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Hair Care From 30 to 59: Ask the Hair Health Specialists

Stylist Jim Shaw and dermatologist Nicole Rogers, MD, discuss changing hair care and needs through different stages of life, from pregnancy to menopause.

Question:
For the last year or so, when I wash my hair I can barely get all the shampoo out and my hair gets really stiff. I use more high-end products for my hair. What could the problem be?
Answer:

Jim Shaw, stylist: You might be using products that have too much protein in them. This can cause your hair to feel dry and make the products hard to rinse out. Or, if you are swimming a lot, the difficulty may be due to chlorine buildup in your hair from the pool water.

Question:
If I don't wash my hair for one day, it becomes too oily the following day. But it gets too dry when I wash it every day. What is your advice for maintaining a good balance of oil in my hair?
Answer:

Shaw: Wash your hair daily and use sulfate-free shampoos. They won't dry out your hair and will help preserve your natural oils.

Question:
I am 58, although people always tell me I look like I'm in my 40's. I have very thin hair and a round face. What would be my best length of hair to maintain to complement my face?
Answer:

Shaw: It sounds like you need to keep doing what you're doing.  As you age, the shape of your face is an important factor when you're thinking about what hairstyles to wear. I would guess that a stacked and layered bob would suit your face shape and be easy to maintain.

Question:
What kind of hair styles would be good for a woman in her late 50s with a rounder face?
Answer:

Shaw: As we age, it's a good practice for most people to wear hairstyles that draw attention to the eye area. So I recommend seeing a professional stylist who would know this and help you pick a style that works for you.

Question:
What kinds of hair products could help add volume to my baby-fine hair?
Answer:

Shaw: To add volume to fine hair, I like to use root boosters and a tousling spray wax to style. These products are great for adding thickness to the look of your hair.

Question:
My hair is so oily. Are there any shampoos that work best for really oily hair?
Answer:

Shaw: In my shop, we use our cleansing shampoos to strip excess oil from a client's hair and scalp. 

Question:
I went gray at an early age. I have very thick hair that also grows really fast. Right now I'm wearing a shorter style with longer, stacked hair in the back. A lot of people think I wear a wig because I have so much volume. Besides using that putty-looking stuff to weight it down, what else would you recommend I do to my hair so it doesn't sit up and stick out so much?
Answer:

Shaw: I recommend using a straightening iron to style your hair, rather than curling it. Straighter styles are great for reducing volume and making unruly strands behave.

Question:
I'm allergic to PPD. What can I use to color my grays? Are there any hair color products that don't contain PPD?
Answer:

Shaw: Yes. There are hair color products that don't contain PPD. Do your research online for products that come in the colors you like and that fit your price point.

Question:
Ever since my 42nd birthday my hair constantly breaks off. What can I do about it?
Answer:

Shaw: I see this a lot in my clients once they reach your age-range, especially breakage around the hairline. As we age, our bodies change. And so does our hair. So we have to make revisions in how we care for it. Try to use less heat to style the areas of your hair that are more delicate than others areas. And use a detangling spray to help detangle your hair more easily when it's wet.

Question:
I am a 43-year-old woman. I used to get relaxers, but I cut all my hair off to get rid of the relaxed strands and go natural. But my natural texture is more kinky than curly. What kind of products can I use to make it curly? I've also started having a lot more dandruff since I cut it. Why might that be?
Answer:

Shaw: I recommend that you use oils for your hair that are designed to loosen the tightness of your natural curls, but still allow you hair to remain curly.

Dr. Nicole Rogers: It sounds like you may have seborrheic dermatitis, which is an oily scalp/skin condition that can sometimes be associated with a pityrosporum yeast. It's usually resolved with a shampoo that contains ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, or zinc pyrithione.

Question:
I am a 52-year-old woman. I went for a hair appointment recently and my stylist discovered a bald spot in my hair that's about the size of a dime. What could this be? Should I be concerned?
Answer:

Rogers: Most likely you have what is called alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune form of hair loss that affects 3% to 5% of the population. The bare patch of hair will often regrow on its own. But you may be able to speed up the regrowth by seeing your dermatologist for topical or locally injected steroid treatments.

Question:
I've seen advertisements for a laser hair growth system on TV and on the Internet, and I'm considering purchasing it. Do those kinds of hair loss treatments really work?
Answer:

Rogers: There is some data to suggest that these lasers may help increase the caliber, or width of your existing hairs. However, the data is still limited and it has yet to be demonstrated in any large, independent trials.

Question:
I'm 50 years old. In the past five years my hair growth has become very uneven. I have thin, short hair on the left side, the length varies on the right, and it's very thin and short in the middle of my head. Why might this be happening?
Answer:

Rogers: I recommend seeing a dermatologist to find out exactly what is going on.

Question:
Can eating pumpkin and sunflower seeds benefit my hair health and growth in any way?
Answer:

Rogers: There is some basic research and data that suggest that the phytosterols -- including beta-sitosterol that is found in pumpkin seeds -- can block the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Less DHT theoretically means less hair follicle miniaturization. However, no formal clinical trials have been performed to demonstrate the effectiveness of ingesting phytosterols to promote hair health or growth.

Question:
Is there something I can do to stop my hair from turning white so early and so fast? I'm only 33 years old!
Answer:

Rogers: Early graying of the hair is often something that runs in families. You probably can't do much to prevent this. A diet high in antioxidant foods, such as green tea, dark berries, and fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, may make a slight difference.

