From the moment we come into the world, much attention is paid to what’s on top of our heads. Whether you were born with a thick shock of hair or peach fuzz, your hair was brushed and adorned with barrettes or ribbons. As we got older, hair care was a part of a routine and it likely went through a litany of styles, colors, and phases over the years.
Once we hit forty, many women begin to notice changes in their hair. It might seem a little less thick, a bit more dry, grey hairs are coming in faster, the list goes on. The battle against aging isn’t just about your skin, hair gets in on the act too. According to the article Surprise-Your Hair is Aging (And Changing) Right Along With You Skin, written by Hanna Baxter in Coveteur “While women can see early signs of hair aging in their 30s (grey is normally the first sign and can start well before the others), it is typically in the 40s when the signs become noticeable,” says Dr. Jeni Thomas, PhD, Hair Biology’s principal scientist. “By the late 40s and early 50s, women are seeing multiple signs which change hair’s fundamental needs.” And although changes in your hair can occur due to endocrine disorders, thyroid issues, and the environment, there are a few signs that are universal to the aging process.
When the effects of the pandemic resulted in a lockdown for states in March 2020, hair salons, barbershops, blowout bars, and more, had to close their doors. Not only were hair professionals temporarily put out, we as their clients were too. Furthermore, if you were a woman in your late thirties, forties, or fifty-plus, and dealing with hair changes, we lost our partners in hair care. Now, the health of our hair was literally in our hands. So let’s focus on what some of us are dealing with.
Thinning– Once thought of as a strictly male problem (male-pattern baldness near the crown), hair thinning is an issue for men and women. In general everyone’s hair gets thinner with age to a greater or lesser degree. However, things for women can begin to change with perimenopause and menopause, when hormones began to fluctuate. As stated in Coveteur, by age 45, the relative scalp coverage is 5 percent less than the maximum, and by age 50, scalp coverage is 11 percent less than the maximum,” says Dr. Thomas. The actual diameter of our hair also changes and that directly affects the strength of the strands.
Texture- When hair diameter changes, so does the texture of your hair. If you were born with curly hair, you know hair texture isn’t uniform, you’ve been coping with that for most of your life. However, if you don’t have curly hair, it can be a shock to realize how much it affects the way your hair looks and feels. Dr. Thomas noted that “The curvature of hair tends to lose its uniformity as we age. That also leads to the appearance of increased frizz and flyaways. Even for curly hair, which has an elliptical shape to begin with, the fibers lose their conformity to the fibers around them, resulting in a curl pattern that is less consistent than in earlier years.”
Dryness- Most teenagers and adults know about oily complexions, but there’s a certain amount of natural oil found in our hair. A number of women had to deal with oily hair that needed to be washed daily or every other day. The same hormones that made you break out as a teen into your twenties and early thirties, will strike again, only this time it’s a matter of less production of natural hair and scalp oils.
Grey Hair- This is inevitable for everyone. When we begin to see grey hair can be determined by genetics. If your parents greyed early, you are likely to begin to see those little hairs about the same time they did. “The average age of Caucasians when greying begins is reportedly mid-30s. People of Asian descent tend to grey a little later, late 30s, and people of African descent even later—mid-40s [on average],” says Dr. Thomas. However, it’s important to note that we can’t stop grey hair, and even if you color it, grey hair isn’t the same as natural color hair. Regardless of how healthy we feel, our bodies slow down as we age. A good diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep helps, but it doesn’t stop your system’s slowdown. The cells that produce color in our hair slow down in favor of other processes our cells need to perform. In other words, grey hair happens.
Lifestyle- Most of us have a hectic life. Stress plays a big part in our overall health, and that includes our hair. Finding ways to limit the stresses we can control helps a great deal. Moreover, finding a way to cope with those we can’t, like a pandemic, is essential to our overall health and our hair. It’s also important to note that even if you are pretty healthy, you may have underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension, or other autoimmune diseases for which you take medication. Medicine affects your hair too, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Just remain mindful and don’t put too much extra on your hair.
What can you do?
- Eat right. A diet rich in vegetables, lean protein, and fruit helps keep your body and hair beautiful. Supplements haven’t been shown to help hair production, but check with your doctor before you begin taking anything
- Drink Water. We need to drink enough eater to keep ourselves hydrated. It will help keep your tresses strong. At least 8 glasses a day. JUST PLAIN WATER. If the idea of plain water doesn’t appeal, you can have coffee and tea. There are also flavored seltzers, mineral water, or fruit water. Read the label to be sure it’s low or no-sodium.
- Sleep. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep. Eight is ideal, but another cute little factoid about menopause is sleeplessness. Many women experience sleep problems during perimenopause , the period of time before menopause when hormone levels and menstrual periods become irregular. Often, poor sleep sticks around throughout the menopausal transition and after menopause. Try to make your bedroom more sleep-friendly. Turn off the television at least an hour before you turn in. Put your cellphone, tablet, or laptop away and out of sight. Read a book or magazine before bed.
- Read the labels. When buying shampoo, conditioner, or any hair products, read the label. What goes into a product then onto your hair matters. In the Coveteur article, Dr. Thomas recommends staying away from anything particularly heavy, like an oil or thick balm, as these can weigh down thinner hair. Lightweight and fast-absorbing serums will help you impart more moisture as your sebum levels drop, minus the unwanted weight. She also advises avoiding texturizing products (like those that contain salt) and dry shampoos, as they can leave your hair feeling rougher and dryer. However, if you can’t bear to part with your favorite styling product, just scale back on the amount or use them less frequently. If you’re looking for new products to incorporate into your routine, there are a few key ingredients to embrace to prolong your hair health. Dr. Thomas recommends, “Ingredients like restoring lipids, cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol, and the antioxidant that supports hair’s keratin structure, histidine.”
- For Silver Foxes- If you have decided to embrace your grey hair. Good for you! Look for products that will keep your tresses looking silver and not yellow. Grey hair has specific needs in terms of shampoos and conditioners. Look for products that will keep it beautiful and healthy looking.
Embrace you. There isn’t any law that says you have to have short hair once you reach a certain age. The way you style your hair is your choice. If you want pink streaks, get them. A cute bob, or locks that rival Rapunzel, go for it. The best part about aging is being comfortable in your own skin.
As the pandemic has subsided a bit, salons and barbershops have begun to reopen. If you miss your weekly chat in your stylist’s chair, make an appointment and make sure everything is as it should be in order to ensure safety for everyone. Most of all, have fun. Your hair is a part of you, it by no means defines you as a woman. How you feel is up to you. Long, short, thick, or thin, you are still a queen. Always remember that.
Sources Coveteur, Hanna Baxter October 2020