Everything You Need to Know About Baby Hair

Baby hair fall outs, grow backs and changes throughout the first few years of life. Here’s how to care for it.
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Published February 23, 2023
mother brushing baby's hair
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When it comes to newborn hair, there’s a wide range of what’s considered normal. Many babies are born without any hair, some arrive with a few sporadic strands and others come onto the scene with a plethora of enviable locks. As baby grows throughout the first few years of life, you’ll see their hair evolve. But what causes these baby hair changes—and will the color and texture remain the same or look and feel completely different? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about baby hair growth and loss, plus expert tips on baby hair care to keep that mini mane healthy and beautiful.

Newborn Hair: Why Some Babies Are Born With It

While scientists aren’t entirely sure why some newborns are born with baby hair and others aren’t, it likely has to do with a combination of baby’s hormones, genetics, DNA and ethnicity, explains Denise Scott, MD, an Oklahoma-based pediatrician and expert with JustAnswer. If baby was born sans hair, it’ll likely start to grow soon. In fact, hair follicles begin to develop in the womb at 14 weeks gestation, and newborns are born with all the hair follicles they’ll have and need throughout their lifetime, says Scott.

But while baby hair follicles may be present at birth, the type of hair baby is born with will change. Newborns are born with vellus hair, which consists of short and thin strands (aka peach fuzz), says Latanya Benjamin, MD, FAAD, FAAP, a pediatric dermatologist and consultant for the skincare brand Mustela. They’ll also likely experience newborn hair loss shortly after birth, and the subsequent hair that’ll grow back may be a little different. Infant hair loss is normal, and it’s not a cause for concern, but it does mean that baby typically won’t have a full head of hair until they’re between 6 months and 2 years old. It’s not a definitive timeline, so talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. That said, if baby remains hairless beyond the two-year mark, there may be an underlying cause, notes Alexis Phillips-Walker, DO, a pediatrician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Pediatrics in Atascocita, Texas.

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When Do Babies Lose Their Hair?

According to Phillips-Walker, most newborns lose their baby hair during the first six months of life. (In fact, though you can’t see it, Benjamin says that baby hair loss actually begins in the womb during the final trimester of pregnancy.) Newborn hair loss may be noticeable around 2 months and peaks when baby is 3 to 4 months—which is also around the same time Mom may begin to experience postpartum hair loss.

Why Do Babies Lose Their Hair?

Newborn hair loss is perfectly normal—it’s part of the telogen wave, which is the natural hair cycle of synchronized shedding and growth. “When a new hair growth cycle begins, the old hair falls out,” says Scott. Hormones also play a role in newborn hair loss. Hormone levels are high in the womb, but drop significantly at birth; this dramatic shift leads to infant hair loss and slows newborn hair growth, explains Scott. (And, for the record, this is also what happens with postpartum hair loss.)

Common skin issues like cradle cap can also play a role in newborn hair loss, says Phillips-Walker, as can friction from sleeping on their backs (which is the safest way for babies to sleep). Regardless of why it’s happening, newborn hair loss isn’t usually a cause for concern. However, if you see patchy, bald spots with red, flaky scales; smooth bald patches or other skin rashes on baby’s scalp, let your pediatrician know.

When Does Baby’s Hair Grow Back?

The hair regrowth cycle for follicles can take up to 12 weeks for healthy babies, Benjamin says, but there’s a range of normal. You may not notice a difference in baby’s overall hair growth until they’re between 6 and 18 months—though for some children it could take up to two years, says Scott. But if baby starts to lose their hair again after it has grown back in or after the age of 6 months, let your pediatrician know. “There can be a number of causes for this, many of which are treatable,” says Scott. Sometimes nutritional deficiencies can be at play. What’s more, scalp care techniques or baby shampoos that are overly aggressive may play a part, Benjamin adds.

Will Baby’s Hair Color Change?

The short answer is yes. Once baby’s hair starts to regrow, their initial vellus hair will darken as it transitions to terminal hair (the permanent hair seen in older children and adults). But, even beyond this, baby’s hair color may continue to fluctuate throughout the first five years of life. Baby’s permanent hair color is predetermined by chromosomes when they’re conceived, but the shade can change for several years before the permanent color emerges, says Scott. A study found that many babies (both male and female) had darker hair for the first six months of life, and lighter hair between 9 months and 30 months of age. Then, after the age of 3, the subjects’ hair became progressively darker until they turned 5. (It’s important to note this research only looked at white, European children.)

Along with baby hair color, texture may also fluctuate throughout a child’s early years. “Straight hair may come in curly, or thick hair may come in thin (and vice versa),” notes Phillips-Walker. “Genetics and baby’s own hormones help determine which it’ll be.”

