We've slathered on anti-aging skin potions for centuries, but did you know that hair can age just like skin? While grays are often referenced as a giveaway of getting older, locks can also age by becoming thin, fragile and limp with time.
A glance at the hair care aisle shows brands are increasingly using terms like “anti-aging” and “age-defying” to market products that claim to restore hair to its younger, stronger, more smooth and lustrous self.
But do these formulas really make a difference?
Good Housekeeping Research Institute delves into that question in their Second Annual Anti-Aging Awards, which puts over 100 hair care products with ageless claims to the test with both science lab studies and nearly 600 female testers age 35 or older.
"Anti-aging hair products are a growing segment of the beauty market, and there are a lot of brands out there making claims. Our readers want to know where to spend their money, and we're unique in that we have the tools to scientifically evaluate the effectiveness of products in the Good Housekeeping Research Institute," explains Rosemary Ellis, editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping.
The Science Behind the Testing
For the panel testing, product labels were blackened with electrical tape to guard against brand name bias. Testers used cleansing and styling products multiple times over one week to judge consistency on claims of softer, shinier and smoother hair. For hair color, results were evaluated at the three to four week mark, in accordance with claims printed on the box.
In the lab, a team of scientists divided nine pounds of human hair to create 736 swatches. Brown hair swatches used for product testing were bleached to induce aging damage, while 100% gray hair was used for permanent haircolor testing, and gray blends for demi-permanent color testing.
To judge how well the anti-aging hair products performed, the lab created unique equipment to test hair swatches. The Instron, which methodically combs through hair, measures the amount of friction while moving through wet and dry hair – the less resistance, the healthier and more protected hair is against breakage.
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A shine cylinder calculated the amount of surface reflection under exactly the same environment, and a washing station provided controlled temperature and water pressure speed so that all swatches experienced the same cleansing conditions. For hair color testing, the Accelerated Weathering Tester bathed swatches in UV light to see how quickly hair color would fade with daily wear.
Anti-aging tips for your hair
Fortunately for those of us without a team of engineers devising complex product tests, there are some general rules to live by for healthier, younger-looking hair.
“On average, we naturally shed about 100 hairs per day that are replaced by new hairs. As we age, this process shortens, so hair becomes thinner…and can look frayed or wiry,” says Zahir Ziani, National Creative Director of Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. Lipid production also slows, causing hair to texture to change to a drier, duller finish.
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Hair care is truly an area where the “less means more” approach wins out. To combat the weakening, you’ll want to embrace your natural texture, and lay off chemical processes like straightening and over-coloring that can further deplete the protein strength of your strands. Refrain also from turning up the temperature level on styling tools past low to medium heat, and don’t let irons sit on one section of hair for too long, advises Zahir.
Regular trims maintained every four to six weeks refresh strands and keep ends bouncier and youthful. If your strands are feeling especially lifeless, consider taking daily hair-healthy supplements like biotin and B vitamins — specifically B-2, B-5, B-12 — for stronger hair, adds Zahir.
Good Housekeeping’s 2011 Anti-Aging Award Winners
Shampoo & Conditioner
- Gold winner: Pureology Nanoworks Shampoo & Conditioner, $53 each
- Silver winner: Biolage Rejuvathérapie Age Rejuvenating Shampoo and Conditioner, $18 and $19
- Gold winner: Age Beautiful Intense Strengthening Treatment, $10
- Silver winner: Redken Time Reset Youth Revitalizer, $14
- Gold winner: Revlon ColorSilk with UV Defense, $3.69, Available in deep brown, and more.
- Silver winner: Couture Colour, $30. Try their new Pequi Oil Treatment, $32.
Instant Root Touch-Ups
- Gold winner: Irene Gari Cover Your Gray Professional, $7
- Silver winners (tie): Andre Walker Hair Make-Up Color Blend Wand, $12, and QuickTint, $15
- Gold winner: Clairol Natural Instincts, $9
- Silver winner: Garnier HerbaShine Color Crème With Bamboo Extract, $8
- Gold winner: L’anza Healing Strength Neem Plant Silk Serum, $26
- Silver winner: Biolage Rejuvathérapie Age Rejuvenating Leave-In Densifier, $18
Who would have thought? The key to young, beautiful hair is to "embrace your natural texture."