Hair expresses characteristics of your style and personality. Besides, it is also one of the first telltale signs of aging. As you age, it’s common for your body to undergo many distinct changes, including changes in the hair and scalp—these changes, when visible to others, these changes can impact one’s self-esteem and confidence.
This article explores the causes, factors, and the researched solutions that can help handle the changes in hair and scalp, particularly hair greying and hair loss.
HOW HAIR GROWS?
It is better to know how our hair grows before reading what happens when we grow older. Hair grows from the root, which is located at the bottom of the follicle. Blood vessels provide nourishment to the root, allowing them to grow. They grow up and out, towards the skin, passing via an oil gland on the way. They are kept glossy and silky by these oil glands. By the time hair pokes through the skin, it is already dead. The American Academy of Dermatology says that hair grows about 1/2 inch (1.27cm) per month on average.
Hair grows at a rate of around half an inch (1.27cm) every month and remains on the head for about 2 to 6 years.
The growth can also be divided into 3 stages;
- Growth(Anagen): This is the phase where hair grows from follicles. Between 85 to 90% of hairs are in the growing stage at any given time. It; lasts up to 8 years.
- Transition(Catagen): The hair has ceased to develop but remains in the hair follicle during this phase. It lasts 4-6 weeks.
- Resting(Telogen): Hairs are shed from the follicle during this time. It happens in about 2-3 months. This cycle is repeated for new hair.
- Hair shedding (Exogen) happens during the end of the telogen phase.
|Hair color||Number of hairs|
INTRINSIC AND EXTERNAL FACTORS CAUSING HAIR LOSS
Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors affect the degree and timeline of the aging of hair and scalp.
|Intrinsic factors||Extrinsic factors|
- Genetics: Genetic factors are responsible for hair color and other factors like hair density, texture, and growth. Genes also determine how much hair remains on your head.
- Hormonal factors: Both female and male hormones contribute significantly to hair health and growth. The hormone androgen is responsible for hair growth in men and to a small extent in women.
- Medical disorders: Thyroid hormones influence the metabolism of hair follicle cells. Problems related to The thyroid gland can cause hair aging patterns and may also lead to hair loss. Thyroid hormone levels, both high and low, can cause brittle hair and hair loss.
- Menopause: Estrogen promotes water retention on the scalp. 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. See what other changes Menopause brings to the body by clicking here.
- Stress: Stress is considered to be one of the rarest reasons for hair-related changes. Under the findings of recent research, stress can interfere with the natural process of hair growth by causing more hair to enter the resting and shedding phases of the hair cycle. Telogen effluvium is when some stress causes hair roots to be pushed prematurely into the resting state.
- Diet: Keratin, a natural protein, is the building block of hair. A well-balanced diet rich in key nutrients helps to maintain hair healthily. A poor diet will lead to low levels of protein and will slow the rate of hair growth.
- Smoking: Smoking has been strongly linked with hair-related changes. It constricts blood arteries, affecting blood flow throughout the body. Hair growth is slowed when blood flow in hair follicles is slowed. A 2020 study compared the prevalence of early-onset alopecia in male smokers and non-smokers between 20 to 35 years. Toxins in smoking can also harm hair follicles, causing follicular inflammation due to the release of pro-inflammatory substances. Smoking is directly linked to pains; check out this article about what those are, and here to read the best ways to quit smoking.
- Medications: Certain drugs include hair loss as their potential side effect and are essential to treat certain chronic conditions. Medicines for gout, arthritis, blood pressure, anticoagulants, antidepressants, oral contraceptives, and vitamin A supplements may potentially lead to hair loss.
- Pollution: Pollution is becoming more widespread all around the planet. Environmental contaminants such as dust, smoke, nickel, lead, arsenic, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ammonia, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and volatile organic compounds settle on the scalp as a result of exposure.
- Oxidative stress: Oxidative stress diminishes your scalp’s grip on your hair. Similar to how UV exposure increases skin aging, oxidative stress accelerates hair loss by damaging the scalp. A stressed scalp sheds hair too quickly, causing you to lose more hair than necessary. A 2018 research found that cells in the hair follicles of balding scalps are susceptible to oxidative stress. Scalp irritation, redness, itching, excessive sebum secretion, dandruff, soreness in the hair roots, and hair loss are all symptoms of increased oxidative stress.
AGE-RELATED CHANGES IN HAIR
Most people shed 50 to 100 hairs a day.
Following changes occur in the hair with aging.
GREY HAIR / HAIR GREYING
Hair has two types of pigments: dark (eumelanin) and light (phaeomelanin). Melanin is formed up of melanocytes, which are specialized pigment cells. Melanocytes inject pigment (melanin) into keratin-containing cells as the hair grows. Keratin is a protein found in human hair, skin, and nails. Melanocytes continue to pump pigment into the hair’s keratin over time, giving it a vibrant color.
As we age, our hair follicles produce less melanin, causing our hair to go grey. It usually starts from the temple area and spreads to the vertex and then the remainder of the scalp affecting the occiput last. Gray hair occurs earlier in white people and later in Asians. They become coarser and less manageable than pigmented hair, often fail to hold a temporary or permanent hairstyle set, and are more resistant to artificial hair color (hair dye).
