women who cannot stand the sight of their hair shedding, the doctor has solution for them. “We can use tropical creams to help accelerate hair growth, castor oils which have vitamin E, an antioxidant, or use growth factors to help the hair grow back faster.”
To prevent hair loss, , Muli recommends not braiding hair for more than three weeks and when braided, it should not be very tight on the hair line. “ Most women who complain of hair loss when they started breast feeding but it never grows back after a long period of time, have actually induced a form a hair loss called traction alopecia (permanent hair loss) due to the trauma caused on the hair due to braiding for long periods.
“When one unbraids, they should spend another two months conditioning and strengthening it before braiding again.”