The Best Guide to Learn About Hair Aging? 8 Most Common Signs of Hair Aging.

Learn about types and common symptoms of hair aging.

We all know by now that aging is a natural process that causes changes in every part of the body, including the hair. When you notice the first silver hairs on your head, concern and curiosity are natural reactions. Still, hair aging and thinning are inevitable parts of aging. Whether you want to avoid premature aging or just learn more about the science behind those silver streaks, you’ve come to the right place. We will discuss in detail what hair changes occur with advancing age and the factors that contribute to these changes.
So, let’s begin by understanding what are hair.

What is Hair?

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Hair can be considered part of our skin (integumentary system). Hair cells are made up of protein strands known as keratin and have an average lifespan of two to seven years. Hair may grow on almost every part of the body (except for some locations like the palms and soles of the feet), but most people notice it more in certain areas, which are also the ones that are trimmed, plucked, or shaved the most.

The skin contains a tiny organ called the hair follicle, which secures the hair inside the scalp. These hair follicles start to develop by the 22nd week of pregnancy. The hair strand grows from these follicles inside a structure called a bulb outside the skin/scalp. The average healthy scalp contains between 80,000 and 120,000 terminal hairs. The hair strand comprises three distinct layers: the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla.

How Does Hair Grow?

Much research has been done about how hair grows. Like skin cells, hair cells in the body follow a similar cycle: they grow, change, rest, and replenish. At any given time, a random number of hairs will be in one of these stages.

Anagen Phase

It is also known as the growing phase or active phase. it is characterized by the lengthening of the hair filament and the rapid division and differentiation of cells in the lower portion of the hair follicle.

It is the longest phase of hair growth, enduring the hairs on your scalp between three and five years. Some hair can also stay in this phase for seven years. Hence, 90% of your hair is in the anagen phase. During this stage, the hair grows around 1 centimeter every month.

It has also been studied that the anagen phase of various hair forms varies. For example, eyebrow and pubic hairs undergo a significantly shorter anagen phase than scalp hairs.

Catagen Phase

The hair development cycle’s transitional phase is known as the catagen phase. In this stage, the hair follicles shrink due to reduced blood supply, and the hair growth rate decreases.  The hair also separates from the bottom of the hair follicle, yet remains in place during this transition. This stage lasts about ten days with only 5% of hair.

Telogen Phase

This is also known as the resting phase of the hair. Hair cannot grow in this phase, but it doesn’t fall easily, either. The telogen phase is also marked by new hairs that start to form in the follicles that have just released hairs during the catagen phase. About 10%–15% of the hairs on the scalp are now at this stage.

The average duration of the telogen phase is about three months, and 10-15% of hair is in this phase.


Exogen Phase

This phase was first considered part of the telogen phase but is now considered a shedding phase. Hair falls out of the scalp during the exogen phase, which is accelerated by frequent washing and brushing. During the exogenous period, losing 50 to 100 hairs daily is common. This phase can extend from two to five months.

So now we know that new strands will eventually grow to replace the ones about to fall out. Remember that these phases do not occur simultaneously in every hair. Some of your hairs are in the growth phase, some are in the resting phase, and a small percentage are in the telogen phase. Aging, poor diet, and general health can also impact how long it takes for each stage to complete.
You have about 100,000 hairs on your head, so a little loss isn’t obvious. Most of the time, new hair grows to replace the old hair, but sometimes, this doesn’t happen.  

Types of Hair

As per 2017 research, hair follicles determine hair type. The four-part approach is the most popular way to categorize hair types. For naturally curly hair, for instance, the follicles take the form of an “S”. The degree to which the curls and coils of each of the four hair types are tight or loose is further described in the subcategories.

Straight Hair (Type 1)

Straight hair is characterized by the absence of curls or waves. The natural oils from the scalp can freely glide down the hair shaft, giving it a lustrous appearance. It is further divided into types.