The average age of greying hair is 50 years. Here below a table that indicates the average age for hair greying for different ethnicity
|Ethnicity||The average age for the start of gray hair||Premature hair graying|
|Caucasians||The Mid-30s||Before 20 years old|
|Asians||The Late-30s||Before 25 years old|
|Africans||The Mid-40s||Before 30 years old|
Hair loss usually develops gradually. It may be patchy or all over (diffuse). When your scalp ages, the hair follicles become clogged more easily, which might interfere with protein absorption. This may increase your hair loss issues. Both men and women lose hair thickness and quantity as they age. An illness is not usually the cause of this type of hair loss, but it’s due to age-related changes and the factors discussed above. Inherited or pattern baldness affects many more men than women.
FEMALE PATTERN HAIRLOSS (FPHL): Female pattern hair loss is characterized by thinning over the mid-frontal scalp with relative sparing of the anterior hairline. The thinning is most easily seen when the hair is parted in the midline, and the exposed scalp may resemble a Christmas tree. Over 57% of women go through life with at least some female pattern hair loss (FPHL). Heritable, androgen-dependent, and age-dependent processes result in a progressive decline in visible scalp hair density. The prevalence of female pattern hair loss increases with age.
|Average age development of clinically detectable FPHL|
|By age 29 years||12%|
|By age 49 years||25%|
|By age 69 years||41%|
|By age 79 years||50%|
FPHL is a progressive condition; the rate of its progression is highly variable. Hair shedding is often episodic. Women commonly notice increased hair loss in the shower or the brush each day for 2–3 months before the shedding returns to normal levels. 3–12 months may elapse before the shedding returns.
HAIR WEAKENING AND DRYING
Dry hair occurs when your hair does not get or retain enough moisture. This dulls its luster and causes it to appear frizzy and dim. Dry hair can affect men and women of any age, although it is more common as you get older. The outer layer’s natural oils protect the inner layers. When your hair is dry, the outside layer of the hair breaks down, causing it to seem drab and unhealthy. It can also be due to any underlying condition like thyroid problems (hypo or hyperthyroidism) or other environmental factors.
According to a 2019 study, when we reach our mid-30s, our hair density begins to decline due to age-related hair loss disorders, and our scalp’s decreased sebum production frequently results in hair/scalp dryness.
Your hair will most likely thin as you get older. When your scalp ages, your hair follicles are more likely to become clogged, which might interfere with protein absorption. If your hair follicles aren’t getting enough protein, you may see changes to your crowning splendor. Your hair follicles will shrink and eventually create hardly visible strands of hair. Hormonal changes are the most common cause of thinning hair in older women. It is common for menopausal women to have hair loss and to thin at the same time. A study proved that hair thinning becomes significantly prominent by the 40s.
HOW DOES THE SCALP AGE?
Of course, we cannot forget the scalp, as this is where the hair grows. As you age, the number of blood vessels in your scalp and hair follicles decreases. Skin continues to get drier and more prone to wrinkles.
Signs of Hair and Scalp Aging:
- Volume reduction. Hair laying flat on the head is a sign of volume loss.
- Dryness and lifelessness. The oil-producing capacity of the oil glands declines over time to the point that oil no longer travels down the hair shaft efficiently.
- Dermatitis: Erythema (induced by seborrheic dermatitis and desquamations of the skin in sebaceous gland-rich areas) can worsen in the 40s.
Given that your scalp is covered in a forest of hair, it might be challenging to determine whether your scalp is in optimal health and happiness—but it is worth checking. Following changes occur on our scalp with age;
A study published in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences, and Application discovered that as women age, their sebum output decreases due to hormonal changes and changes in estrogen levels. The study also observed a marked reduction in sebum among women in their 40s compared to women in their 30s. This results in dryness of the scalp and can also lead to dandruff. Scalp sebum is reduced as age, rendering less dandruff in the 40s than in the 20s and 30s.
Scalp sensitivity is characterized by the presence of prickling burning, or tingling sensation on the scalp. According to the writers of the Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, scalp sensitivity increases with age. The most typical signs of scalp sensitivity are itching and granules becoming trapped between your nails when you scratch your head in response.
SOLUTIONS TO MANAGE HAIR AND SCALP CHANGES
A GOOD DIET IS KEY!
Get a nutritious diet supplemented with nutrients that stimulates keratin production for hair strength and growth. Getting antioxidants from your regular diet is the best way to combat the aging of the scalp and hair. Healthy and varied diet to guarantee adequate antioxidants, iron, vitamins, and protein intake.
The following food can help you with better hair health;
- Spinach and other green leafy vegetables. These are high in nutrients that healthy hair requires, such as folate, iron, and vitamins A and C.
- Omega-3’s. Fatty fish, such as salmon, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, encouraging hair development. A study done in 2018 suggested the usage of Omega-3s for hair growth.
- Berries. Strawberries, raspberries, and other fruits are high in vitamin C and antioxidants, beneficial to your hair and immune system. Vitamin C is also used by the body to generate collagen. A review published in 2020 proves the usage of strawberries for regeneration and growth.
