Hair disasters after baby (and how it happened to me twice)

Pretty much me after I dyed my hair brown after having my first baby.
Pretty much me after I dyed my hair brown after having my first baby. Photo: Getty

There's nothing quite like new motherhood to make mums long for a little glamour - long nights of keeping a baby alive after a traumatic birth is hardly a recipe for feeling great.

Hair has always been my thing. I've been every colour under the sun several times, except for brown. Brown I only did once, and that's for a very good reason - I look absolutely terrible with brown hair.

And, like many other new mums, I had a massive identity crisis after becoming a parent for the first time. Raised to believe I could do anything and everything, I was a Gen X-er who thought motherhood would just slot into my life, not the other way around. And I was set for a fall.

(L) my usual hair colour and (R) one I didn't feel good in after my third baby.
(L) my usual hair colour and (R) one I didn't feel good in after my third baby. Photo: Suzi Catchpole

My solution to feeling crappy, or not quite myself, has always been to get my hair done. I haven't had many disasters (if you don't count the number of times I fried my hair to jelly with the bleach), but two times stand out above all. The two times I dyed my hair after babies.

It was 2005. I had just had my first child and had no idea who I was supposed to be anymore. One particularly screamy day, I decided to treat myself to a chemist hair dye. Down to one wage and with a new mortgage, actually going to the hairdresser was out of the question - as was sitting in a salon chair for four hours. So on went the brown home dye over my blonde hair.

What was I thinking?

I have spring colouring and brown is best left to the winters and autumnals of the world. It made me feel a million times worse. It took me at least a year to remove that from my hair. I did it gradually with foils and swore I'd never do it again.

Except I did. Fast forward to 2013 and I had just had my third baby. The brown hair disaster was a thing of ancient history - and besides, this time I wanted to go red. Like a nice, snazzy cherry red. Platinum blonde to cherry. Nice, right?

But that's not what happened. Instead, my hair went a dark purple plum colour. My hair drank up that stuff right down to its very deepest layers. I felt so drab. I had eye bags for days, the baby didn't sleep and now I felt like a walking storm cloud. It took another year to remove it from my hair. Looking back, it wasn't that bad, but it was all about how it made me feel.

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So I did some digging and it seems it's not uncommon for women to do something radical to their hair after (or just before) a baby. Even celebs aren't immune, with Naya Rivera recently revealing she suffered a hair lightening disaster a month after having her son Josey. Naya had hair breakage soon after birth and told People, "I did probably the worst thing you could do in that situation, which is then go dye it." 

 

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"I made the problem worse and paid the price for that. I'd tell new mums, 'Don't dye it yet!' Don't buy into the whole mummy makeover thing, because you will regret it."

For others it's the big chop that goes wrong. Jo, a mum of two, says, "I made a rash decision to get my hair cut short, forgetting that that meant I would actually have to style it. A no go with a new baby and five-year-old!"

My cousin piped up with her own tale of woe. "I had mine cut into a hideous bob style cut that really didn't suit me when I was about 6-7 months pregnant with the twins."

A friend of Asian background said, "I thought it'd be great to go blonde for the first time only a month after having my daughter. Let's just say I ended up an horrific shade of orange and I cried for days."

Another friend, Lisa, who has naturally light blonde, long hair, said she came a cropper (pardon the pun) after having one of her babies. "l got it chopped to this layered short bob thing, which was bad enough for my thick hair - then I dyed it bright red ... not a good look for me!" She didn't learn her lesson either, going for that exact same cut after her second baby, and regretting it again.

Hairdresser Emma Mirams says it's all down to communication with the client. "I think some hairdressers don't appreciate the limited time to style the new hair style they are creating that their new mum client will have to style at home. Running on broken sleep and a baby to look after, a lot of mums are lucky to have a five minute shower in peace."

She adds that hair changes drastically both during and after pregnancy and that a style cut during pregnancy, or right after, will look different once that hair begins to shed.

Looking back, I know my disasters all had to do with my self-confidence, and, like Naya Rivera, just needed to stick with the familiar and what I already knew to look good on me. As Naya said, "I sort of went back to my roots, if you will, and I am happier that way."

Me too, Naya, me too.