How hair changes as we age

When we talk about aging in
beauty, we typically talk about skin. We talk about the dark spots and wrinkles
that pop up as we get older. We talk about anti-aging skincare products and
ingredients that can counteract these changes. What we don’t commonly hear
about, though, is aging hair (other than the obvious graying). Similar to skin,
hair undergoes gradual changes. So we’re here to lay it all out and cover the
changes that happen to hair as we get older.  
goes gray

Let’s begin with the obvious,
most well known hair change — it goes grey. There are a couple of reasons that
this could happen. Most common and likely is that it’s genetic. “People
who go grey prematurely or have different patterns of grey hair can thank their
parents,” Aveda Master Artist and co-owner of Fourteenjay David
Adams told me. “It is all genetic.” 
He further explains that some
other reasons for greying could be stress, an unhealthy diet, extreme
lifestyle, lack of sleep and serious illness. Hair goes grey because of the
lack of melanin production after a certain age, which is what gives hair its
color. “When we go grey, we have hair without color and without
protein,” explains Adams. “Basically there is no such thing as grey
hair, it is colorless hair.”
Of course you can dye your
hair to make it the color you want. However, artistic director for Alterna,
Rita Perna-Allor, points out that grey hair takes color differently than
pigmented hair. “It is important to use an anti-aging shampoo, conditioner
and support products that will help to keep the hair as healthy and nourished
as possible,” she explains. “Look for ingredients like omega fatty
acids and color safe formulas.”
gets thinner

Another more commonly known
change in aging hair is that it gets thinner. There are a couple of reasons for
this as hair science expert Dr. Alan Bauman explained to me. First, density of
hair decreases. Second, hair grows in finer. “Research shows that around
the age of 40, a woman’s hair also starts to grow finer as
time passes,” he explains. “It’s this finer hair that makes your
hair look and feel thinner, whether you experience a significant loss
of hair density or not.” 
Then, there’s the actual loss
of hair. “As our hair continues to age, instead of losing 100 to 125 hairs
a day, which is normal, shedding speeds up, causing thinning in the crown,
and in some cases, more scalp to appear as hair follicles are not
replacing those lost hairs as quickly.” This actual loss of hair and
inability to grow back can create a receding hairline or widening
loses volume

This somewhat goes
hand-in-hand with the hair thinning. However, it’s important to note that with
the loss of density comes the loss of volume and body throughout the hair and
along the crown. This may cause women to over-style the hair that’s there. This
isn’t good for it, though. In fact, Dr. Bauman claims it’s one of the biggest
mistakes women make with aging hair. “As the hair ages, women tend to
do more styling, which disrupts and damages the cuticle and makes the hair dull
and more prone to breakage.” Which brings us to the next point.
breaks easier

The loss of protein doesn’t
just affect the color of hair, but it also affects its strength. “A dip in
the keratin protein levels make the hair weaker and less elastic,”
explains Perna-Allor. “Which means more breakage when tugged or
pulled.” She also explains that the cells on the outer protective cuticle
become more fragile as we age, making breakage seemingly inevitable. Dr. Bauman
also points out that fine hair is clearly more prone to breakage. 
There are products that
contain the protein, which can help fill in the tears and gaps and build hair’s
strength back. Perna-Allor recommends treatment-based repair products such as
Alterna Caviar Multi Vitamin Heat Protectant Spray, which boosts hair immunity
to damage. 
grows slower

“Hair growth rate slows
down in mid-life and spends more time in the resting phase than in the growth
phase, which means it won’t grow as long as it once did,” Perna-Allor
explains. This has to do more with the scalp than it does the actual strands of
hair. So to keep the scalp healthy to help promote hair growth, use a scalp
treatment such as Aveda Pramāsana Scalp Treatment or Alterna Caviar
Lengthening Hair and Scalp Elixir. 
gets dryer

“Over time, your hair can
look more dry and lifeless, which is actually a by-product of hair
thinning,” explains Founder + Head Scientist, Lars Skjoth.  He also
notes that use of heat tools can make hair dryer. “Excessive heat may provoke
the scalp and the oil glands. The scalp can become dry and irritated
from excessive heat and oil glands may overproduce to protect the scalp.”
A similar reaction can happen when you over-wash your hair as Dr. Bauman
explains. “This can strip the oils from your hair and contribute to
dryness.” So if you want to keep hair from getting dry, just stay away
from the heat tools and try a hair mask once a week. 
texture changes

Once again, the change in
texture is due to the loss in its proteins. “Without protein the hair also
changes texture,” explains Adams. “Curly hair may go straight or
straight hair may go curly.” Also, grey hair is a coarser texture than
hair with melanin. There’s not really much that’s going to change the texture
back, but it will be easier to manage as long as you keep hair healthy.  
gets duller

The dullness and lack of shine
has to do with previously mentioned changes. For instance, as Perna-Allor
points out, grey hair doesn’t reflect light as well as other, smoother types of
hair. Also, the drier hair is, the duller it’s going to look. Additionally, the
loss of keratin proteins and natural fatty will affect hair’s chances for a
healthy — AKA shinny — finish. 
keep hair healthy

Just as there’s no way to stop
getting older, there’s no way to keep hair from aging. It’s just a natural part
of life we have to deal with. All you can do is maintain hair’s health and give
it the nutrients it needs to be strong. “Some of the best ingredients to
counteract the signs of aging hair and scalp include caffeine, panthenol
and niacinamide.” Dr. Bauman concludes.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.