- Eggs. These contain biotin, which is essential for hair protein.
- Avocados. These delicious green foods are loaded with vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids necessary to promote hair health, according to research in 2019.
- Add a multi-vitamin. Once-a-day multi-vitamins can replenish nutrients not fulfilled by the foods you eat.
CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE ANY MEDICATION
Some medications used to treat problems such as heart disease or lower cholesterol can affect your hair. Discuss with your doctor whether any of the medications you are taking interfere with hair growth or loss, and seek advice on mitigating harmful effects.
Your body will generate strong and healthy hair if you use a proper supplement. Nutritional inadequacies can cause hair loss.
- Supplements such as iron, zinc, niacin, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12 can benefit.
- Some studies showed that alopecia is one of many consequences associated with biotin and zinc deficiencies.
- Vitamin D-3 supplementing when it is deficient may be beneficial in the treatment.
- Polyphenols were also shown to extend the human hair shaft in a study by 30.8% when applied topically and promoted hair growth.
To avoid a hormonal imbalance, keeping your stress levels under control related to hair loss is necessary. Reduced estrogen production can disrupt brain chemistry, resulting in mood swings, anxiety, and sadness. Yoga and other breathing relaxation methods, on the other hand, are particularly useful in combating stress. Regular exercise might also help alleviate stress. Follow this link to get the best exercise regimen for you!
MASSAGING THE SCALP
Scalp massage has been demonstrated to be beneficial for hair growth. Massage your scalp with a blend of oils such as tea tree oil, olive oil, coconut oil, peppermint oil which increase blood circulation and stimulates hair follicles allowing your hair to grow faster.
KEEP A LOW HAND ON SMOKING
Smoking can prematurely age your hair cells, making them fragile and easily damaged. Speak with your doctor to develop a smoking cessation strategy that is best for you. In addition, you can read this, How to Quit Smoking.
KEEP IT NATURAL
Avoid scalp manipulation that may cause hair breakage (straightening, perming, and hair extensions), stimulating hair loss. Choose an all-natural hair color if you have to dye your hair. Dyes of artificial chemicals may affect your skin and hair safety. Be kind to your hair. Be gentle. Use a detangler, especially when your hair is wet, and prevent tugging when brushing and peeling. A wide dented comb may assist prevent hair from being pulled out.
SUN PROTECTION FOR YOUR SCALP
Protect your hair from sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light. Use caps and head covers while going out in the sun. If you are outdoors for a long time and you have patches of alopecia, you need SPF on your head. Apply it to your hairline and part line to protect yourself with an SPF in your scalp. You may also wear conventional sunscreen, but it can feel fat and heavy on your hair. If your hair is thin or you have bald areas, you must apply SPF to the entire scalp. There are many powdered-based and thin lotion-based sunscreens available.
OTHER SPECIFIC TREATMENTS:
TREATMENT FOR GREY HAIR:
- Zinc is a mineral responsible for protecting your cells and DNA from invaders, which is why people often tout it as a cold remedy. A study proved the regrowth of dark-colored hair over the scalp for premature hair greying after 3 mg/kg/d oral basic zinc per day for 3 months.
TREATMENT FOR HAIR LOSS
The below list of available treatments. It is important to note that the use of all androgen-dependent medications to treat Female Pattern Hairloss (FPHL) carries a risk of causing abnormalities in the genitalia of the male fetus. These medications are thus contraindicated in pregnant women, which leads to the recommendation that women start and remain on an oral contraceptive pill throughout their treatment with these medications.
- Usually, 1 ml of minoxidil is applied twice daily to dry the scalp with a dropper. This is left for 1 hour before shampooing or wetting the hair is allowed to maximize medication absorption.
- In the initial 2–8 weeks, a temporary telogen effluvium may occur, self-limiting, and subsides when subsequent anagen regrowth begins and should not be a cause for treatment cessation.
- Minoxidil’s common adverse effects include scalp irritation, including dryness, scaling, itching, and/or redness.
- Hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth) may occur, primarily on the cheeks and forehead. If this happens, it generally disappears within 4 months of ceasing the medication. Treatment should be continued for at least 12 months before an accurate appraisal of efficacy can be made.
Doctors prescribe the oral medication finasteride (Propecia). It is well tolerated; infrequent side effects include breast tenderness and increased libido. They are most common in the first year of therapy, reversible on dose reduction, and diminish over time with continued use.
This medication inhibits gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and blocks androgen receptors. It appears the most effective is 100 mg/day on days 5–15 of the menstrual cycle supplemented by 50 μg Ethinyl estradiol on days 5–25. The side effect includes menstrual disturbances, weight gain, loss of libido, depression, breast tenderness, and gastrointestinal upsets.
Melatonin acts as a potent antioxidant direct radical scavenger, and antiaging factor. A study showed that topical application of a cosmetic melatonin solution could help delay hair aging, hair loss in general and treat Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL).
Most of the above elements can be readily retained with simple lifestyle changes, while hereditary factors remain permanent. The perfect dietary balance between vitamins, antioxidants, and micronutrients can be a beneficial technique for hair loss control, combined with correcting hair loss mechanisms to Prime With Time!