• 1a: Very straight, fine, or thin texture
• 1b: Straight with some bends
• 1c: Straight with a coarser texture

Wavy Hair (Type2)

A natural, delicate wave pattern characterizes wavy hair. Although it’s fuller in texture, it’s more likely to frizz than straight hair. Here are the subcategories:

2a: Wavy and fine
2b: Wavy with a slightly more defined S-shape
2c: Wavy with well-defined S-shaped waves

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Curly Hair (Type 3)

Along with being dry and prone to frizz, curly hair is easily identifiable by its distinctive curl pattern. The subcategories include:

• 3a: Loose curls
• 3b: Tight and springy curls
• 3c: An S or Z shape that springs back into shape when stretched

Coily Hair (Types 4)

Coily hair, often called kinky or Afro-textured hair, is characterized by thick, abounding, tightly coiled curls. It is the most delicate and easily dried out of the bunch. Here are the subcategories:

• 4a: Loose coils
• 4b: Zig-zagging coils
• 4c: Tight coils

How Hair Age? The Signs

Hair is an essential part of one’s look and identity, and it experiences important changes over one’s lifespan, including deteriorating hair health or hair aging. Scalps change the same way as other parts of the body, such as the skin. Cell renewal is no longer at its best, and its ecosystem is slowly deteriorating. There is less blood flow and less presence of vitamins and nutrients that are important for the body.
Hair aging is totally different from hair loss (also known as alopecia), which includes more than just thinning hair. Some of the marked changes seen usually among most people are mentioned here.

1. Graying of Hair

The most common change people notice is the graying or appearance of silver hair on the scalp. This is usually attributed to the decreased number of melanocytes in the hair as we age. Melanocytes are the pigment-generating cells in the hair. So, hair turns gray or white when melanin isn’t present because our cells stop producing enough of it.

Whether and how soon this happens is heavily influenced by genetics. However, it usually begins later in life, in the 40s.  A particular mutation (rs12203592) of the IRF4 gene has been found to indicate premature greying, which affects the age at which hair begins to turn grey. Nonetheless, it does impact both sexes to some degree.

It also studied that the lighter an individual’s skin tone is, the more rapidly their hair will begin to gray. That is why gray hair typically appears in the early 30s for Caucasians, approximately ten years earlier than for those with darker skin tones.

2. Weathered Hair

Another hallmark is losing hair texture. This means hair can become increasingly damaged and worn out as we age. A loss of natural oils from the scalp and changes to the hair shaft’s structure are common causes of these changes. Hormonal changes that occur during menopause and andropause might also contribute.

Damage caused by various environmental factors such as UV rays, humidity, and chemicals in hair dyes and treatments can cause hair to lose some of its lustre, elasticity, and strength. (1)

3. Hair Thinning And Baldness

As per the World Trichology Society (WTS), one can classify your hair’s thickness as one of three main types: fine, medium, or thick.

But with hair aging, the average diameter of hair also decreases. As hair diameter decreases, tensile strength decreases, making hair more fragile and likely to break. This rate and duration vary among different races. One study conducted in 2021 found that the thickness peaked in the early 40s and then started to decline. This causes the scalp to look more prominent.

Sometimes, hair follicles might produce smaller or thinner, maybe no hair with time. This condition, known as senescent alopecia, is an inherent aspect of the aging process.

4. Reduced Hair Density

Hair density is defined as the number of hair fibres per centimetre (cm). A person can lose up to 50–100 hairs every day. Hair follicles produce new hair, while the body constantly loses its old hair. Loss of hair density can occur when certain hair follicles cease generating new hairs as we age. It is also known as hair loss. It might also need to be baldness accompanied by hair thinning. A person’s hair density peaks at age 35 and declines after that. It has been postulated that the hair density drops by 22%, as shown in a clinical trial.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a person can lose up to 50–100 hairs daily.

5. Hair Dryness and Breakage

As we age, our scalps generate less sebum, which means our hair doesn’t have as much natural oil to keep it hydrated. This is why aging hair often feels dry. The ends of our hair tend to be drier than the rest since our natural scalp oils take longer to penetrate the hair shaft. (There is a problem with “crunchy” endings!)

With hair dryness, hair also weakens with age, with the likelihood of breakage. This kind of breakage is different from regular hair shedding and hair loss in that it can happen at any location along the hair shaft, making shorter pieces of shed hair seen.

6. Slow Hair Growth

The rate of hair growth often decreases with age. This occurs because of a lengthening of the telogen phase and a shortening of the anagen phase in the hair cycle. So, one might not require as many cuts and the hairstyles can look less full since it takes longer for hair to grow.

7. Scalp Aging

The scalp also ages with the loss of its elasticity. This causes changes in the number of hair follicles, reduced blood supply, and hair color changes with time. Not only is the elasticity lost, but the scalp may produce more dandruff due to oxidative stress which can lead to more frequent flare-ups as age increases.

