Years ago, before I came into the world, my mother worked as a hairdresser.
While whether or not my mother enjoyed her period as a hairdresser is up for debate — some of her stories embody fond memories, whereas others reflect varying levels of stress — it did make a lasting impression on her around hair. Whereas I first notice and remember people by their eyes, my mother never forgets someone’s cut, color, or style. It’s their defining feature for her.
So, in 2011, when my mother was diagnosed with stage-one bladder cancer, she was devastated first by the gravity of the diagnosis. And, secondly, once it sank in, she was upset at the thought of losing her hair. Fortunately, a chemotherapy and radiation-therapy alternative, a biological therapy called Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), was readily available. Less associated with hair loss, BCG helps to prevent the growth of tumors in the bladder.
Even though her cancer has been in remission for some time now, she has experienced some degree of hair loss. Although she didn’t lose nearly as much hair as someone who undergoes traditional chemotherapy, she did have some bald or sparse spots, which never entirely grew back. (See photos, taken with her permission, below).
I’ve always had long hair. But when I got pregnant in mid-2017, my hair suddenly became the hair of shampoo models: Long, thick, lustrous. It wasn’t just that my hair texture changed, though — by the time I gave birth in February 2018, I had about twice as much hair as I did pre-pregnancy. (Picture below).
Unfortunately, as with up to 90% of women, I started to lose most of my new hair around three months postpartum. My hair started to come out in clumps. It was everywhere: My baby would grab my hair, and three to five strands would come out in his hand. It was in the sink in the morning, on my pillow at night. It was so bad that I joked to my husband showering was like a scene from Psycho, except there was hair flying down the drain, not blood.
Why Postpartum Hair Loss Occurs
During pregnancy, your body produces a ton of estrogen and progesterone. In fact, you produce more estrogen and progesterone during one pregnancy than you will during the rest of your life combined (source).
These hormones don’t just help your hair to grow — they prevent it from falling out. While normal hairs go through a growth phase, a latent phase, and a falling-out phase, the plethora of estrogen and progesterone keep hair only in the growth phase during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, immediately after birth, hormones start to return to their normal state. For about three months, hair enters the latent, or “resting”, phase.
And then, at about three months postpartum, hair starts to fall out. While most women lose about 80 hairs a day normally, new moms shed about 400 hairs a day (source). And this process continues until about six months postpartum.
Here is my hair immediately before starting iRestore:
Why Chemotherapy (or Biological Therapy) Makes Hair Loss Occur
Unlike hair loss during the postpartum period, chemotherapy (or biological therapy, in my mother’s case) doesn’t make hair fall out due to a return to a natural process. Conversely, and put very simply, chemotherapy or biological therapy drugs attack rapidly-growing cells.
While this is a great benefit in having these therapies — cancer cells are typically very rapidly-dividing — these drugs also attack other rapidly-growing cells in your body, particularly those on your hair roots. This is why you may notice hair falling out not only on your scalp, but also eyelashes, eyebrows, and hair on the body.
Most of the time, hair loss from chemotherapy or biological therapies is temporary, and regrows within 3-6 months after treatments end (source). However, as in my mother’s case, some persons still have bald spots here and there that never return to normal. Others may temporarily have hair of a different shade or texture.
How the iRestore System Works
iRestore utilizes low-level light therapy (or LLLT), which is clinically proven to treat hair loss and grow thicker, fuller hair fast for both men and women. The system uses medical-grade lasers and LEDs to deliver light energy directly to hair follicles. It is a convenient, hands-free device that provides full scalp coverage.
Although this is a bit oversimplistic, here are the five steps in which red LED lasers can help hair to regrow:
- LED lasers are absorbed into the outer layer of the skin, and in the hair follicles in particular.
- The lasers stimulate the cells to produce ATP (cellular energy).
- The follicles are energized, and start to expand open.
- Hair begins to grow from newly-expanded follicles (new locations).
- Hair grows more from newly-energized follicles (more rapid growth).
FDA-cleared red LED-light emitting diodes (a combination of LED and laser) for full-scalp coverage at the wavelength of 650-670 nanometers have been clinically proven to stimulate hair growth. The recommended treatment protocol for men and women is 20-25 minutes every other day for the first four to six months, after which point the device can be used once or twice a week for maintenance.
Does It Work For Everyone?
Officially, this is for mild to moderate cases of genetic hair growth. Those with shiny bald heads (think Bruce Willis) would not be candidates, since the hair follicles have likely been damaged and scarred over.
As far as for cases of those with hair growth following pregnancy or chemotherapy, the verdict is out. There are preliminary studies showing that these treatments may speed up the rate of hair regrowth in women who have undergone chemotherapy.
During a 16-week study for the iRestore System, a double-blind experiment was done where 20 people were randomly selected to be given a real iRestore System and 20 others were given a placebo system. At the end of the 16-week study where each subject used the device every other day for 25-minute treatments, an astonishing 100% of the tested iRestore users grew hair! Additionally, those who used the real iRestore System experienced an impressive increase of over 43% in hair growth on average compared to a 5% increase for those who used the fake system in the placebo group.
So, yes — iRestore really works!
My Results So Far
The bad news is, I am still losing hair. However, shedding is part of the regrowth process with this treatment.
The good news is, I am losing a lot less hair than before. Whereas I was losing giant clumps of hair each and every time I brushed my hair (see below), the clumps of hair have gotten substantially smaller (see below). I would say that I am losing about 33% of the hair I was losing before, and I’m four months postpartum, and have been using the iRestore for about two weeks.
If I were to do it again, I would start to use the iRestore as soon as I gave birth, so my hair follicles were being stimulated while in the “latent” or resting phase, rather than waiting until they made it all the way to the “falling out” phase in month 3. That said, I do think that it is easing up on the proverbial bleeding that is my hair loss.
My Mother’s Take
My mother likes the iRestore a lot thus far. She says that she is noticing a lot of “baby hairs” on her head, and is looking forward to providing more photos in the upcoming months.
Overall Use and Opinions
Hair loss is a lot like acne — it may sound vain to worry about it, but when severe, it can be traumatic. In my case, using the iRestore after pregnancy is helping quite a bit, and I am very satisfied with the early results.