The hair texture you grow up with becomes part of your identity. You learn to style it in a way that flatters you and fits your lifestyle. It can be unsettling if it changes. Over time, your hair may become curly, straight, thin, or coarse.
Many things can make hair change texture. Some you can't control. Others you may cause without knowing it.
Read on to see why your hair texture may be changing and what you can do to make the best of it.
The Cause: Graying
Gray hair grows when hydrogen peroxide builds up in your hair follicle. "This causes hair to bleach itself from the inside out," says Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist in New York and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology. Gray hairs are thicker and wirier, so your hair gets coarser as they multiply.
You can't do anything to stop graying -- it's something you inherit. But you can tame gray hair with a good hairstyle and special care.
Solutions: Shampoo and condition your hair with products designed for dry hair. Use a leave-in conditioner to help smooth coarser strands.
Occasional home or salon deep-conditioning treatments can also help, says Eugene Toye, senior stylist at Rita Hazan Salon in New York. He has styled hair for Sofia Vergara and Neil Patrick Harris.
Some hairstylists use keratin treatments to improve the rough texture of gray hair. But they are expensive and may contain unsafe levels of formaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer.
Toye suggests getting a cut that works with your new texture. "Don’t try to fight your hair," he says. "If it’s wavy, don’t try to get it stick straight."
The Cause: Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can cause big changes in your hair texture or none at all. If you lose your hair during treatment, it may grow back thicker, curlier, or straighter all over or just in some spots.
Solutions: Over time, your hair may return to its pre-chemo texture. But the first hair that grows back is especially fragile. Avoid chemical processes like coloring or straightening for a while. And it's not just the early hair that's prone to damage. The skin on your scalp may be sensitive for 6 months or more after treatment.
Condition your post-chemo hair to help it grow back healthy. If you're not used to short hair, think of the grow-back period as a time to try out shorter styles. If you're really unhappy with hair that is coming in thin or patchy, Toye suggests wearing a hairpiece or wig while it continues to grow in.