Tired of people mistaking your little bald little sweetie for a little boy? Or are you always struggling to get those pretty hair pins on your daughter’s pretty much non-existent hair?
Many parents would love seeing a full head of soft, lustrous locks on their baby. If it’s a girl, especially, they may even wonder if any miraculous tricks are available to speed up their baby’s hair growth.
In actual fact, the characteristics of your baby’s hair are determined by his genes.
Consultant paediatric dermatologist Dr Chan Yuin Chew of Dermatology Associates notes that hair’s thickness, colour and whether it is straight or curly is down to genetics. “Some babies may have thin hair at birth and it becomes thicker by age 1. This is due to a delay in transitioning from vellus [short, thin, fuzzy] hair to terminal hair,” Dr Chan notes. The latter type of hair is thicker, darker and longer.
“Some babies may have thin hair at birth and it becomes thicker by age 1. This is due to a delay in transitioning from vellus hair to terminal hair.”
Most babies also lose some of the hair they were born with within the first few months of life. This is completely normal and due to hormonal fluctuations. The hair should start growing again shortly after it falls.
There are, however, some medical conditions that can slow down a baby’s hair growth, or even prevent your baby’s hair from growing.
Dr Chan explains, “A severe infection that’s usually associated with a high fever, thyroid disorder, surgery and certain medications can cause hair loss that is usually temporary.”
Genetics may be to blame for the other causes of sparse, or thin hair, says Dr Chan. This includes neonatal occipital alopecia, which can occur on the back of the scalp in the early months of life, he notes.
This transient loss of hair in infants was attributed originally to pressure or friction from lying in a horizontal position, but was later found to be due to the normal hair replacement cycles. “It’s a temporary phenomenon that does not require treatment.”
So, while we are all born with a specific number of hair follicles (that won’t increase no matter how often you shave your baby’s head or what hair products you use), as parents, you can take these steps to improve healthy hair growth in your little one.
Ways to promote healthy hair growth in your baby:
1. Proper scalp care
“As long as your baby is in good health and has no scalp problems, a gentle baby shampoo is all that is required,” says Dr Chan.
Simply pour a pea-sized amount of baby shampoo onto your baby’s scalp, add some warm water, and gently massage the scalp in circles. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
If your baby has cradle cap ― yellowish, crusty flakes in the scalp ― you can massage the scalp and brush it away with a soft baby brush. For more resistant scales and flakes, you can add a dab of baby oil and comb gently. Brushing and combing also increases blood circulation in the scalp, and can strengthen hair follicles.
Dr Chan adds that while the application of oil does not promote hair growth, it is a harmless practice.
2. Proper nutrition
“A good, well-balanced diet that provides sufficient protein, calories, iron, zinc, essential fatty acids and biotin is required for healthy hair,” says Dr Chan. Biotin is found in high-protein foods like meat, dairy and whole grains.
Once your baby has started solids, you can offer foods like corn and spinach that contain vitamin E to stimulate hair growth. Vitamin B, which is found in bananas, rice and eggs, contains keratin that will strengthen hair and prevent breakage.
"If your baby has scalp problems, like eczema, seborrhoeic dermatitis or psoriasis, medicated shampoos and topical medications may be required.”
3. Be gentle with hair
You may be tempted to pull together what little hair that your sweetie has into an adorable pony tail or braid, but treat the hair carefully to prevent damaging the roots. Avoid blow drying or using any type of heat ― air drying is best for healthy hair.
If your little one is blessed with curly locks, take care to detangle the curls. Wispy and fine baby hair gets tangled easily. So, use a soft baby brush to detangle the hair, so that you won’t need to cut away uncompromising knots later.
4. Treat medical conditions
If your baby’s hair growth seems unusually slow, you may want to visit a dermatologist as your baby may have an autoimmune disorder. “If your baby has scalp problems, like eczema, seborrhoeic dermatitis or psoriasis, medicated shampoos and topical medications may be required,” Dr Chan explains.
5. Don’t stress about it!
You may have heard that shaving your baby’s head, or cutting your toddler’s hair can make it grow faster. There is no scientific evidence that this is true, although hair may appear thicker when you trim any fine, scraggly ends.
In any case, be patient ― new hair grows an average of 1.25cm a month, so it could be several months before you notice any growth!
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