Maintaining Healthy Hair throughout the Aging Process

Most people, especially women, define and shape their identity primarily through their hair style. As the crowning glory of a woman, the hair is considered by many as a significant symbol or extension of their personality and style. No wonder, so many women take extra lengths to maintain the health and good appearance of their locks.

Human hair is subjected to a number of pollutants, irritants, and other sources of potential damage. The most common causes of hair damage include harsh chemicals found in hair styling products, straightening or waving treatments, hair dyes, and even overexposure to the sun. If this continues, hair that was once radiant would eventually look brittle and frizzy.

Zoe Draelos, a noted dermatologist, said that people need to understand that hair is actually non-living material that cannot be repaired once it is damaged. Draelos added that hair growth slows down as we get older, and the cosmetic beauty of our hair decreases. Hair loss that occurs from continual breakage over the years is a serious concern for many women, so the key is to prevent damage by stopping the cycle of over processing or over grooming the hair while selecting hair care products.

While the hair is at its healthiest in our 20s, Dr. Draelos noted that some young women fall for fad diets at this age which can ruin the hair. Some of these hair care fads make use of chemicals that deplete the hair of essential vitamins and minerals that come from the food we eat.

Adding to this, Dr. Draelos said that hair appearance is a sign of our general health. If a person has an eating disorder or has an imbalanced diet, it would surely show from the way their hair looks like. Some women in their 20s and 30s also experience changes in hair quality and appearance due to their use of birth control pills. Dr. Draelos explained that when estrogen levels fall during this process, hair will also fall out. According to Dr. Draelos, when a woman notices her hair falling out, the use of birth control pills would not usually come under suspicion. Most women do not suspect anything wrong with shedding hair since it is quite normal to lose a number of strands at any given day. Only when a sizeable amount of hair is lost would a woman start to feel uneasy.

For women in their 30s, pregnancy becomes another reason why women lose their hair. During pregnancy, all hair follicles usually experience re-generation, resulting in luxurious, radiant-looking hair. However, six months after delivery, the new mother would most likely loose hair again. Some of the hair that is shed post-pregnancy may eventually re-grow, said Dr. Draelos. However, for women who have female-pattern hair loss, hair may no longer return. Those women who have an inherited tendency towards hair loss should seek professional help.

Although hair dyes are popular for women of all ages, women in their 40s may be more likely to turn to hair color as a way to camouflage gray hair that typically starts to appear at this age. Dr. Draelos said that once the hair has been dyed chemically, it strips the protective lipid layer of the hair shaft and opens up holes in the hair shaft, allowing the dye to enter and create a new color. Adding also that hair dyeing is damaging, but lightening hair for more than three shades require more peroxide, which creates more holes in the hair shaft and therefore more damage. The best thing for covering gray hair is to stay on shade, within three colors of her natural color. Dr. Draelos advises women in their 50s to shorten the amount of time they leave on styling products such as hair dyes or permanent wave solutions because thinner hair shafts require less time to process. Dr. Draelos recommended that older women use a good conditioner, and also advised women to handle their hair as little as possible, including avoiding over-brushing hair.