Aging and Your Hair: How to Prepare for Changes to Texture and More – Healthline

As you get older, it’s natural for your hair texture to change. These changes can vary depending on your hair type.
If you’ve noticed your curly locks are less bouncy or your straight hair has become more wavy or coarse, all is not lost!
You can learn how to care for and embrace your new hair texture with some tweaks to your routine and expert tips.
The hair can change as you age in several ways.
As you age, one transformation your hair may go through is a change in texture. You may notice your hair looks duller and thinner than usual, or may even experience hair loss.
According to dermatologist Janiene Luke, MD, this has to do with changing hair growth cycles. Luke notes that the anagen growing phase, or the period when the hair shaft is actively generated and extended, becomes shorter.
Additionally, some follicles may stop producing new hair altogether. This can cause hair density to decrease.
“The diameter of the hair becomes smaller,” says Luke. “Sebum, your body’s natural oil production, declines with age, which results in hair that is not as shiny, soft or smooth.”
In short, the anagen phase can become less effective and produce thinner hair.
Aging is one of the most common causes of hair loss, also known as alopecia areata. That’s because hormone levels change as you age.
It’s normal to lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day because your body continually grows new hair and sheds old hair. This rate stays stable throughout life, though hair growth declines.
Roshan Vara, co-founder of The Treatment Rooms London, notes that hair loss in people assigned male at birth (AMAB) is known as male pattern baldness, while hair loss in people assigned female at birth (AFAB) is known as female pattern baldness.
Both are similar, except that except that the hair loss usually occurs in a different pattern.
Stress can also contribute to hair loss, whether it’s emotional stress or the result of a life-changing event.
“Stress molecules, such as cortisol, can target and damage the hair follicles over time”, explains Simone Thomas, founder of Simone Thomas Wellness Clinic. “These aspects may encourage hair loss as we age.”
Symptoms can include hair shedding or bald patches.
As you age, your hair can also become gray as it loses melanin.
Melanin is a pigment-producing component that produces melanocyte cells. These cells play an important role in the color of your hair.
“Gray hair is thought to be the result of a decreased number of melanocytes,” Luke says. “As we age, our cells don’t produce as much melanin which results in gray hair—or white hair when melanin is absent.”
The texture of your hair is also associated with natural curl, shine, softness, and smoothness—all of which may change as you age.
“The change in texture is determined by your hair type,” says Vara.
The key to learning how to style and maintain your changing texture starts with an understanding of your hair type.
You can’t prevent all hair changes as a result of aging, but understanding why you experience them may help slow down problems such as hair thinning.
Luke proposes that external factors can play a role in how your hair changes over time.
These include:
Thomas, who is also a nutrition and hair loss consultant, suggests that poor digestive health and gut conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can contribute to aging hair loss.
In fact, a 2017 article suggests that nutrient deficiency can impact hair loss, though research is ongoing. Additionally, most related studies are unclear as to whether nutritional supplements can help restore hair growth or prevent further hair loss.
Thomas also explains that long-term stress due to work or family circumstances can influence hair health over time.
“Stress hormones such as cortisol can target and damage the hair follicles, which can trigger hair loss as we age,” she adds. “Significant events such as menopause or thyroid problems may dry out the hair, causing it to feel brittle or break. These issues can cause thinning of the hair, contributing to aging hair loss.”
Your hair has one or more of three basic thicknesses:
You can apply the thread test to determine your hair thickness: Fine hair is thinner than a thread, medium hair is approximately the same width, and thick or coarser hair is thicker than a thread.
In addition to thickness, your hair type is determined by genetics, and is mainly dependent on your hair’s curl pattern. The amount of curl in your hair is determined by your hair follicle.
The shape of your follicle determines your hair type, so the more oval or asymmetrical your follicle is, the curlier your hair will be.
If you want to understand more about your hair type, the Andre Walker hair typing system is a good place to start. It’s the most widely used system to classify hair with four categories of hair types. All four hair types also have subcategories that go into more detail about the tightness or looseness of the curls and coils.
For example, you may have type 4C hair at your crown and 4A hair at your temples. Or, your hair could be straight at the root and wavy at the ends.
This can make styling and management tricky. The key is to understand what your hair type needs so you can tailor your hair care regimen to match.
Type 1 hair doesn’t have natural curl. The individual strands may be fine or coarse, thick or thin, but they fall without waving from root to tip.
