As your hair gets older, do you ever wonder: why is my hair thinning? what can I do to promote hair growth? why is my hair turning gray?
Well, you are not alone.
There are so many benefits to getting older: wisdom, perspective, knowledge, accomplishment, gratitude,…to name a few.
It’s no secret, though, that aging changes our hair. It happens to every single one of us, and it’s totally normal. However, it can be stressful when our body starts to change, and sometimes we need to take a pause and reflect on what this means to us. While aging is a beautiful process, and one that we all share, it’s also kind of scary.
But our changing hair can be a necessary reminder to take stock of what’s important to us. What have we done that we’re proud of? What is still calling our name? What do we want to prioritize? What really matters?
And, can I learn, in this new stage of life, to love and care for myself?
Yes, these teachings can all be found in a single grey hair, a thinner strand, or an emerging patch of baldness. Amazing, isn’t it? And whether you decide to rock the grey or adorn your locks with fresh color, or embrace a shorter cut or try that comb over one more year, there are a few things to know.
The more we understand how and why our hair changes as we age, the better we can take care of it.
The growth rate of your hair slows down as you age.
Each strand of hair goes through a life cycle of four separate phases: anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen. Here are the phases explained.
Growth Phase (Anagen)
In this stage, your hair follicles are pushing out the strand of hair, causing your hair to grow. Your hair strands stay in this phase for 3 to 5 years.
Transition Phase (Catagen)
This is the end of the anagen phase. Your hair follicles shrink and hair growth slows down. This phase lasts around 10 days.
Resting Phase (Telogen)
At this point, your hair isn’t growing, but it hasn’t fallen out yet. Hair rests here for 3 months.
Shedding Phase (Exogen)
This is the tail-end of the resting phase. At this point, your hair sheds from your scalp. You’ll see it fall out when you wash and brush your hair. New hairs are also getting ready to grow in your hair follicles at this point.
As you age, your hair spends more and more time in the resting phase. So it spends less time actually growing. Hey, it’s not a bad idea.
Hair thins and hair loss speeds up.
As the growth rate slows and the resting phase extends, we continue to shed hair. And it starts to show that our head of hair just isn't exactly what it used to be. The strands simply aren’t replenishing themselves as quickly as they used to.
At the same time, your strands will actually become smaller and finer as you age. The density of your hair decreases. Everything slows down. The average age for this process to start is around 40.
Some of your hair follicles stop growing new strands. For men, this tends to be around the crown and the hairline. But this isn’t as localized in women who will experience it evenly all over the scalp.
Hair becomes fragile and more prone to breakage.
Older hair should be handled with care. As we age, the keratin protein production in our body slows down. This is totally natural but it has a major effect on our hair’s texture, strength, and color.
Keratin is the main protein that makes up your hair. Its job is to keep the hair protected and its claim to fame is that irresistible shine. It makes your hair strong and elastic so that it can handle the wear and tear of daily life.
As production decreases, so does your hair’s protection. The inner part of your strand, called the cortex, becomes exposed and vulnerable over time. And that’s when breakage is likely to happen.
Loss of protein also leads to your hair becoming coarse and losing its silky smooth texture. It also leads to color change in your hair.
Let’s talk gray hair.
Gray hair can be hard to accept. But like other hair changes, it is totally natural. The pigment in our hair retires, and the result is white or gray hair. How and when our hair grays, most of the time, is determined by genetics.
However, other factors can contribute to your hair graying earlier than it should. Vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin b12, can cause premature graying. Smoking and stress both deplete the cell’s ability to produce pigment as well.
If you want to delay the graying of your hair, lead a healthy lifestyle, eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and go easy on the smoking and alcohol.
However, there are a number of things you can do to make sure your hair stays healthy longer.
The Do’s and Don’t’s of Aging With Fabulous Hair
Do eat a hair-healthy diet.And not just when you hit forty. Start early! Nurture your body throughout your whole life and you’ll thank yourself when you’re older. Eat plenty of leafy greens, seafood, whole grains, and legumes.
Iron and proper protein, vitamins D, C, and B, iron, zinc, and folic acid are essential to your inner and outer beauty. Antioxidants also play an important role in antiaging. They prevent free radicals from doing damage to your hair and skin.
Grilled chicken, almond butter, eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, guava, berries, and bell peppers are all hair healthy foods.
Don’t overdo it on the alcohol and sugar.Sugar hinders the absorption of protein. And protein is essential to your hair’s health, as it’s basically made up entirely of different proteins. And alcohol lowers the zinc levels in your body, another essential mineral.
Do bring on the aloe vera.Aloe vera is chock full of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes your hair needs to retain moisture and elasticity as you age. Take it as a supplement, massage it into your scalp, or find quality, organic products that use aloe vera in the formula.
Don’t skimp on bottom-shelf products with ingredients you don’t recognize.These products contain ingredients that strip your hair of everything it needs to grow strong and healthy. Instead, they weaken your hair, making it dull and fragile.
Do pamper yourself with a hair mask.Hair masks lock in moisture that it needs to stay strong. It deeply hydrates your hair, keeping it clean and shiny. And while you’re at it, do a face mask and get in the tub! Create your own personal resting phase; your hair will thank you.
Don’t load your hair up with product.As your hair loses its volume, it can be tempting to increase the amount of product you're using. But this just damages your hair further, especially if you’re not using products with quality ingredients.
Do take breaks from heat drying and dying.Give your hair a second to bounce back (literally) from the effects of heat exposure and aggressive products. Take breaks from treating your hair over the course of your life and your hair will stay healthy longer.
Don’t overwash your hair.As your hair thins, it becomes more prone to dryness. This makes it prone to (you guessed it) breakage as well. Washing your hair too often strips your hair of necessary, protective oils. These oils nourish your scalp so skip a wash day when you can.
Do learn stress management techniques.Life is stressful, and getting older is stressful too. Make sure you have the tools you need to truly age gracefully: with peace and wisdom. Stress management techniques like yoga, meditation, journaling, breathing techniques, and talk therapy can help us cope.
And even more basic but essential responsibilities that help us to manage the stress of daily life include getting enough sleep (remember that you need a resting phase, too!), getting sunlight every day, and exercising.
And most importantly, don’t be afraid to embrace the changes that you experience, especially if you like them. Think about the things that your changing hair represents: wisdom, experience, respect, a chance to rest and reflect. When you embrace these changes you’ll find important lessons to be learned and to share with others.
You know what they say: a gray strand a day keeps the stigma away!
Abigail + David
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