How to Win the Aging-Hair Battle
A thick, full, luscious head of hair is an outward sign of beauty, health and youth. Still, many women don’t realize the impact slowly aging hair can have on their appearance. How healthy and youthful a person looks from across the room often has less to do with facial wrinkles and a lot more to do with signs of prematurely aging hair. Aside from going gray, thinning is one of the biggest threats to youthful hair. As our hair ages, it is common to see thinning, receding and volume loss due to decreased density and diameter of hair fibers as well as breakage. For those looking to “anti-age” their hair and stave off these effects, good news! Medical science has come to the rescue.
Just as we create a healthy skincare routine to protect from wrinkles, fine lines and other signs of aging, the same should be true for our hair. One of the best things you can do for your hair is to take a proactive approach to managing any signs of aging, especially hair thinning, and seek professional medical advice from a specialist doctor early. Just as a dermatologist can identify risks as well as prevent and treat facial aging, a full-time, credentialed and experienced Hair Restoration Physician or “hair doctor” can help you maintain a healthy scalp and youthful hair growth for the long term.
It is no secret that our bodies change as we age – but many women overlook the impact aging has on their hair. While unruly grays are the most known, and most obvious, there are seven other signs of aging hair to watch out for: dryness, lackluster color, thinning, receding, breakage, split ends, and frizz. When it comes to thinning, women tend to experience diffuse thinning over the top, frontal and temples or sides of the scalp, and for many, the first signs and symptoms may come in the form of a smaller ponytail, a wider part-line, deeper temples, or excessive shedding—called Telogen Effluvium—often noticed during brushing and showering.
Here, some reasons for “aging hair”:
•Genetics and Aging – There are approximately 200 genes that regulate hair growth of the approximately 100,000 hair-producing follicles on the scalp. After puberty, the hereditary hair loss genes can take over—causing a gradual and progressive miniaturization of hair follicles. According the American Hair Loss Association, more than half of all women over 40 experience thinning hair, and they can inherit “hair loss genes,” just like men. As our hair ages, our follicles’ functioning diminishes in proportion to hereditary risk.
•Stress, Diet and Other Factors – While genetics undoubtedly play a large role in how our hair will “age” and our susceptibility to hair loss, there are many other factors that can accelerate the aging process. These factors can include unusual levels of stress, inflammation, thyroid or other hormonal imbalance, nutritional, sleep or iron deficiencies, weight-loss programs, habits like smoking, as well as illness, medications and surgeries like brow lifts or facelifts. These factors can be broken down into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Aging caused by the genes we inherit and our body’s physiology is called intrinsic or internal aging, while extrinsic or external aging and is caused by environmental or social factors. These risk factors must be identified and addressed to properly diagnose, evaluate and successfully treat age-related hair loss.
•Hormones, Menopause and Hair Loss – Hormone imbalance in young women, like that seen in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, the most common endocrine disorder in women age 18 to 44, is often associated with premature hair thinning and hair loss. Many women also experience hair changes after childbirth that may be persistent. Women who have a higher genetic predisposition to hair loss may be sensitive to certain birth control pills and often see their follicles producing progressively weaker hair during perimenopause and menopause. When hormones decline around menopause, about 40 percent of women experience hair thinning – nearly the same rate as men. Thyroid conditions and thyroid hormone replacement are also high-risk categories for hair thinning and hair quality changes.
Keeping Your Hair Young
While it may not be possible to “age-proof” your hair completely, there are steps you can take to hold onto your hair’s youthful shine and fullness. The hair products you use can have a huge impact on aging hair. Cosmetic thickening treatments are a promising option for millions of women, including younger women with subtler signs of aging, like a thinner ponytail. Some of the best ingredients to counteract the signs of aging hair include caffeine and niacinamide, known for their powerful anti-aging properties in the skin. Nutritional supplements can also help strengthen hair and support healthy hair growth. But as far as unruly hair texture and loss of color (gray hair), these are more difficult problems to address. Unfortunately, we don’t have a proven medical treatment for these symptoms; they are better handled with careful cosmetic interventions like hair care, gentle styling and coloring.
Depending on your hereditary risk as well as the signs and symptoms of hair loss you are experiencing, it might be time to call in a medical professional who specializes in hair loss and its treatment. Experienced doctors that specialize exclusively in Hair Restoration have access to the tools to test, measure, monitor as well as safely and effectively treat hair loss. Genetic testing for hair loss risk and androgen sensitivity and scientific measurement tools can assess and quantify the problem. Interventions like powerful, non-greasy compounded prescription topical medications, to physician-only laser therapy devices, to cell therapy using Platelet Rich Plasma or even minimally-invasive hair transplants, modern medical treatments can help women in virtually all stages of hair loss maintain the hair they have and replace lost density when necessary. As in most cases of progressive age-related conditions, early intervention and treatment compliance yield the best results.