Question:
I have psoriasis of the scalp. I've seen different dermatologists and, for the most part, they always recommend the same solution -- an oily scalp treatment that has to be used every night. But the treatment is so oily that I have to wear a shower cap to bed, which gives me headaches. Plus the cap slides off during the night and I awake with the treatment all over my pillow, my face … everywhere. I've also tried other treatments -- including topical creams, light therapy, and steroid injections -- and nothing has made a permanent difference. Are there any new treatments on the horizon for scalp psoriasis, preferably something that would be more effective than what I've already tried and that won't require everyday use?
Answer:

Rogers: The next step for you is most likely a systemic treatment. Often doctors start their patients on oral methotrexate, a drug that has been around for many years and offers significant improvement. However, if you have a history of hepatitis or liver disease, this may not be an option. Newer "biologic" treatments such as etanercept can be injected into the muscle once or twice a week for prolonged remission. Talk with your dermatologist about all available options. You may need to seek out someone who has special expertise in the treatment of psoriasis.

Question:
I'm 33 years old, and for the past few months my hair has thinned considerably. I've always had fine, wavy hair, but a lot of it. I used to need a big round brush or a paddle brush to blow dry my hair, and I had to do it in sections. Lately, all I need is a comb. I haven't changed my diet, exercise routine, medications, or main hair products. But I have been under a lot of stress. Could that be the cause of my thinner hair? I'm so upset about it!
Answer:

Rogers: The workup of hair loss can be extensive. You may want to see your primary doctor for basic blood work such as thyroid, ferritin (iron stores), or auto-immune testing. If these tests produce no noteworthy results, a scalp exam by your dermatologist should be next to determine whether you need a biopsy or not to gain even more information.

The most common cause of gradually thinning hair in both genders is male and female pattern hair loss. So examine your relatives for any clues as to whether you may have inherited this condition.

Question:
Now that I'm in my 40's, why does my scalp become so much drier after I shampoo it?
Answer:

Rogers: As we age, the sebum production in our skin and our scalp declines. This can be a welcoming change for some -- less shampooing, less acne, or less seborrheic dermatitis. But the dryness is the tradeoff. Some patients apply scalp moisturizers such as tea tree or olive oils to help relieve the dryness.

Question:
Can taking glipizide for diabetes cause hair loss?
Answer:

Rogers: Hair loss is not listed as a common side effect for glipizide. However, you may be having an idiosyncratic reaction. With your doctor's guidance, you can see if stopping the drug for six to12 months will allow the hair to regrow.

Question:
I'm a 51-year-old man and my hair has been the same length for nearly 10 years! What could be wrong?
Answer:

Rogers: You may have something called short anagen syndrome, which means that the hair stays in the actively growing phase for a shorter time. The end result is that it never gets longer than a genetically determined length.

Question:
Ever since my 50th birthday the texture of my hair has changed. I've used curling irons and flat irons in the past. But now when I use them, my hair looks more brittle than it used to. Could the problem be hormonal?
Answer:

Rogers: As we age, there is less sebum production in the scalp, which means there is less oil produced to coat and protect the hair cuticle. Ultimately, this makes the hair shaft less resilient to the damaging and drying effects of curling irons and flat irons.

Question:
Do a lot of people lose their hair from taking warfarin?
Answer:

Rogers: Alopecia is a possible side effect of taking warfarin, although we don't have exact statistics demonstrating what percentage of patients suffer from this.

Question:
What actually causes gray hair? Why hasn't a cure been invented?
Answer:

Rogers: Gray hair results from the loss of functional melanocytes in the bulb of the hair. These are the pigment-producing cells, which transfer pigment granules to the actively growing anagen hairs. It can occur gradually as we age, or sooner in life for some genetically predisposed individuals.

The very complex machinery of the hair follicle is the reason we have not yet found a cure.

Question:
Two months ago I suffered a concussion from a direct blow to the top of my head. Along with the lump that hasn't gone away, my hair is falling out in that spot. Why is this happening? What can I do?
Answer:

Rogers: It sounds like your hair follicles were just as traumatized as your skin. It's likely that they have entered a resting telogen phase prematurely. The area will likely regrow hair in a matter of three to six months. You may apply some over-the-counter topical minoxidil to the site to speed up the regrowth.

Question:
I've tried so many different shampoos and conditioners, and I always end up with a dry, itchy scalp. My hair is thin and naturally curly. What can I use to get rid of the dry scalp?
Answer:

Rogers: It may be worth a visit to the dermatologist to be sure you are not suffering from another form of itchy scalp such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff). You may need topical steroids or a prescription shampoo to better treat your dry scalp. In the meantime, be sure you are not taking very hot showers -- which leech the natural oils out of your scalp -- or using your hair dryer on too hot a setting.

Question:
Is petroleum jelly a good product to use for oiling your scalp? Why or why not?
Answer:

Rogers: Petroleum jelly is used successfully by many African-Americans to help smooth their hair and lock moisture into the scalp. People who should NOT use petroleum jelly on their scalps are those who already have oily scalp, as is seen in cases of seborrheic dermatitis.

Thank you for joining us for WebMD Ask the Hair Health Specialists. Be sure to check in again on Wednesday, March. 21 at 1 p.m. ET when we will be discussing solutions for damaged hair and ways to restore the health of your hair. Sign up if you'd like an email reminder the day before the event.

WebMD Ask the Specialist Transcript

Reviewed by Nicole Rogers, MD on February 15, 2012

The opinions expressed in this section are of the Specialist and the Specialist alone. They do not reflect the opinions of WebMD and they have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance or objectivity. WebMD is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on WebMD. 

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