Curly Hair During Pregnancy? Here’s Why It’s Happening

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Curly Hair During Pregnancy? Here’s Why It’s Happening featured image
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When I was little, I used to be jealous that my mother hadn’t given me her curly hair. We had the same fine, thin and dark hair and dealt with the same oiliness and slow growth. But my hair was stick straight. I’d thought it just came down to the genetic lottery, but she told me her curls were actually a rather new addition to her life. It turns out, my mother’s curl pattern changed while she was carrying me. Like a spell overnight, her hair went from straight to curly during pregnancy and stayed that way.

But why exactly does this happen? We spoke with experts to understand how pregnancy can change our hair and our curl pattern, and what we can do about it.

Featured Experts

  • Gilly Munavalli, MD is a dermatologist based in Charlotte, NC
  • Shab Caspara is a trichologist and founder of Leona hair growth solutions
  • Dr. Kerry Anne Perkins is a board-certified OB-GYN
  • Tina Pearson is a hair texture specialist
  • Michelle O’Connor is Matrix’s global artistic director and texture expert
  • Christine Hall is Esteé Lauder’s head of R&D for hair care

Your Curl Pattern

When it comes to your hair, there are some traits you can use to determine the sort of care you need to provide your strands. These traits includes hair type (think fine, thick, etc), and curl type, which refers to the shape your strands take naturally. And our hair type and texture can actually reveal a lot about us, too.

“What really helps to differentiate between hair types is understanding one’s genetic history and hair-care routine,” adds hair texture specialist Tina Pearson. “With genetics, aging, menopause, hormonal imbalances, there are a lot of factors that can take a huge hit to texture and overall hair condition.”

“There is such a wide range of textures, from wavy all the way to coily,” explains Esteé Lauder’s head of R&D for hair care, Christine Hall. “And for some of us there are multiple different textures on one head. Just the other day I was having my hair cut and styled and my stylist pointed out a section that is apparently bone straight. I just never noticed it before because it was on the back of my head.”

For most of us, if we want to “permanently” change our hair type, that involves some kind of chemical process like a perm or straightening treatment. But when it comes to pregnancy, that traditional understanding goes out the window.

That’s right, your hair can get curly during pregnancy, even if you’ve had stick-straight hair you’re whole life.

Why Does Hair Get Curly During Pregnancy?

A lot can change about your hair during pregnancy, with women reporting everything from the lushest hair of their lives to extremely concerning hair loss postpartum. But why exactly does hair get curly during pregnancy?

“The hormonal changes that we experience during pregnancy can have a direct impact on our hair,” says Matrix global artistic director and texture expert Michelle O’Connor. “As hair professionals, we often see that your hair can change while you’re growing a human being. There are other pivotal points in our lives where this can happen, like during puberty.”

“Reproductive and growth hormones known as androgens are responsible for converting hair into larger, curlier and darker strands,” explains trichologist Shab Caspara. “It’s very common for someone to experience multiple curl pattern changes over the course of a lifetime due to hormonal changes triggered by puberty, periods of high stress, crash dieting, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause.”

The uptick in estrogen that occurs during pregnancy is what’s bringing the texture change, and the impact can vary from having more defined, bouncier curls to getting a whole new curl pattern. It’s not uncommon for women with straight hair to suddenly go curly, like my mom, or the opposite.

The surge of hormones we have during pregnancy can also lead hair to stay grow a lot faster.

“Your hair stays in the growth phase longer,” O’Connor explains. “So it grows at an exponential rate.”

Pregnancy hormones can also cause hair growth that’s harder to get rid of via treatments like laser hair removal (which is never encouraged during pregnancy). According to Charlotte, NC dermatologist Gilly Munavalli, MD, those pregnancy hormones might impact how effective lasers are at removing hair. “From a biological standpoint, hairs are hormone-sensitive so those devices would be even less likely to work in that setting,” Dr. Munavalli explains. “The patient would achieve less results per treatment than normal for those at-home devices.”

“The increase in estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, growth factors and cytokines during pregnancy not only slow down the rate of hair shedding, but also contributes to thickening the diameter of hair strands,” Caspara adds.

And once your pregnancy is over, there is a chance of rapid hair shedding while your body goes back to its normal state, explains OBGYN Dr. Kerry Anne Perkins. “In the postpartum period, when the hormones make that switch, the hair follicles all go into a resting phase simultaneously, and shortly afterward, hair loss occurs.”

Adjusting to New Curls

If you’ve just had your hair get curly during pregnancy, you might be a bit daunted by curl-care.

“Keeping your hair hydrated is going to be a primary concern,” O’Connor explains. “It can be hard to remember just to stay really well hydrated while you’re going through pregnancy. I recommend using Matrix’s Food for Soft line for its clean ingredients and intense moisture.”

Hall agrees, noting that the tightness of your coil can help you understand your hair’s hydration needs.

“For coily hair types, the big concern is dryness,” Hall explains. “And products that highlight shea and coconut oil are signaling to those buyers that they can take care of that dryness.”

But if your curl type is looser, she recommends looking for alternative ingredients. “If you’re worried about weighing down your curls, there are a lot of other lighter emoluments, including plant-derived squalane,” Hall says. “This gets you conditioned, but it’s not particularly heavy.”

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