The one constant in life is change, right? This is true for most things, and certainly for our hair. As we ease into middle age we’re going to notice more changes in our hair as our bodies shift gear and our hormone levels fluctuate. We’ve discussed hair care in our 20s and 30s in a recent article. Today we’re following up with some insights on what to expect in our later years, and how best to manage this transition.
40s Hair CareWhen we enter our 40s, we’ll probably experience a continued drop in hair density, often accompanied by a dryer scalp and dry, brittle hair. Dry hair can be attributed to many factors such as:
- Incorrect hair care products
- Excessive heat and chemical styling
- Poor nutrition
- Thyroid disorders
Why Do Hormones Have Such an Impact on Our Hair?Hormones affect hair follicles, but genetics can determine which follicles and how sensitive they are. This explains why many men and some women develop genetic baldness. The same is true for pregnant women, who receive a protective effect from elevated estrogen levels.
How Does Perimenopause Affect Hair?In menopause and perimenopause, estrogen levels start to decline, resulting in a reduction in hair density and in hair growth. “Estrogen promotes water retention and plumpness in the skin. When estrogen drops, you lose some of the molecules that help keep the skin moisturized. Estrogen also contributes to hair growth and fullness. Without it, your hair may become thinner.” (Source) This is because estrogen plays a role in determining how long hair is held in the growth phase and how many follicles are in the shedding phase at any given time.
Shades of GreyIt’s amazing that we still put so much pressure on ourselves to hide grey hair when it is completely normal and inevitable with ageing. Eleanore Richardson offers some sage advice. “If you prefer to keep it covered then choosing a semi-permanent colour will do the least damage and as it eventually washes out, you don’t get a brutal grey hair root coming through in between colouring, but admittedly it will only last a few washes.” We know that permanent colour is the only way to get full grey coverage. The long-term cost can be high though. The more grey hair that appears, the more we dye it which results in a cycle of dry hair and potentially sensitised scalp, as well as a steady deterioration of the overall condition of our hair. The damage is particularly severe for Afro hair types because most dyes on the market are with European hair types in mind rather than curlier, porous hair. “I think it’s time to embrace the grey.” Eleanore Richardson You should invest time in steam treatments and conditioning hair masks during your 40s if you haven’t already been doing so. Your scalp may start feeling drier than usual, so steam treatments can promote sebum production so the scalp can be lubricated and moisturised. An important note: If your hair density is thinning, stay away from extensions and weaves, as these can cause follicular trauma and more hair loss in the long run.
50s Hair CareAs our estrogen and progesterone levels continue to fall, we’ll notice further thinning of our hair. This means that we must focus on maintaining our hair in the best condition possible and make use of volume-boosting products that won’t weigh down the hair.
What About Supplements and Serums?The beauty industry keeps rolling out potions and supplements that claim to have magical effects on post-menopausal hair. Do they work? Many products tend to put some essential nutrients back into our bodies, but they do not address the root cause of the problem: lowered estrogen levels. Before you spend your hard-earned cash on dubious quick-fixes, rather take a look at long-term solutions:
- Get sufficient exercise which boosts oxygen levels and stimulates all the cells in the body, including your follicles
- Maintain a healthy diet rich in natural vitamins, minerals, and oils
- Make use of hair care products that won’t strip your hair of its moisture barrier and support a healthy scalp
- Get a great haircut that offers volume and easy styling
- Avoid too much heat styling
- Keep your hair care regime as simple and as natural as possible
- If you really don’t love the grey, rather make use of semi-permanent colouring systems