Just like our bodies, our hair ages over time in response to hormones and as a consequence of genetics. For advice on what to expect, I caught up with Jessica Fitzpatrick, educator, curl expert, and owner of Beyond Texture salon in Brooklyn, NY. Jessica shares her expert insights with NaturallyCurly on everything from graying to thinning and hair loss.

Gray hairs

Most of us will start to notice gray hairs in our 30s and 40s, though it is possible for them to appear earlier. This is due to the dying off of pigment cells in our hair follicles. The pigment cells are needed to produce the melanin that gives hair its youthful hues. Aging hair is a more transparent silver or white.

Jessica states that “As the grays begin to come in, the gray texture may feel more wiry or stiff because the porosity is changing. Gray hair tends to be less porous meaning the cuticle is more resistant to receiving moisture and hydration.”

Read next:The Advice You Need to Embrace and Celebrate Gray Curls

Hair thinning and hair loss

More than half of all women over age 50 will experience what is referred to as Female Pattern Hair Loss or Androgenic Alopecia, particularly starting around the time of menopause when estrogen and progesterone levels drop. AA is a disruption in the hair cycle that happens because certain hair follicles on the scalp are sensitive to the androgen hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT”>. DHT affects the quality of hair the sensitive follicles produce over a series of hair cycles. Newer hairs are shorter and thinner than the ones before, until ultimately the hair follicles die. Hair will appear sparse, weak, and thin, and areas of the scalp will show. 

With less density overall, curls will look less plump and bouncy. Also, thinner, more fragile hair will tangle and break more easily, which leads to shorter strands that never seem to grow in certain areas. While your curl pattern does not really change, it may appear different because of this loss of length and density. 

Frontal-Temporal Recession in the Hairline

Both males and females seem to have some change of the hairline as they age. While this is often much more dramatic in males, females, too, can have hairlines that are much higher than when they were younger. Thinning and loss in certain areas of the hairline can also cause it to change to a more bell-like shape.

Shortened Anagen Cycles

The anagen phase is the growth phase of the hair cycle. Normally, it lasts from 2-7 years. With aging, the anagen growth phase naturally shortens, so that growing hair as long as it once was is no longer possible. If Androgenic Alopecia (AA”> is present, this growth phase can be even shorter.

Dry Hair and Scalp

As we age, the sebum production on our scalps is reduced. This is particularly true in AA, which causes follicle death, as sebum is produced in the hair follicles. Less sebum results in dry, brittle hair.

How to give your hair more moisture as you age 

Jessica states that if your hair is dry, “it would benefit you to spend more time working in more water and conditioner to achieve the slip, and styling with gentle hands. Be sure that you are working products in with a soft touch so you are not squeezing out any additional hydration. Think of it as if you were filling up a water balloon, if you squeezed the water balloon you wouldn’t be able to fill it.”

“We think we can make our hair smooth with more tension. This is untrue. We need to fill up the cuticle with hydration to allow it to give way to the hydration. Oftentimes, I’ll tell my clients when they’re styling with products and water to think of how you would ice a cake (you want to be gentle yet firm to apply the product but not too firm as that would take out the needed water”>. Warmer water will help the cuticle stay open and receptive to hydration and moisture. It’s also beneficial to look into styling with a hooded dryer, as this will help set in the hydration bond that is needed to retain the curl pattern.”

How has your hair changed with age? Let us know in the comments.

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