Have you noticed your hair becoming thicker since becoming pregnant? Are your hairy legs giving Chewbacca a run for his money?
One of the first things my mother told me as soon as I told her I was pregnant was, “You’re going to love it. Your hair is going to look so gorgeous.”
It’s a common old wives’ tale, but it seems to be a true one. It’s common for hair to grow faster on your legs, underarms, and even all new places as well.
In this article, we’ll discuss why your hair grows fast and thick during pregnancy and what you can safely do to get rid of unwanted hair while you’re growing your baby. But first, let’s dive into some more old wives’ tales, and set the record straight on what is fact and what is fiction.
Sorting Fact From Fiction
We have already determined your hair grows fast when you are pregnant. But that might not be the only old wives’ tales you’ve heard.
Have you ever been told that facial hair becomes more visible and grows faster when you are pregnant? What about if you have faster hair growth you will have a boy, or that slower hair growth means a girl?
If so you are not alone, as both are common old wives’ tales regarding pregnancy.
But are these old wives’ tales true? One of them is, while one of them isn’t. Can you guess which one is which?
Here Are the Answers
That’s because your hormone levels do not vary much based on the gender of your baby, and it’s your hormones that cause the hair growth in the first place (source).
What Causes It
“That’s just your hormones talking” — that was one of the worst things anyone could have said to me while I was pregnant. That sentence alone could turn me from a blubbering mess into Rocky Balboa within milliseconds. Unfortunately for me, there is some truth to it.
You see, several hormone levels rise for various reasons during your pregnancy. Progesterone keeps your uterus a safe and healthy environment for your baby to grow (source). Then there’s relaxin, which is thought to help loosen your ligaments in preparation for birth (source).
But the one that helps your hair to grow thicker and healthier during pregnancy? That’s estrogen, and your fabulous curls are not its only purpose.
What It Does
Of course, it often also has the fortunate side effect of helping both your hair and nails to grow faster and healthier than they previously were (source). But while thick, lustrous hair on your head is the stuff of many women’s dreams, what can we safely do about the hair we don’t want during pregnancy?
Treatments For Body Hair
Here are some of the things you can do to get rid of that unsightly body hair as well as our safety rating for each one.
1. Waxing and Sugaring -- Safe
Waxing and sugaring are some of the oldest hair removal methods in history, with sugaring going back as far as Ancient Egypt (source). Both work by spreading the substance onto the skin and tearing it off to rip out patches of hair at its roots.
While both waxing and sugaring are considered safe to pregnant women, beware that it might cause more pain than you are used to.
Estrogen, the same hormone that causes your increased hair growth in the first place, also causes your skin to become more sensitive as your body’s blood flow increases (source). With your doctor’s permission, acetaminophen can be taken an hour or so before you wax to help with the pain and discomfort (source).
Although waxing and sugaring are both considered safe to do during pregnancy, there are some instances where it should be avoided.
Don’t Do It If
2. Epilators -- Safe
Epilators, created in the 1980s, are small electronic devices that pulls unwanted hair out at its root. Like waxing, epilators pull out several hairs at one time.
Many women use them because they are less messy than waxing or sugaring, and do not come with the chance of cutting yourself like shaving.
Epilators can be painful, even without being pregnant, although many say the pain lessens over time as the hair grows back thinner after several uses.
During pregnancy, an epilator is completely safe to use, but it might be more painful than even experienced mamas remember. That’s because, as with waxing and sugaring, your skin can become more sensitive while pregnant, making it hurt worse when the hairs are ripped out.
3. Shaving -- Safe
Shaving became popular in the 1940s when nylon stockings were in short supply due to war efforts. The process involves using a razor to cut the hair at the base of the skin. Because the hair is not pulled out at its root, it grows back faster than other options like waxing or using an epilator.
Shaving is one of the safest options for hair removal during pregnancy, but there are still some precautions you should take. Because your balance can be affected during pregnancy, make sure to be either sitting in the bath or on the edge of the tub (source).
A good, soothing shaving gel is also recommended to ward off any nicks and cuts. And if you’re prone to razor burn, try soaking the area in warm water before shaving, and then apply cool compresses afterward, followed by a non-scented lotion to limit any irritation.
4. Depilatory Creams -- Safety Unknown
With the pain that can come with waxing or epilators, or the fear of nicks and cuts while shaving, depilatory creams can seem like an easy and pain-free way to get rid of unwanted hair.
Unfortunately, it is recommended you hold off on this option until after your baby is born (source). While depilatory creams have not been proven unsafe during pregnancy, they have not been proven safe either. That’s because of the active chemical ingredients such as calcium thioglycolate used to make your hair dissolve, and the strong odors it can give off when in use.
If you don’t want to give up your depilatory cream completely during pregnancy, we recommend that you hold off until at least your second trimester.
Why You Don’t Want To Do It In The First Trimester
5. Laser Hair Removal -- Safety Unknown
Laser hair removal is a method that seems to become more popular each year. Who wouldn’t want permanent hair removal?
But it’s best to err on the side of caution and wait until postpartum to try this method out.
Like with depilatory creams, there are no studies, either way, to show if laser hair removal during pregnancy is safe. But what is known is that your body produces more melanin while you’re pregnant, and laser hair removal during this time can cause permanent skin discoloration (source).
On top of that, laser hair removal can be very expensive and it takes several sessions to remove hair permanently. Many women are already strapped for cash because of the cost of pregnancy and all that baby gear.
Since the unwanted hair goes away within months of delivery, you may want to skip this treatment during pregnancy anyway.
Don’t rush to remove hair through expensive means shortly after delivering. The hair often falls out after your baby is born due to the sudden decline in hormones that occurs after you give birth.
Editor's Note:Christine Traxler, MD, BS
While some extra hair growth during pregnancy is welcomed, some of the growth that extra estrogen causes we could happily do without. Thankfully there are safe options for hair removal during pregnancy.
Whatever method you choose to keep your unwanted hair at bay, remember to take the necessary precautions to keep you and your baby safe, including:
- Not waxing or sugaring areas with open cuts, varicose veins, or rashes.
- Shaving either in the tub or on the side of the tub to prevent yourself from falling.
- Waiting until at least your second trimester to use depilatory creams or avoiding them altogether.
Do you have any tips on safely removing unwanted hair while pregnant? Did you try a method that we didn’t mention in this article? Share your ideas with us in the comment section below.