I’ve spent 15 years trying to grow back my eyebrows after my friend’s older sister told me my eyebrows looked like “wooly caterpillars” and convinced me to majorly tweeze them before starting high school. It was the early aughts and thin brows were in, as I’m sure you remember. I'm thrilled that full, more natural looking brows are back, but it’s taken a lot of biotin, castor oil, spoolies, and eyebrow pencils to finally get here. So, I was disappointed and a little overwhelmed when I heard that postpartum eyebrow loss is a thing. Why did no one tell me? I'm planning to be pregnant soonish and I’d really like to keep my brows in tact post-birth without carrying a tube of Glossier's Boy Brow with my everywhere. Just kidding, I'll do that regardless.
A lot has been written about hair during pregnancy. We’re fed a narrative that the tresses of expecting women will grow long, thick, and shiny; basically my understanding of the pregnancy/ hair sitch was that women would be instantly transformed in Penelope Cruz or Becky With the Good Hair. It turns out that hair isn’t actually growing more or becoming thicker, it’s just falling out less. Sorry to burst your bubble, Rapunzel. When hormones begin to level out after giving birth, the hair returns to its normal shedding pattern, which can make the hair on the head, eyebrows, and even arms look and feel thinner and more sparse. I spoke to four experts about why postpartum eyebrow hair loss happens, and what you can do about it.
Risa Klein, certified nurse midwife and OB-GYN NP tells Romper, “After pregnancy, many women experience hair shedding and some women report loss of hair on their eyebrows and eyelashes. This occurs due to the normal phases in scalp hair growth. During pregnancy there is an increased proportion of ‘anagen’ or growing hair, to that of telogen or resting hairs. Due to the increase in estrogen during pregnancy, the growth hair phase is prolonged.”
A 2014 study conducted by The European Journal of Dermatology and Venereology found that during pregnancy, hair follicles stay in the anagen (growing) phase for longer periods due to hormonal changes. The hair returns "to the telogen phase within three to six months of delivery with a sudden drop in hormone levels. This results in excessive shedding of hair known as postpartum telogen effluvium.” So simply put, your hair, which has been holding on strong during your pregnancy, starts to shed at once, which results in hair loss (and shock when you see that much hair in the shower drain). Postpartum eyebrow hair loss may be especially noticeable because there is less hair there to begin with.
Somewhere between two and four months postpartum, telogen effluvium — the process of temporarily losing hair after a stressful event — occurs for many women. Giving birth is beautiful, but it is also (no shocker here) stressful on the body. “The process [of telogen effluvium] is abrupt, and presents with alarming amount of hair loss, including eyebrows and eyelashes,” Klein tells Romper.
Michal Cohen, scalp micropigmentation artist, makeup artist, and microblader who has worked with postpartum woman tells Romper that a few months post-delivery, women can “profusely shed, losing three times as many hairs as normal.”
Before you chalk your postpartum eyebrow hair loss to hormones, there are other possibilities to consider. Dr. Rita Linkner of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City tells Romper, “The loss of eyebrow hair is known as madarosis, clinically, and the causes are usually autoimmune in nature. The reason this is seen commonly in women who have recently given birth is because of a shift in the immune system which unveils this issue. Often times, the shift in postpartum women can unveil autoimmune disorders like thyroid issues or alopecia areata that can affect hair growth on the eyebrows." Because there isn't one definite cause of hair loss, it's a good idea to check in with your doctor.
You’re probably reading this hoping for a way to prevent postpartum eyebrow hair loss from happening, or at the very least, make it less noticeable. Well, sorry to be the 'patience is a virtue' person, but one of the best (also easiest and cheapest) things you can do is wait it out. “Women should be reassured that this is temporary, and normal hair growth is restored by six to 12 months.” Because brows are having such a moment, there are tons of eyebrow pencils and gels on the market that can help you fill in your brows while you’re waiting for them to grow back in.
If it’s approved by your doctor, you can also try some common supplements like biotin, iron, or vitamins A, C, D, or E, which stimulate hair growth, according to Healthline. You may finally have an excuse to try those cute little hair gummy vitamins as seen on Instagram. Klein explains that while postpartum hair loss is normal, you may still want to mention it to your doctor who “will determine if blood work needs to be drawn to test for vitamin deficiencies, or other medical conditions involving iron deficiencies, diabetes, thyroid disease, or other illnesses.”
Dr. Linkner also mentions the importance of seeing a dermatologist to get the the root of what's going on. “The best way to diagnose this kind of hair loss [madarosis] is by seeing a board-certified dermatologist who is expertly trained and knows exactly what to look for. There are prescription strength topicals that can be prescribed to stimulate new hair to grow, even in postpartum women while breastfeeding. I’ve seen with my patients that alopecia areata that's new generally responds fast to in-office steroid injection treatments."
If you want to do something more drastic (maybe you’ve never loved the way your brows look, or feel like as a busy mother you no longer have time to fake full arches each morning), you may consider microblading your eyebrows. Cohen tells Romper that “microblading is a method of tattooing where specially formulated cosmetic pigment (not tattoo ink!) is implanted under the skin using a manual handheld blade. As a practitioner, I draw hair like strokes with the blade to create the illusion of brow hair.” It’s a good option for moms who are finished breastfeeding, but Cohen says while breastfeeding, it’s best to “use hair growth serums or castor oil to try to trigger hair growth for their brows, [but always] speak to your doctor before using any product while breastfeeding.”