We’re accustomed to fussing over our faces, trying to turn back the clock on sunspots and lines. But there’s another age giveaway that could use more attention. "A woman in her 40s doesn’t have the hair she had at 20 — it’s not just her imagination," says British hair expert Philip Kingsley, author of The Hair Bible. As we age, our locks and scalp are affected by a trio of tribulations — namely dryness, dullness, and thinning. But our accumulating birthdays are not all to blame; dyeing, blow-drying, and styling all contribute to the damage. "Women need to think about their hair the same way they think about their skin," says Gretchen Monahan, a Boston hairstylist and style expert for the Rachael Ray Show. "We’re used to moisturizing and protecting our faces, but we don’t apply the same care basics to hair." So, while there may not be a time machine for your tresses, here’s how a little extra TLC (plus the right products and styling tips) can make your mane look years younger.
When Thin Isn't In: Advice for Women with Thinning Hair
If your part is expanding or the thickness of your ponytail is shrinking, you’re likely thinking (okay, panicking) that your hair is falling out, but that’s not always the case; thinning may be the culprit. "The diameter of the hair shaft diminishes as we get older," explains Zoe Draelos, M.D., clinical associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. That means you may have the same number of follicles, but thinner individual strands will make it look like there’s less volume. (They’re also more prone to break, and since hair growth slows as you age, the damage becomes more obvious.)
Even if you do see extra hairs in your brush or in the shower drain, you don’t necessarily need to worry. Although 40 percent of women experience some hair loss by menopause, shedding around 100 strands a day is normal, reports Paul M. Friedman, M.D., clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. If you seem to be losing more, see your doctor — the problem could be related to declining estrogen levels, an iron deficiency, or stress. Once these problems have been ruled out, a 2 percent minoxidil solution (available over the counter as Rogaine) is an option. "It’s the only clinically proven, FDA-approved treatment for female pattern baldness," says Dr. Draelos. In the meantime, although you can’t permanently restore heft to the individual strands, there are plenty of ways to boost overall volume.
Start with a volumizing shampoo; look for ingredients like rice or wheat proteins, which thicken strands. Try Sally Hershberger Supreme Head Shampoo for Normal to Thin Hair ($9.50, Walgreens) or Pureology PureVolume Shampoo ($26, pureology.com).