Why You Need to Change Your Regimen for Aging Hair – Allure Magazine
Welcome to #BestLife, a column on how to embrace aging and the life changes that come with it.
Without further ado, let me just say: to each their own. If you, like Jamie Lee Curtis, embrace your grays, by all means, more power to you.
I am not Jamie Lee Curtis. I don’t like my grays. I want them to go away. And I have spent much money and time (too much to add up here without making myself very sad,) eradicating those pesky hairs with single-process dye jobs followed by root touch-ups.
My hair used to wash-and-wear. I was the envy of my friends. It had just the right amount of wave in it to give it body without any sign of frizz. My color used to be a rich, delicious, succulent dark brown, the shade of freshly brewed coffee with a touch of creamer. In the summer, I’d wind up with natural burnished dark-red highlights. And no matter what I did to my hair — the blow-drys, the flatirons, the salon adventures — it always bounced back. I came to think of it as my loyal follicular retriever. As long as I fed it decent shampoo and gave it minimal attention, it loved me right back.
And then, I turned 40. Given that my husband died when he was 41 of brain cancer, I love and embrace all the wonders and weird vagaries that come with growing old. I don’t inject any toxins into my face to zap wrinkles and I love my laugh lines. But I have to draw the line somewhere. And those obstinate little gray bastards that sprung up all over my scalp needed to be evicted.
I still adore my hair. It serves me well, but now, I need to condition it, otherwise, it’s too dry to even brush out. It requires a modicum of product to give it curves and definition. And as we entered a new phase of our relationship, it also required a new level of understanding. And for that, I turned to Erin Gilbert, a New York City–based board-certified dermatologist who’s an expert on hair.
Yes, Gilbert tells Allure, our crowning glory absolutely changes as we age. “The most common changes that occur in our hair as we get older are greying, changes in texture and density, and thinning, particularly at the crown or in the front of the hairline,” she says.
Thankfully, mine remains thick and robust. But that’s not the norm. And I have noticed that when seasons change, I am starting to see clumps of hair in the shower. Not fun.
“Many people experience thinning of their hair, but this is not universal. Thinning hair can be caused by a number of things such as a genetic predisposition, vitamin deficiencies, stress, hormonal changes, and thyroid hormone changes, which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. As dermatologists, we can diagnose the cause of the changes in your hair and guide you to the best fixes such as over the counter treatments like minoxidil or a prescription medication like finasteride. We can also send out blood tests or refer you to an endocrinologist if thyroid disease is the suspected culprit,” says Gilbert.
But my hair has become more wiry and shaggy with age. But beware before you book any appointments. In their quest for smoothness, many people “start doing keratin treatments which can make the hair weaker and expose you to toxic chemicals,” says Gilbert. “Color treatments have come a long way in the past few decades and are less damaging to the hair. Women often start coloring their hair more frequently as they begin to grey. It’s important to trim your hair more frequently as your hair changes to keep your ends healthy.”
And here again, I don’t listen to the many experts who have advised me to give my hair a water break.
“The question of how often you should wash your hair has been a matter of debate for some time. Washing your hair more frequently can make your color change more rapidly especially if it’s been treated with a glaze. Washing frequently with a shampoo that is drying to your scalp and hair can also lead to scalp itching and flaking and dryness and breakage of your hair. I recommend washing your hair when it needs it, and not reflexively everyday. In addition, you should wash with a shampoo and conditioner that is appropriate for your hair type,” says Gilbert.
Before you start moaning and whining about your thinner, coarser hair, you need to understand that everything shifts as we get older. And maybe this is your chance to chop it off or try a new product.
“When your hair starts to change you have to discuss it with people who are qualified to help you make changes that will get you to a happy place. Our hair is a huge part of our identity, and we should feel good in our skin. Dermatologists can help determine the cause of the changes in your hair: are they a part of normal aging, or are they due to a genetic predisposition or medical condition that can be treated? Your hair stylist will also have some suggestions about how to make your hair look healthier or better suited to the new texture you’ve developed. My number one piece of advice is: treat what you can and then go with the flow. This may be an opportunity to change your hairstyle and color for the better,” says Gilbert.
More hair stories to check out:
- Hairstylist’s Photo of Back Reveals How Painful Hairdressing Can Be
- “Vanilla Milkshake” Hair Proves the Ombré Trend Is Evolving
- 8 Reasons Your Hair Is Falling Out
Now, learn about 100 years of hair-color history: