Why are some babies born with a full head of hair and others are not? Dr Andrew Raffles, Consultant Paediatrician at The Portland Hospital, delves into the ins and outs of baby hair.
Why are some babies born with hair and others aren’t?
Like everything in nature, hairiness at all ages has an infinite amount of variation, and 99.9% of extreme hairiness or lack of hair is within normal limits. Most infants are born with some body hair, but often this is so fine and wispy it is hard to see.
How visible the hair is depends not only on the amount of hair but also on the presence of pigmentation. A fair skinned baby and a dark haired baby may have exactly the same numbers of hairs, but the presence or absence of pigment (melanin) will determine how hairy or hairless your baby looks.
Those with visible hair are born with a range of fashionable presentations, from frizzy long locks to a stand up shock of hair, and everything in between. It is not known why some babies are born with lots of hair, although genetics or chromosomal makeup is probably the underlying explanation.
Why do some babies experience hair loss?
Following birth, all new-born babies will experience hair loss, at a cost of great anxiety to their proud parents! If you have had a baby with a full head of hair, take lots of pictures, because it may all disappear – usually within the first six months or so.
This is because the hormones which enable you to have a healthy baby and maintain a pregnancy have now diminished, which results in a very great slowing of hair growth and regeneration. As a result of the falling hormone levels your baby’s hair stops growing.
Eventually your baby’s hair will grow and he or she’ll look less like a Mohican and more like the traditional baby in the beautiful baby photos.
The precise timing of this appearance of the eventual adult pattern is very variable – anything from six months to aged three years and sometimes later.
How often should you wash a baby’s hair?
Don’t wash your baby’s hair every day. Particularly with new-borns, there’s just no need. Aim for a quick shampoo when you bathe baby, which doesn’t need to be more often than a couple of times a week, this is subject to personal choice and convenience – and how messy your baby gets!
Be gentle when you massage a tearless baby shampoo into your baby’s scalp. A too-brisk scalp massage can stress hair follicles and speed up hair loss or breakage. Comb your baby’s hair with a soft-bristle brush or a wide-toothed comb that won’t snag on tangles or pull your baby’s hair. However fashionable, avoid headbands or ponytails that pull your baby’s hair back too tightly, which can damage it.
If your baby needs a quick haircut, do it as and when necessary, and make sure he or she is well fed and settled before you start!
Dr Andrew Raffles is a leading paediatrician at The Portland Hospital, with over 30 years of experience as general paediatrician with an interest in all aspects of child health. If you would like to make an appointment with him, please contact The Portland Hospital’s Children’s Enquiries +44 (0)203 740 9860 or Dr Ian Hay +44 (0)207 390 8295.