How to Care for Baby’s Hair Growth

With all the changes that happen to baby hair during those early years, it’s only natural to wonder how you can keep those little locks healthy and fresh. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to promote baby’s hair growth.

  • Be gentle: Use “gentle strokes with a soft baby brush and soft bristles,” advises Benjamin. Or, consider using a wide-toothed comb on wet baby hair to avoid snagging or pulling.

  • Don’t over wash baby hair: Babies actually don’t need to be cleaned much during those first few months—and excessive washing may strip the natural, beneficial oils on their scalp and skin. Newborns only need their hair washed once or twice a week, adds Scott. When you shampoo baby’s hair, use a soft washcloth, rather than your hands.

  • Be mindful of products: Scott recommends avoiding the use of conditioner unless baby’s hair or scalp is dry. Moreover, look for products with natural ingredients (like sunflower oil) to naturally help protect and nourish baby’s scalp, advises Benjamin. Finally, opt for a gentle tear-free shampoo that doesn’t put stress on baby hair follicles.

  • Avoid accessories and tight hairstyles: As cute as those baby hair accessories can be, it’s best not to use them daily, especially if your child is already experiencing hair loss or having trouble with hair regrowth. Using accessories on baby’s hair occasionally is okay, but opt for headbands, hair bands and clips that are soft and won’t pull on baby’s hair when removed. Avoid tight ponytails or braids, as they may cause baby hair breakage.

  • Practice tummy time: Scott recommends practicing tummy time with newborns and keeping them safely off their back when they’re awake, as this may help counter some newborn hair loss.

  • Massage baby’s scalp: Before baby’s hair even comes in, parents can promote better hair growth by brushing and massaging the scalp, as this helps increase blood flow and stimulates hair follicles. But “don’t try to use different products and oils to do this, because you can cause allergies in sensitive baby skin,” cautions Phillips-Walker.

  • Proactively treat cradle cap: Cradle cap may play a role in infant hair loss, so it’s best to treat it early, says Scott. If baby does get cradle cap, she recommends massaging mineral or olive oil into their scalp for about 10 minutes, and then very gently scrubbing the scalp while shampooing with a soft toothbrush to help remove scales.

When to Get Baby’s First Haircut

Once your little one has a full head of hair that’s growing longer with each passing day, you’ll likely start thinking about going for baby’s first haircut. There’s no definitively right or wrong time to make that milestone appointment. “Trust your gut, but definitely [get it done] before hair reaches the length that it’ll get in [baby’s] eyes,” advises Scott. That said, there may be some benefits to waiting until baby’s at least one-year-old. Not only does it allow more time for baby’s hair to grow, it also means that your child will be able to sit up and support their own head during the process, which is ideal for safety. Additionally, Scott debunks the myth that cutting baby’s hair earlier guarantees better growth or thickness, so there’s really no rush.

Wondering if you can cut your kiddo’s baby hair yourself? While you can certainly try, it may prove to be a stressful and slightly dangerous experience, as babies move quickly. If you’re intent on cutting their hair yourself, follow these tips from Scott:

  • Use scissors with short blades; they’ll be easier to control (avoid razors and shavers, unless you’re a licensed professional)
  • Position baby in a high chair, and make sure they’re fed and well rested (you want them to be in a good mood!)
  • Enlist the help of a second adult to help control baby’s head and hand movements, and distract them, as needed

That said, for safety reasons, Benjamin suggests getting baby’s first haircut done by a professional. “They may play a greater role in holding or positively distracting the child,” she says.

The bottom line? Baby hair will change a lot throughout the early months and years of childhood. Take comfort knowing that newborn hair loss and baby hair regrowth isn’t typically a cause for concern. However, if you have questions about baby’s hair, don’t hesitate to flag them with your pediatrician—even if they don’t bring up the topic. “Baby scalp care is often overlooked, and not frequently discussed in the doctor’s office,” says Benjamin. Listen to your instincts and know that baby’s luscious locks will likely grow in soon.

About the experts:

Denise Scott, MD, is a pediatrician with JustAnswer and a pediatric endocrinologist based in Oklahoma with over 20 years of experience. She received her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch and completed her residency at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, with a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.

Latanya Benjamin, MD, FAAD, FAAP, is a pediatric dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, as well as a consultant for the skincare brand Mustela. She earned her medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine and Hahnemann University, and completed her pediatric residency at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and her fellowship in pediatric dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Alexis Phillips-Walker, DO, is a pediatrician with Memorial Hermann Medical Group Pediatrics Atascocita in Atascocita, Texas. She earned her medical degree at Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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