Hair and the Aging Woman
Once a woman passes the age of 40, she often finds that her body goes through changes, some of which develop gradually and seem shocking when they are finally noticed. This is especially true of the hair. I’m talking about normal changes that are associated with the aging process and in many cases, menopause.
For many women, knowing what to expect can ease the stress of experiencing the changes. In addition, there are ways to cope with these changes that can take some of the stress out of growing older. Let’s address some of the common issues and discuss possible causes and options for each.
When it comes to growing older, one of the more frightening changes women begin to notice is thinning of the hair. Hair loss is for most women a more traumatic prospect than going gray. However, the majority of women will experience some level of hair loss as they get older. In most cases, the loss will be minor, but some women may find they are able to see their scalps easily through their hair, particularly at the perimeter areas.
One common cause of hair loss is low thyroid function, which occurs commonly in women experiencing menopause. However, the fluctuations in hormone levels of women during menopause can also cause some loss of hair, as can the emotional and physical stress that many women deal with as they get older. In addition, as we age, the growth rate of the hair slows down, meaning that when hairs are shed, they are more slowly replaced.
If you feel that your hair loss is somehow atypical, you should speak to your doctor about it. He or she will be able to determine whether your problem is the result of thyroid conditions or if you might perhaps benefit from Hormone Replacement Therapy. You may also want to pursue homeopathic treatments using soy products, which have been shown to help with hormone levels in menopausal women without the use of sometimes risky synthetic hormones.
Furthermore, if your hair is significantly thinner than in the past when you determined your “best look”, you may want to talk with your hair dresser to find a new look that is more flattering for you now that your hair’s density has changed. For most women with thinning hair, a shorter, layered style is much more flattering and is easier to style. You may want to learn techniques of styling to add fullness to the hair as well. Adding curl and root lift products can make a world of difference.
You also want to bear in mind that your hair’s loss of density means that heat styling is harsher. That half-inch thick slice of hair that you wrap around the curling iron has fewer strands than it used to have and therefore less hair to distribute the heat too. This makes the hairs that are left bear the brunt of the heat and they can be damaged easily if you don’t compensate by using lower heat settings.
The loss of density affects everything from blow-drying (use less heat and a wide tooth brush to gently direct the hair), and curling irons, flat irons and hot rollers (all of which should be used on much lower heat settings to prevent overheating the hair).
Loss of Condition/Changes in Texture
After a certain age, many women note that their hair becomes drier, and the texture seems coarser and more brittle than before. This is in part because the body’s production of sebum, a naturally-created lubricant of the skin and hair, slows down. The hair may become more porous and lose its elasticity as a result. Sebum production is estimated to decrease by 10% for every decade we live.
Dealing with this problem is relatively easy. For starters look to the inside by evaluating your eating habits. Make sure you are getting a healthy diet, rich in anti-oxidant foods and try to focus on calcium rich foods and foods containing vitamins A, E and C as well as Omega-3 Fatty Acids. You should also make sure to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.
This, in addition to using a gentle shampoo and moisture-rich conditioner, will make your hair more manageable and help you keep it healthy inside and out.
Because your hair changes its condition as you age, if you have always colored AND permed your hair, you may want to consider losing one of those processes. These chemical services can become increasingly hard on the hair as we age. For most women, the choice will be to sacrifice perms in favor of color, and on a positive note, natural styling with a good cut and simple, soft color is much more youthful than the heavily styled looks inherent in most perm styles.
You also need to look carefully at your styling products. Avoid products containing alcohol and which are prone to create build-up on the hair. Soft styling is much preferred over the stiff, structured looks of our younger days, and alcohol-free products don’t dry out the hair the way those with alcohol can.
Photo: Inna Reznik/Shutterstock
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