One of the Asian beliefs surrounding babies is to shave the baby’s head, either at one month old or regularly. Some traditions do it for blessings (for instance, to keep a sample of the cut hair for good luck) while others believe it will promote hair growth. However, there is no science supporting that shaving will promote hair growth and it is a myth that many still believe, likely because:
– Shaving the hair makes it all grow back at the same length, therefore appearing “thicker” than if the hair strands were all (naturally) of different lengths.
– If the baby’s head is shaved at around three to seven months of age, it is also about the time when the hair at birth (vellus hair) will be replaced. Since vellus hair is fine and not well pigmented, the “new” hair which is thicker and darker appears to be more (and falsely attributed to shaving).
Shaving the baby’s head will not lead to more hair since we are all born with a specific number of hair follicles. This is fixed and no amount of shaving will increase hair follicles. However, there are things a parent can do (and not do!) for healthy baby hair:
#1 Good hair hygiene
Good hair and scalp hygiene help to keep them clean, and also prevent the scalp oil secretions from turning into cradle cap. Prolonged grime left on the scalp make the hair oily and may cause scalp irritation for those with sensitive skin.
#2 Hair brushing
Brushing the baby’s hair help to untangle curls and knots, especially as a baby spends a lot of time on his back and fidgeting. Brushing hair may also help to improve blood circulation in the scalp and reduce likelihood of cradle cap.
#3 Avoid over-washing
Avoid over-washing or washing with soap as this can dry or irritate the scalp. Use gentle shampoo and shampoo no more than once a day (alternate day should be adequate). If the hair appears dry and rough after shower, it may be that the shampoo is too drying. Dry scalp can feel itchy and promote scratching which causes damage to the scalp.
If your baby’s hair is always rough and dry, you can explore baby conditioner. Choose one that is hypoallergenic, and contains ingredients such as aloe vera.
#5 Avoid blow drying
Blow drying the hair or using heat is not good for the scalp as it removes moisture and makes the hair dry and brittle. Air-dry instead.
#6 Good nutrition
Just like skin, the hair follicles also requires nutrients for healthy growth. Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins A, B12 and C, iron, zinc and biotin all play a role for healthy scalp and hair. Breastmilk is a complete nutrition for newborns and be sure to introduce fruits and vegetables to your baby (instead of just porridge or baby cereal).
#7 Avoid stressing the scalp
Braiding the hair too tight can damage the roots and prematurely uproot the hair. Similarly, encourage your baby to be on her tummy when her back is strong enough. Too much time lying on the back can cause bald spot due to repeated rubbing of the back of the head against the pillow or bed.
Should you choose to shave your baby’s head, it is important to be careful when doing so. Do not apply undue pressure on the skull, especially as the baby’s bone structure has not fully fused. Also be careful not to cut your baby as your baby may resist the shaving!