Defy Drought Conditions continued...
Masks packing concentrated moisture, such as The Body Shop Rainforest Moisture Hair Butter ($14), are also particularly important now. If you already apply one every other week, see if weekly use leaves strands softer and healthier-feeling without weighing them down. And if you already apply one weekly, don't be afraid to try it twice a week now. (Expect to experiment before you find the winning frequency.) Curly-haired women, take note: You may want to use masks several times a week; scalp oil is much slower to travel down ringlets than down straight strands, and may never reach the very tips of your hair.
A final note on parched hair: For extra insurance against any attendant dullness, try the occasional glaze — a clear treatment that adds glossiness to your mane and stays on through multiple shampoos. The professional versions are generally among the least expensive treatments a colorist performs — and there are plenty of at-home options as well. Oscar Blandi At Home Salon Glaze Shine Rinse ($25) is one of our favorites.
Disguise Thin Evidence
The ever-widening part, the ever-shrinking ponytail, the ever-more-visible scalp: They're probably not imagined. "The number of actual hair fibers you have on your head starts decreasing in your 20s," says Thomas, "and may shrink 30 to 35 percent by age 60."
There's another, subtler kind of thinning going on, too: "Recent research suggests that in your early 40s, the actual diameter of each strand starts to shrink," says Thomas. "This shrinkage is believed to be linked to hormonal changes that happen with perimenopause and menopause, as hair growth is such a hormonally driven process."
Subtle or not, thinning is no fun. To fight back, first reconsider the shampoo and conditioner you use. A common impulse is to wash with a clarifying formulation (women often equate the resulting squeaky-clean feeling with bounciness). And while you do want to start with a clean slate to avoid limpness, says Thomas, clarifying formulas can strip too much protective oil from inherently fragile thinning hair.
A better choice, says Blandi, is a keratin-enriched formulation. As hair thins, it loses some of its protein (hence the fragility). Products such as Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Moisturizing Lather Shampoo and Awapuhi Keratin Cream Rinse ($19 and $20, respectively, salons) can help reinstate a bit of that lost strength. And don't skip conditioner for fear of weighing hair down: "You'll only make the strands more vulnerable to breakage," says Thomas. "And then your hair will look even thinner."