Friday, July 01, 2005

Hair Care

Fuller, thicker hair is one benefit of pregnancy for some women and a myth for others. Pregnancy hormones can affect every woman's hair differently; for some, the increased estrogen causes their hair to grow thick and fast, while others find that their hair goes limp and even falls out. To encourage healthy hair, make sure you eat well and get all the essential nutrients. Your hair is part of your skin system, so the healthier you are, the healthier and more beautiful your hair will be. Even if you are one of the lucky ones who experiences increased hair growth, it may behave differently than your pre-pregnancy hair. Dry hair may become oilier, oily hair may become dry, curly hair may become straight or vice versa. Your hair will take perms and coloring differently, and may also grow in areas where you may wish it didn't, such as your face, abdomen, back, and legs. Hair loss during pregnancy may be the result of iron, iodine, or protein deficiencies, which can also cause your hair to become dry and brittle, and grow in lighter than your normal color. Many pregnant women don't get enough iron, especially women who are experiencing severe morning sickness and are not getting proper nutrition. Foods that are particularly good for your hair include yogurt; fresh fruit and vegetables; cold pressed oils; pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds; whole grains like brown rice and oats; and almonds, figs, and dates. To combat undernourished hair, massage your scalp for five or ten minutes every day to stimulate circulation. Every few weeks, turn this into an aromatherapy massage by adding a few drops of essential oils (such as lavender, neroli, patchouli, sandalwood, or ylang ylang) to a half-cup of warm vegetable oil. Massage the oil onto your scalp and hair ends, then wrap your hair in a warm towel and relax for ten minutes. If your hair is dry, wash it less frequently; your natural oils are good for your hair and scalp and washing it twice or three times a week is more than enough. When you do shampoo, use a mild low-detergent shampoo and a moisturizing conditioner. Whenever possible, let your hair air dry since blow drying and curling irons increase dryness and damage. Many pregnant women want to try a new hairstyle that is easy to manage, which often means they decide to cut their hair short. But short hair may actually be harder and more time-consuming to style than long hair, which can be pulled back into a clip or ponytail. Also, a drastic change may not look as good with your face shape as you had imagined. Remember that your face shape may change as your pregnancy progresses and you put on weight. Long, straight hair can create the illusion of a slender face. If you usually color your hair, talk to your obstetrician about any color treatment you are planning during your pregnancy. Some animal studies have shown that a few of the chemical compounds in hair dyes can cause birth defects. However, in many of these studies the animals were exposed to extremely high doses of the chemicals, more than a woman would ever come in contact with while coloring her hair every month or two. The Organization of Teratology Information Services, which provides information on potential reproductive risks, says that coloring your hair during pregnancy is probably safe. Most experts agree, however, that it's best to wait to color your hair until after your first trimester - and you may not be able to stomach the smell of the chemicals during your first few weeks anyway. To limit the absorption of any chemicals into your bloodstream, avoid processes that touch the skin and scalp, such as single-process coloring. Highlights are a good alternative since they involve painting sections of your hair with permanent color, which does not come into contact with your scalp or skin. When styling your hair during pregnancy, make the most of however your hair has decided to behave. If it is straight and limp, work a volumizing product through hair at the roots and blow dry upside down to increase volume. If you have curls, tame any frizzies by working in a curl-defining product and letting it dry naturally. If you're not sure what to do, consult with your stylist on how to maximize your new pregnancy hair. Once you have given birth, don't be alarmed if your hair - be it limp or full - begins falling out in handfuls. Most women experience increased hair loss between 3 and 6 months after giving birth. Your hormones are simply returning to normal and it may take a couple of growth cycles (several years) before your hair completely returns to normal.