“If you have straight hair, you can expect the hair to become slightly curlier in nature as you age,” says Vara. “We also see the hair becoming duller and drier in texture, as your skin naturally decreases the amount of oil it produces after the age of 40.”
The natural state of wavy hair is a gentle, tousled texture. From the roots to approximately eye level, your hair may be fairly straight. From eye level to the ends, you likely have a loose, undefined wave.
If you have wavy or curly hair, you may already know that it’s possible to have more than one curl pattern in different sections of your hair. This is more common in aging hair.
With curly hair, and in particular 3A types, s-shaped curls form loose loops. The curls have a circumference a little wider than the large end of a taper candle.
As you get older, your curls may drop, loosen, or even form new curl patterns due to hormonal changes, like menopause.
Environmental factors such as gravity, climate, and pollution also play a part. The thinner and weaker your aging curly hair is, the less likely it is to actually curl.
The curl pattern for 4A hair is an s-shaped coil you can wrap around a chopstick.
As you get older, you may notice your coily hair is more prone to dryness and breakage. This is because coily hair retains less moisture due to the structure of the hair shaft.
“Visually, this means the hairs lack shine and smoothness,” says Vara.
As a result, your coily hair may look more frizzy and may be harder to manage when styling.
Vara recommends gentle styling and management, as a lack of natural oils leaves your hair more prone to dehydration and damage.
Hair density refers to the number of hairs on your head. If you can see your scalp even without parting your hair, you probably have low hair density.
Hair loss or low hair density can be improved with a new hair care regimen or prescription medications.
With a little help, you can find the right products and a hair care regimen that works best for your hair.
According to Thomas, a healthy scalp is the foundation of healthy hair. It’s important to keep your scalp well-nourished.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends you wash your hair with shampoo often, according to your hair type.
A 2015 research review found that using shampoos and conditioners can help cosmetically volumize hair and improve hair thickness, particularly in the case of thinning hair or hair loss.
If you need help thickening your hair, Minoxidil (Rogaine) may help. It can be bought over the counter, but it’s important to consider potential side effects before using this treatment, some of which can be serious.
If your hair type is straight or wavy, your hair may have a tendency to become oily.
However, washing your hair too often can cause your scalp to overproduce oils. Many stylists also recommend that you avoid products such as heavy serums or butters.
According to a 2015 article, if you have straight or wavy hair, you may need to use a more gentle hair care regimen.
This can involve:
As your hair ages, you may find it naturally becomes drier in texture. Avoid combing or brushing your wavy or straight hair when it’s dry.
This can result in split ends, making your hair appear brittle.
Unlike straight and wavy hair, curly and coily hair types tend to lack moisture and dry out easily.
Curly and coily hair tends to become thinner and weaker as you age, so it’s more prone to breakage and dryness than other hair types.
If you’re looking to add more bounce and shine to your natural curls, the right routine and hair care products can keep your curls healthy and looking good.
When buying products, focus on shampoo and conditioners that are specifically designed for curly hair. These products can help add moisture to your hair.
It’s best to avoid ay hair products that will dry out or weigh your hair down.
To care for curly or coily hair, the AAD recommends these tips:
After shampooing, your hair is stripped of its natural protective barrier. Vara recommends rehydrating with a conditioner.
“This helps to prevent the hair shaft from drying out and maintains a better shine,” he says.
While some people celebrate gray hair as a mark of their maturity and wisdom, others may feel that their youthful appearance is disappearing.
If you’re worried because you’ve spotted a few gray hairs, dying your hair may be a solution.
“People can camouflage gray hair by rearranging their hair part or using products that target their roots,” says Luke. “If someone chooses to dye their hair, I recommend having it done with a professional stylist and consider spacing out treatments to help decrease cumulative damage over time.”
As you age, your hair texture will most likely change.
It may appear more gray and less voluminous, and your hair density may also decrease.
It can take getting used to, but don’t be disheartened. There are steps you can take to start embracing your changing hair texture throughout your life.
Vanessa Haye, MBA, is a British-Ghanaian writer who is passionate about health equity, reproductive freedom, and justice, particularly within BIPOC communities. She’s especially interested in raising awareness about Black women’s healthcare disparities, including reproductive health, maternal health, and mental health outcomes. Vanessa has written for publications such as Healthline, The Independent, Flo app, Metro UK, and HuffPost, among many others. She is currently working on her first book.
Last medically reviewed on September 2, 2022
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