How to Take Care of Aging Hair
By Melissa Federico: Licensed Esthetician
Every day our hair naturally ages, and while the average person can shed anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs a day, you may see an increase in hair loss with aging hair due to a range of factors. When you compound stress, natural aging, genetic predisposition for hair loss and loss of natural oils with external factors such as heat-styling, sunlight, chemical treatments and chlorine, hair can become thin and fragile. To restore health and put moisture back into the strands, it's vital to make some adjustments to your styling habits and products. Make hair soft and manageable again by following these three easy tips for reviving and caring for aging hair.
Protect Hair Indoors and Outdoors
Going to the beach without sunscreen can burn your skin, and the same direct exposure to UV light without protection can fade color and dry out the hair. You can prevent damage and fading by wearing a hat and limiting sun exposure, but you can also add styling products that feature a UV protectant. Look for haircare products such as sprays, oils and leave-in creams that feature UV filters formulated to create a barrier between the sun and your hair and scalp.
While the sun may fade and fry your hair outdoors, there is another source that is just as damaging to strands. Direct heat exposure from your blow dryer and styling tools can cause breakage and damage to brittle and weak hair, so it's best to limit styling. When you do use heat tools, make sure to protect the hair with a heat-protectant styling product formulated to promote fast and even drying while reducing damage. It can also be helpful to adjust the settings to medium or low on your styling tools, as aging hair is already weak, and high settings can overheat the hair and cause breakage.
Update Your Hair Style
If you have noticed a dramatic change in the texture and density of your hair, consider embracing it! When you're at the salon, go for a blunt bob to make hair look thicker. Find a style that looks great when the hair dries naturally so you don't have to put stress on strands with heat styling. Opt for letting grays come through instead of coloring hair, since bleach and hair dyes can weaken the hair shaft. You also might consider a semi-permanent color—it slowly fades over time with every shampoo but is much gentler on the hair than permanent color.
Make Room for New Products
Hair is not living tissue, and that's why it can easily become damaged. As we age, it’s best to select products that are formulated specifically for the needs of aging hair. This starts with the most important step of any haircare routine: cleansing. When choosing an everyday shampoo, avoid products with sulfates (sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate). Sulfates are common cleansing agents that strip the natural oils hair needs to stay soft and shiny. They can also strip the color out of hair. After shampooing, use a lightweight conditioner to seal in moisture without adding heaviness. Comb hair with a wide-toothed comb to avoid snagging and breakage.
Maintaining hair elasticity relies on a delicate moisture balance that may begin with cleansing but continues into the styling process. Because hair is comprised of hard and soft proteins, it’s best to avoid using styling products that have heavy polymers like silicones. They can weigh down fine hair and make it look dull due to product buildup over time. Oils are a better alternative, as are styling products that feature vitamins and anti-humidity ingredients to promote health and shine. For thinning hair, try a densifying hair foam or leave-in treatment. With time and regular use, these treatments can help hairlines look fuller and also strengthen strands.
Aging is inevitable, and while there are many costly and time-consuming ways of coping with thinning hair, such as extensions and transplants, with time and persistence you can improve the look of your hair by making a few simple changes.
Melissa Federico is a licensed esthetician from California, where her family runs a beauty school. She enjoys educating others on haircare and skincare tips as a writer for Walgreens, where you can find cleansers for your face and hair to help you age gracefully.
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