I love my granddaughters’ hair, all three of them. It’s so soft and beautifully silky. The curls are naturally bouncy and just seem to make them look even more adorable than they already are, similar to the image above of this lovely young girl (with the most beautiful blue eyes.)
My aging hair, on the other hand, while still full and thick, seems to have a mind of its own, and I think the mind is wandering if you know what I mean. 🙂
Changes in the texture and thickness of our hair are normal and natural, as is the color change from the natural state to a shade (or shades) of gray.
The maturing process brings a number of challenges, and our hair is no exception. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics.
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What is our hair made of and what is its purpose?
We’ll have a quick hair biology lesson because it really helps to bring into focus the many purposes of our lovely locks, and why they change:
- Hair helps transmit sensory information
- It acts as a barrier to foreign particles
- It is a part of our appearance and how we identify ourselves
- Hair can completely renew itself without scarring – no other bodily surface has that ability
- There are 5 million hair follicles on a developing fetus by week 22
- 1 million of those follicles are on the scalp
- This is the largest number of hair follicles we’ll ever have
- As we age, the density of hair follicles decreases
The living part of the hair is the follicle. The hair we can see, the shaft, is actually dead. It is made up of 3 layers of keratin, which is a hardening protein.
Whether our hair is straight, curly, or somewhere in between is determined by its shape:
Straight hair has a mostly circular circumference
Curly or kinky hair has a flatter shaft
So…my natural hair has a flat shaft because it’s curly and kinky…got that?? It seems backward, but that’s how it works.
How does hair change with age?
We lose about 100 hairs per day no matter our age, but as we experience menopause the combination of hair loss and hair thinning makes it much more apparent.
Our hair follicles get smaller as we age and can actually produce a hair that can’t be seen. They are the finest hairs that exist.
When we’re younger, our oil glands produce oil efficiently and it can coat the hair, giving it that shiny appearance.
But, the oil glands shrink over time so are not producing as much oil, thus our hair can be much drier than it was in our younger days.
Sometimes it has more to do with the products we’ve used on our hair than our age, although it does lose some elasticity as we get older.
If we’ve used chemicals like permanent hair color, straighteners, perms, etc., hair can become dry, stiff and break easier.
Some of us notice the first gray hairs in our 30’s, and by the time we reach our 40’s it’s almost always present.
My foray into the world of natural gray hair took place very quickly. I went gray in a day!
It’s More Coarse
Hormones play a part in the changes we feel in our aging hair, as does illness or procedures like chemotherapy.
We tend to want to color our hair more often as we age, and this can make our hair more wiry and dry.
Our hair’s texture changes naturally every five to seven years, too, and that is most likely related to hormonal adjustments.
What can we do about the signs of aging hair?
For thinning hair that has been identified as androgenetic alopecia or female pattern baldness, minoxidil (Rogaine) can help stop hair loss. If you’ve noticed an overall thinning of your hair, particularly on the top or front of your head, this may be why.
If you are considering this type of product, be sure to do some research so you understand the pros and cons of minoxidil.
Use argan oil to hydrate hair. Argan is made from an argan tree’s kernel that is native to Morocco, and is a common essential oil used in hair treatments.
Argan oil is rich in vitamins such as Vitamin E, minerals, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants. It can be used in the form of a conditioner, heat protectant spray, hair mask, and scalp treatment.
Avoid high heat and aggressive styling that can strip the hair of natural oil. Higher heat can be particularly hard on thinning hair fibers, and cause breakage.
If you need to use heat when styling your hair (yes, my hand is raised), try to keep it to a minimum. When I style my hair, I use both a hair dryer and a flat iron. By washing my hair every other, or every third day, I am keeping those hair-damaging methods to a minimum.
Consider using a heat protectant spray before using these styling tools:
Use protein-rich hair treatments for brittle, dry hair. Just remember that a little bit goes a long way.
Some are made particularly for curly hair, some for over-processed hair, some for dry hair, etc.
Read the labels thoroughly to make sure you choose the best product for your hair.
Other Tips for Our Aging Hair
Check Your Health
Be smart about changes in your hair, just as would other changes in your body or overall well being.
Make sure that anemia, iron deficiency, or medication side effects are not the culprits.
Check Your Shampoo
A shampoo that includes zinc pyrithione (typically found in dandruff shampoo) will be hydrating and soothing on your hair. You don’t have to have dandruff to enjoy the benefits!
Check the Hairstyle
You don’t have to cut your hair short as you get older, it’s totally your call. I’m not a fan of really short hair on myself. I’ve tried a couple of different cuts in the last few years and always grow it back to a style that’s below my ears. That’s short enough for me.
But, I always have layers in my hair. For me, it’s about controlling the volume, but it is also a way to give the illusion of fuller hair if your hair is thinning and you want to wear it at shoulder length or even longer.
Keep the layers long, though, as too many layers can emphasize the thinning texture.
Bottom line? Go to a stylist who knows what they’re doing.
If you’re a woman over 50 you know that your body is changing from head to toe, including the hair!
We can struggle, agonize, complain and be frustrated as time goes on. Or, we can embrace our natural mature beauty, treat ourselves with care and respect, and look for ways to maintain a healthy and youthful appearance. That approach gets my vote. How about you?