8. Changes In The Hair Type

Changes in hair types can also be considered a part of hair aging. It means that hair that might be once curly can change thier type. For example, curly hair might drop or become less curly and lack bounces due to hormonal shifts. In the same way, naturally coily hair may become dry and brittle due to the hair shaft’s structure, making it less effective in retaining moisture.

What Causes Hair Aging?

Hair aging can be caused by a mixture of both environmental and external factors. Such as

  • Hormonal Changes: Changes in hormone levels, which impact hair health, occur naturally with aging. Hormonal changes brought on by menopause, andropause, or other changes in the endocrine system can cause hair loss, altered texture, and decreased growth.
  • Bad Nutrition: Bad eating habits such as not having proper nutrients in the body can cause hair aging soon. It is also well documented that natural hair aging can be accelerated by deficiency in certain nutrients, such as biotin, zinc, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Smoking and Lifestyle: Smoking and heavy alcohol use are two more lifestyle choices that harm hair follicles and hasten the thinning and graying of hair. It is suggested that these habits can reduce the amount of protein absorption necessary for hair.
  • Oxidative Damage: When the body is imbalanced between free radicals and antioxidants, oxidative stress develops. This can reduce melanin production and injure hair follicles, resulting in graying and other indicators of aging hair.
  • Hair Care Practices: The slow decline of hair caused by excessive heat styling, harsh chemical treatments, and hairstyles can accelerate its aging process.
  • Sun Exposure and Pollution: These two factors can causes severe damage and premature aging of hair. Excessive exposure to the sun without protective gear dries out the scalp, which can lead to pH changes and the development of dandruff. The same holds true for pollution. Dry, dull, and brittle hair that ages more quickly is the result of damaged and sensitive hair.

Hair Aging on Other Parts of The Body

Conversely, many women struggle with the issue of having an excess of hair as they age. Hirsutism is a medical disorder in which female hair develops abnormally in areas normally inhabited by male hair, such as the back, chest, thighs, and face.

Genetics, age, certain drugs, and diseases like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are all potential causes of hirsutism. On extremely rare occasions, it can indicate adrenal or ovarian cancer.

Hair Loss Vs. Hair Fall

The words “hair loss” and “hair fall” are commonly used interchangeably, although they really refer to different things that happen to one’s hair. A small table shows the differences between hair fall and hair loss. By differentiating between hair loss and hair fall, one can identify changes where shedding is a typical component of the hair cycle and those that may indicate a more significant condition.

Hair Loss Hair Fall
Definition Significant or excessive loss of hair, often leading to thinning or bald spots. Normal shedding of hair as part of the hair growth cycle.
Causes Genetics, medical conditions, hormonal changes, autoimmune disorders, or stress. Part of the natural hair growth cycle; generally not a concern unless excessive.
Patterns It can lead to noticeable bald spots or general thinning of hair. Daily shedding of hair, usually between 50 and 100 strands.
Duration Often long-term, it may require medical intervention or lifestyle changes to manage. Temporary; hair falls out to make way for new growth.
Treatment It may require medical treatments, lifestyle changes, or hair restoration methods. Generally, it doesn’t require treatment unless the shedding becomes excessive.
Indications of Concern Sudden or patchy hair loss, significant thinning, or hair not growing back. Excessive shedding, more than usual, or hair falling out in clumps.

If you are in the later stages of your life, you shouldn’t freak out if you see hair in your shower drain or on your hairbrush. But if this happens earlier, medical attention and preventive care might be required.

How Can We Prevent Hair Aging?

there is more to learn if you are interested in learning how to promote a healthy hair growth cycle and fight against the effects of aging. Stay tuned for our upcoming post where we’ll discuss the most effective techniques to cure and prevent hair damage so that it always looks its best.

So don’t worry, relax and remember, a little silver here and there is a badge of honour that comes with the experience of years.  And even while hair ages naturally, keeping your locks looking fresh and young is still possible with the right routine. Following the next instructions, you may maintain healthy, gorgeous hair regardless of age.

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Dr Aimen

Being a Doctor by profession, Aimen is passionate about helping people get better health in their lives. Aimen enjoys her research on Prime With Time subjects and strives to create better awareness of the problems and changes related to women's health.
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