Here's what moms on Insta told me to do with my hair for my first 6 months of motherhood
Beauty writer and mom-to-be Nneka Elliott shares her favourite advice for Black postpartum hair style and care
I have texturized hair, which is essentially a relaxer that is left on for a short period of time. The result is a slightly looser curl that still maintains some natural texture. I haven't relaxed my hair since January. That's mainly because I didn't want to put any chemicals in my hair while pregnant, but also due to COVID-19 closures.
As a result I have substantial "new growth." If you have chemically treated Black hair, you know very well that the combination of lots of new growth and straighter hair can often cause breakage if not properly taken care of. With a new baby coming, taking care of my hair isn't going to be top of mind. Furthermore, I constantly hear from other moms about how their hairline fell after having kids. Regardless of hair type there are countless stories of thinning hair and hair loss.
I needed suggestions for a protective hairstyle that would help prevent me from having to manipulate my vulnerable two-textured hair, while at the same time anticipating any hormonally driven changes. So what did I do? I turned to Instagram, of course!
I put a call out on my feed and, to my surprise, protective labour hairstyles is a thing! Here's the best advice I received.
The majority of respondents definitely favoured the braids route. Especially knotless or crochet braids.
"Ok I JUST did this (babe is 12 weeks). I did knotless braids for delivery and had them in like 10 weeks (he was just about 2 months when I took them out). I was dreading the takedown but it took me about an hour. Since then I've just been wearing it natural. Having braids was great at first though because having a new baby meant I had time for NOTHING else and the braids were a godsend."
"Would definitely say braids - if the person is good they will know how to protect your hairline. Very versatile - with the right oils and leave in conditioner you can still wash while leaving the braids in for a few weeks. When it's time to take them out, you start from the middle, hiding what you've started with a high bun (in case you don't finish) it's really not that bad. All the best."
I think the major benefit of knotless braids, specifically, is that they're not bulky, less heavy and the application generally involves less hairline tugging. If I do choose this option, for longevity of the style, a silk scarf or bonnet is a must. Also a braid-specific oil or spray that has omegas and fatty acids will keep natural hair strong and nourish your scalp. Braids should be worn 4-6 weeks tops.
Jamaica Mango and Lime No More Itch Gro Spray, $8.99, Walmart
On going natural
Going natural involves the complete elimination of chemical straightener. Essentially embracing how your hair grows out of your scalp naturally. I've discussed this process many times at my current salon, Jou Jou Hair in Toronto, and in the past at Jazma Hair salon. Some people do a big chop, others patiently let the natural hair grow out and then trim off the straight ends when enough new growth has been achieved.
"I had all the same concerns. I went natural. It was a huge learning curve because I had straight hair for 20 years and my hair was way down my back after the pregnancy. My only regret is that I transitioned for 2 years without a big chop. I kept it straight but I felt like it looked untidy all the time. I cut the straight parts off the other day… like a solid 10 inches and I feel so much better. Love my natural hair!"
"Go natural - French braids or twists. Don't do braids! You will likely lose a lot of hair around month four until six/seven months postpartum. If you lose at the temples or hairline (like I did) I think the braids will make the hair weaker. I left mine natural and hair came back very strong where I lost it. And keep taking iron 🙌"
According to the natural hair community a big part of successfully going natural is keeping roots moisturised and ensuring that you condition regularly. Staying away from heat and a good scalp treatment and detangler are also strongly recommended.
Coconut Moisturizing Conditioner, $16.99, Locsuria
This is a protective style that involves securing (sewing, microlinks, etc.) hair extensions to your own cornrowed hair. There are multiple options of coverage. You could do a leave out, with your natural hair left out at the top. A closure, which is hair attached to silk or lace material, can also be used to fully cover your natural hair. Then, of course, there are wigs that can be sewn onto braids, glued down to the hairline or left unattached for easy removal.
"I'll say go with a weave… you've worn them and know how to maintain them"
"Cornrow your own hair and have wigs on deck… also head wraps to the rescue!"
Some people use wigs and weaves as a transition style as they go natural. It's a good way to put away natural hair and protect it from heat styling or additional manipulation. In my experience, weaves shouldn't be worn longer than 6-8 weeks. While wearing, maintaining the health of the scalp is important.
On hair loss
A lot of the moms I've engaged with say three months postpartum is when they started to experience hair loss. Not everyone experiences it. It's called postpartum alopecia.
"From my professional experience [as a hairstylist] I always warn new mommies to not get braids after birth. You can do braids before the birthing time and keep it right up to 1-2 months."
"Any form of braids after 3-8 months is walking into trouble. Reasons are, your hair goes through the stages of new growth to the dying phase. However, while you are pregnant around 5 months in, the hair does not go through the dying phase and that's why most pregnant women will see an increase in hair growth. But anywhere from 3-8 months while your body starts to regulate itself, you will experience all that shedding. Since the body is already doing that naturally, I generally tell mothers to do very light styles with less tension because it will make the whole shedding experience worse."
"It normally comes on both sides of the temple area. It's temporary alopecia, don't sweat it, most mother's do freak out. but be careful during that time. Best delivery when it comes❤️❤️❤️"
"Most women lose quite a lot of hair after the baby is born when estrogen levels change, especially around the hairline, so I'd say something that's gentle on the roots! It mostly grows back when hormones re-balance, but that growth takes time and the hairline loss can be pretty alarming for a few months!"
I think great products for hairline loss have castor oil in them because it fortifies and rebuilds weak, damaged hair.
Serioxyl Denser Hair Serum for Hair Loss, $60, L'Oreal Professionnel
Scalp Stimulating Growth Serum, $25, Mello Hair