I can still hear my mom telling me when I was about 8 or 9 that I was the reason she had gray hair. Sadly for her, she had no idea what I was capable of at age 16! Poor mom, I certainly aged her double time after I could drive.
I can still see her glaring into her full length mirror, head down with hands holding the hair on the top of her scalp investigating all her grays so she knew where to cover them up. I literally became this person after having my son.
I was a relatively young mom though, and I was conditioned to link gray hair to aging. So does pregnancy actually give you grays, and more importantly can we naturally reverse it?
What is gray hair?
Gray hair rears its well... gray hair due to lack of pigmentation and melanin. If your hair is graying, the pigment cells in the hair follicles are starting to decrease.
As there are less and less pigment cells in a hair follicle, that follicle can no longer hold much melanin and will become that transparent gray color that can make us feel older. Shades of gray variation start to come in, then silver, and eventually white hair.
What causes gray hair?
Genetics and age are the well studied causes of gray hair. However, newer studies are linking stress, bleaching, pollution, and diet to premature graying.
The good news (assuming it bothers you), is that often times eliminating stressors and restoring diet can slow down the graying. In fact, the right vitamins combined for absorption can actually reduce + prevent it when it's due to some of the latter mentioned factors.
Does pregnancy cause gray hair?
It is very possible to notice gray hair during pregnancy and postpartum. The stress of pregnancy alone and in the postpartum period is high, and it's one of those side effects that really isn't mentioned... ever.
It's important to take graying during or after pregnancy seriously though. It often is a red flag that your nutrition intake isn't what it should be - or that it isn't absorbing properly.
Gray hair is a symptom of vitamin b12 + b6 deficiency and often times a vegetarian or vegan mom can experience it more severely if they aren't consistently absorbing b vitamins. Other vitamins it can be linked to a deficiency with would be Vitamin D, B6, and biotin, along with B5 (pantothenic acid).
Can I reverse gray hair after pregnancy?
Yes, and sort of yes. While its near impossible to restore hair that's already gone gray to its original color, you may be able to preserve the color of the hair you have and delay more graying with some nutrition changes that involve making sure you are getting enough vitamins.
What vitamins you need to make sure you are getting:
Vitamin B-12 deficiency is probably the most common cause of pre-maturely graying hair. They often run with deficiencies of folic acid and biotin.
While breastfeeding is incredibly good for baby it unfortunately can deplete mom of b12. Mom has an increasing need for this vitamin and if not received it can definitely be a link to those extra grays.
A prominent deficiency in those who do not consume meat, and pregnant moms and those breastfeeding again require slightly more than usual intake.
We know biotin supplements can make hair thicker and stronger, but deficiencies play a major role in premature graying.
Vitamin B-9 (folic acid)
Important for metabolic functions when you aren't getting enough B-9 through nutrition you likely experience hair, skin, and nail pigment changes.
What can I do?
Eating foods that help increase melanin production for hair is a good start.
Fruits like pineapple, melon, grapes, oranges or any citrus provide needed vitamins. Carrots, potatoes and meat, fish and eggs are also great choices (if non vegetarian).
Often times new moms have limited time to prep food and it can be hard to ensure all the vitamins needed are consumed.
Finding a vitamin specific for hair health can be essential to achieving the nutrition needs. The Baby Blues postpartum hair vitamin is a great complete hair vitamin that ensures mom is getting her nutritional needs met for hair growth and to minimize future grays containing all the B vitamins above along with super hair and skin secret weapon PABA.
Yup that's right, a secret weapon for gray just might be found in B vitamin compound PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), new studies are acknowledging that when taken with folic acid it can actually reverse some graying back to the original color.
PABA also has some extra great benefits like preventing hair loss, helping skin look younger, and preventing UVB damage with its powerful antioxidant properties that help deduce hair damage caused by the sun and UV rays. Oh ya, and preventing premature gray hairs- keeping your color intact.
Pregnancy & postpartum really did likely cause my grays. While I used to think when my sons were driving and hitting puberty I would be seeing them, the truth is after my first son I wasn't aware of the importance of taking vitamins and getting the right nutrition. I turned to monthly root touch ups in the years between giving birth to my second.
With Finn (my youngest) though, I got smart. I took the right vitamin with PABA, biotin, b6 & B12 and I keep it up now even 4 years postpartum. I'm literally stopping my grays in their tracks.
I 100% believe Moms should embrace how they look and if they make changes that give them confidence and a self-esteem boost than I'm for that too!
For me that's just going to be pushing off stress grays until I'm at least background checking every girl my boys try to date.