As you age, it’s normal for your body to go through many different changes. Changes in your hair are a part of that process. Hair naturally changes color and texture over time. Sometimes that means having thinner hair or less hair as you get older.
Luckily, you can do things to help support your hair growth after age 50.
What Happens to Hair as You Age?
Color change.Hair follicles are structures in your scalp and skin that help hair grow. As you age, the hair follicles start producing less pigment. This causes your hair to turn gray.
The thickness of your hair may also change. It’s common for the thick hair that you had as a young adult to eventually become fine and thin. Hair strands become smaller. They may fall out more often or may not grow back at all.
Why Do You Lose Hair as You Age?
Here are a few different reasons why you may experience hair loss as you get older.
Hereditary traits. Hereditary traits are traits passed along from parents to children. Does one of your parents have thinner hair or a history of hair loss? You likely will too.
Endocrine disorders. Hormones are chemicals produced by glands in your endocrine system and released into your bloodstream. An imbalance occurs when there is too much or too little of a hormone. Hair loss may accompany several endocrine disorders.
Thyroid disorders. When hormone production is disrupted by your thyroid it affects other processes in your body. This includes the development of hair at the root. Hair falls out and may not be replaced by new growth. This can result in thinning across your scalp and other areas such as your eyebrows.
Reduced hormonal support. Both male and female hormones affect hair growth. Male hormones are known as androgens, a category that includes testosterone. Androgens stimulate hair growth on the face and body and create fuller, thicker hair on the head.
Nutritional deficiencies. Consuming a diet lacking the right nutrients can lead to hair loss.
Menopause. Menopause is the time in a woman's life where her monthly menstrual cycle stops. When this happens, it lowers the production of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones help hair grow faster and stay on the head for longer periods of time. When there’s less of the hormone, there is less hair.
How to Care for Your Hair as You Age
As you get older, you can support your hair growth in several ways.
Washing less frequently. Washing your hair too frequently can cause it to become dry and brittle. Don’t shampoo too much. Keep your scalp clean by washing it at least twice per week.
Use conditioner and volumizer. Using a conditioner after you shampoo your hair can help add moisture to replenish hair’s sheen and natural oils that may have been stripped away. You can add volumizers to strengthen each strand of hair, plumping it up and adding more volume overall.
Choose the right product. Do you color your hair? It’s best to see a professional stylist who can help choose the safest dye for your hair type. They can also provide tips on the best shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products.
Try to avoid daily heat styling tools like blow dryers, curling wands, and flat irons. Using these tools occasionally is usually fine. However, if you use them every day it can be extremely damaging to your hair. If you do use heat-styling tools, apply a heat protectant to your hair before you use them. This can add moisture and give your hair a protective coating.
Eat a protein-rich diet. As you age, it’s common to start eating less. Sometimes, this may lead you to become nutritionally deficient. Because hair follicles are made mostly of protein, it’s important to include protein into your diet.
Foods like red meat, spinach and green leafy vegetables, eggs, berries, and avocados are all great options. It can also be helpful to take a daily multivitamin to make up for the nutrients you may not be getting in the foods you eat.
Check your medications. Some medications can interfere with hair growth or loss. Your doctor can advise you on how to help counteract the negative effects.
When to See Your Doctor
Changes to your hair are a natural part of the aging process. Healthy lifestyle choices can help you manage, slow, or prevent things that have a link to age-related hair loss.
Some symptoms can indicate an underlying health condition or quickly advancing disease that could lead to hair loss or balding. Make sure you get see your doctor if you experience:
- Sudden patchy hair loss
- Greater than usual hair loss when combing or washing your hair
- Receding hairline if you’re a woman
Sudden hair loss can signal an underlying medical condition like alopecia areata. This is when your immune system attacks your hair follicles. It can be brought on by severe stress.
If you’re concerned about hair loss or are interested in learning more about how you can grow and keep your healthy hair as your age, your doctor can help.