Menopause. Why? WHY? Sandra’s hair is no longer recognizable to herself. She just turned 52 and has more hair products hiding under her sink than ever before. But all of the bottles are still half full. Might as well use them on the dog. Sandra, you are not alone.
As we age, our hair starts to go through changes. It’s not the same mane from our early twenties. It may be thinning, with grey hairs popping up rampantly and seems to get dryer faster. This article will review symptoms of aging hair and what it means for your hair care routine. Sandra, you can love your hair just as much as you did in your twenties, but your hair care routine will need to change.
Hair length and density are controlled by hormones known as Androgens. As we age, Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is introduced during menopause, allowing for an increase in the production of hormones, such as estrogen, that will change the morphology (shape and structure) of your hair. The amount of follicles begin to decrease in our 30’s and will cause thinning density.
The GnRH will also affect the cuticle layer. Since the anagen phase is shortened, the scales will be shorter and more porous. This will increase the hair width allowing for the potential growth of a hollow medulla and a more sensitive cuticle that can be damaged easily by rough grooming practices that would work before. Take care to brush gently, avoid going to bed with wet hair, using vigorous styling habits or applying heat without proper protective styling products that help reduce damage and splits. Products such as deep conditioners will help smooth your hair and help manage the coarse texture.
Hair also appears to become dryer as we age. GnRH will reduce oil production (sebum), which is the main moisturizing component for the hair shaft. Hair may need more consistent mechanical distribution practices, such as hair brushing or scalp massage, and the help of moisturizing oil products along the length of the hair. This is dependent on the type of hair, as fine hair will absorb more oil than coarse hair.
Greying hair is caused by the reduction of melanocyte proteins in the follicle, which produces the pigment for your hair. As we age there will be less of these proteins and a possibility of a new medulla if there was not one already.
Microscopic picture of gray hair near the root
When we begin greying is typically hereditary and cannot be changed. While some will dye their hair, it is important to remember that the change in structure can make it more difficult to absorb the dye, sometimes causing quick fading or even spotty pigment. Talk with your stylist about the best coloring method that would apply to your hair.
With GnRH increasing the production of estrogen, the anagen phase of hair is shortened. This means that hair has less time to grow before it will naturally get to the telogen phase and shed, so the length of hair you have become accustomed to can change. Supplements have very little evidence of actually increasing hair growth, as it would be a hormonal change rather than a deficiency of collagen or other ingredients. It is shown that a healthy scalp free of build-up with healthy blood flow will encourage more hair growth. A scalp massage and a healthy diet with appropriate levels of protein, vitamin A, Vitamin B12 and, Iron are the best way to have healthier hair.
So for all of the Sandra’s out there, make sure you choose the right products for your hair and understand that greying hairs are a fact of life.
Silver Hair by Lorraine Massey
Richena, M., et al. “Yellowing and Bleaching of Grey Hair Caused by Photo and Thermal Degradation.” Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, vol. 138, Jan. 2014, pp. 172–181. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2014.05.017.
Itou, Takashi. “Morphological Changes in Hair Melanosomes by Aging.” Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, vol. 31, no.5, Sept. 2018, pp. 630-635. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/pcmr.12697.
Massey, Lorraine, and Michele Bender. Silver Hair: Say Goodbye to the Dye– and Let Your Natural Light Shine! Workman Publishing, 2017.