Uneven Hair Growth

Woman with fine hair
Q: I have what looks like thick hair, but in fact is lots of fine hairs. I've noticed that as I've gotten older my hair is not as thick as it was 20 years ago. I often find straggly, curly hairs. My hair used to be straight with a slight wave in it.
Now when I wash my hair, it shocks me to see that a lot of my scalp is visible when my hair is wet and that one side of my head has thicker hair than the other. A hairdresser friend of mine states that it is very common for people to have uneven hair growth (i.e. with one side of the head thicker than the other). She cites blood circulation as the culprit.
What causes the hair to go straggly and curly as you get older? And what causes the hair to grow thicker on one side of the head than the other?

A: Well, your hairdresser friend is correct in that it IS common for people to have different growth patterns and areas of varying density on different areas of their scalp. However, it may simply be a matter of genetics rather than poor circulation or any sign of abnormality or illness.
You have to remember that each hair follicle is an independent organ of the body, though it functions as a part of the skin. Each hair follicle grows hair at its own rate, and can age and change according to hormonal and aging influences independently. This is why gray hair develops at different rates in different people rather than someone's entire head suddenly going gray at once.
As we age, our hair may become less dense on the scalp, can change color, or may change in its wave pattern, depending on our genetic programming. There can be some medical conditions (as well as reactions to medications and dietary deficiencies) that can lead to hair loss or changes in the growth, but for the most part the changes that occur are a result of your body's natural programming.
If you feel that the changes are potentially the result of a factor that is not "normal" (such as if hair loss or structure changes are accompanied by irritation or pain in the scalp) you should consult a doctor. Remember, that a cosmetologist is only qualified to help you care for and treat the condition of your hair after it has emerged from the scalp.
Photo: ArtFamily/Shutterstock
See also:
Hair problems
Does different people's hair grow at different speeds?
What is hair made of and how does it grow?