The way our hair looks has so much to do with the way we feel about ourselves. There’s just no single thing that can have such a big impact on the way we’re perceived.
Our hair can also age us.
Whether it’s cut, quality, or color, nothing else about our personal style has such potential to telegraph how many rings are on the tree. With a little bit of knowledge and some strategies for getting the most out of your locks, you can keep your hair one of your finest assets.
What Happens To Hair As We Age?
Probably the most evident sign of aging hair, is the loss of color. Hair turns gray because the follicle fails to produce sufficient melanin to maintain color.
And the lighter your skin, the earlier you’re likely to go gray. Caucasians typically notice gray hairs in their early thirties. Averages for those with darker skin tend more to the early forties.
In addition to color, the quality of hair changes as we age.
There are glands at the base of each strand that produce oil, which spreads from the roots down. The oil is important because it both protects and conditions. As we age, oil production slows, causing our hair to take more damage, and lose some of it’s softness. When hair takes enough damage without the oils it needs, it can end up feeling dry and even brittle.
Hair often thins too. Hormonal shifts, diet deficiencies, and a variety of other factors can cause hair to thin. But much of the perceived thinning (especially for women) results from a loss of individual strand thickness.
These issues add up, and keep us from looking our best if we don’t have a plan. So what can we do to correct these problems? Glad you asked!
Click here to read our article "Caring for Aging Skin: Everything You Need to Know".
Keeping Hair Healthy
One of the biggest factors in preserving the quality of your hair is moisture.
It’s true that we produce less oil as we age, but much of the drying damage that’s done to our hair is really the result of a failure to adapt to that change.
When we’re younger we shampoo, blow dry, curl, straighten, bleach, and color our hair with little worry about the abuse being doled out. That’s because our hair can handle it. Thick strands of naturally moisturized resilient hair can take the abuse and not skip a beat.
But the same styling, coloring, and cleaning techniques that you’ve used in the past, may be damaging your hair now. Thinner, drier hair simply can’t take all that punishment. So when we continue to treat our hair the way we always have, quality can go downhill in a hurry.
If your hair is drier and weaker than it used to be, it’s time to mix things up.
The first priority is to stop doing damage. Stop over-shampooing. Blow dry on only the lowest setting, and keep 6 to 12 inches between your damp locks and the blow dryer. And straighten and curl sparingly, opting for styles that don’t require these techniques as much as possible.
Once you’ve given your ailing hair a break from the assault, it’s time to pamper it. The good news about a loss of moisture, is that there are ways to put it back.
TIP: Use products like leave-in moisturizers, and conditioners containing silk protein on a regular basis. To avoid excessive buildup of moisturizing products, make sure to use a clarifying shampoo once a week.
Another crucial component of keeping your hair looking healthy is retaining or restoring volume and thickness. As we mentioned, much of what women perceive as age-related thinning is actually a declining thickness of the individual hairs, as opposed to hair loss. If this sounds like you, then you’ll be happy to know that conditioners that contain proteins, also work to restore thickness.
It’s completely normal to lose 70-100 hairs each day, no matter your age. If you think that you’re losing hair at a higher rate than that, you’ll want to consult your doctor to make sure there aren’t unknown issues at play. Depending on the source of thinning, there are options out there that can make a big difference.
If you’re like most women, those strands of gray won’t prompt your very first hair dye. Coloring your hair is a fun way to switch up your look, regardless of age. So by the time natural color begins to fade, you likely have a bit of experience with the stuff out of the box.
But the arrival of gray changes a few things. For one, gray hair tends to be a little thicker and more coarse. It also tends to be less receptive to coloring. Because of these changes, coloring gray hair can feel like a battle.
TIP: Apply dye to gray areas first, and make sure to cover them completely. If your gray hair still doesn’t quite match the rest, it might be smart to choose a lighter shade, so differences blend better. Dying with regularity also becomes more important with gray roots. Stay on top of this by making touch-ups a part of your monthly schedule.
So, what if you don’t want to cover up your gray. Maybe you think that gray looks pretty darn great, and you’re perfectly comfortable with the idea that you didn’t graduate high school yesterday. We’ve got to say… we respect that. And after all, nothing looks better than confidence.
For those of you that are embracing the gray, there’s still a color consideration that you’ll want to be aware of: Overexposure to UV rays can cause gray or white hair to turn yellow. And sun damaged hair isn’t what you’re after, no matter how confident you are.
You can prevent gray and white hair from yellowing by using hair care products that contain sunblocker.
You’ve got the best quality and color possible. What now? Choosing the right style of course! We thought we gave it away with the section title.
We won’t get too far into the weeds here. The right hairstyle for you is going to depend on a lot of factors including facial features, personal taste, and the actual attributes of your hair.
It’s like when that pair of sunglasses makes your girlfriend look like a celebrity going incognito, and when she lets you give them a try you look like you just escaped a prison for the criminally insane. We don’t want to do that to you.
But there is a general style considerations to consider as you begin to age. We’re talking about the difficulties that go along with particularly long hairstyles.
Long hair can become a difficult look for older women to pull off for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that as our faces age, the skin losses some of its elasticity, and our features start to droop. Long hair exacerbates the appearance of wrinkles and lost elasticity by making the face appear longer. This happens because longer hair hangs closer to the face, failing to provide additional width and texture to your look.
The other reason long hair becomes more difficult is less subjective. The same oil production reduction (say that five times fast) that can leave our hair drier than it used to be, becomes more severe farther away from the scalp. The roots of your hair are likely to stay moisturized, but there just isn’t enough to travel to the ends of your locks. The result is often a frizzy mess, that just doesn’t lay like it used to.
On top of all that, hair just doesn’t grow as fast as it used to as we age. Each strand spends more time in the resting phase, and less time growing.
TIP: Avoid lengthy hairstyles. There’s no need to go all Sinead O’Connor, but bringing hair up to around the shoulders can be more flattering as we age. It adds volume and character, and actually creates a more youthful appearance.
By understanding and adapting to the changes in our hair, we can continue to get the most out of it. Maximize your look with these easy tips that will make life much easier.