No matter how old you are, your hair can thin and change as you age. Prevention busts the most common myths about what actually happens to your hair as you age. Read the original article, “What Actually Happens To Your Hair As You Get Older.”
Can stress really turn your hair gray? Do strands actually thin out with age? When it comes to the topic of hair and getting older, there are as many questions as there are urban legends. Here, once and for all, are the truths (and myths) behind your most pressing hair questions.
True: Popping a biotin supplement helps promote existing hair growth.
Biotin will not increase the number of hairs on your head, but it will actually make your existing hair thicker, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. “It helps build up fatty acids and protein in the hair shaft to make hair thicker and stronger,” explains Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who recommends daily Biotin supplements to her patients.
Another hair helper to increase in your diet: fatty fish such as salmon or tuna, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, substances shown to give hair more shine, thickness, and luster, says Shani Francis, MD, a dermatologist at the University of Chicago who specializes in hair disorders. (If you don’t like fish, get the omegas you need from plant-based sources such as flaxseeds or walnuts.)
Better yet, try Viviscal Extra Strength, a complete, clinically proven hair supplement for women that not only has marine extracts and Biotin, but also Vitamin C, Zinc, Iron and Niacin to nourish follicles and promote hair growth.
True: You lose hair as you get older.
Half of all women will experience hair loss by the time they hit 50, according to the North American Hair Research Society. There are four stages that hair goes through in the hair growth cycle—a growing phase, a regression phase, a resting phase and a regression phase. As you get older, your hair spends more time in the resting phase of the cycle, which means you’re shedding hair faster than it’s growing back. Unlike male hair loss, which usually starts as a receding hairline and thinning crown, female hair loss occurs as a gradual thinning all over your scalp. “You may not even notice it coming out in the shower or in your brush—it’s just that over time, more of your scalp becomes visible,” notes Dr. Jaliman.
One drug treatment is over-the-counter minoxidil, which stimulates hair regrowth. However, once you begin taking minoxidil, you need to commit to taking it long-term, because when you stop taking it, your hair regrowth will reverse.
Another drug treatment is the drug spironolactone, which helps stem hair loss by slowing androgen production. “The prescription drug Propecia (finasteride) is also an option, but since it’s been linked to birth defects, most docs won’t prescribe it unless you’ve already gone through menopause or are completely done having kids and are using super-reliable birth control.” There are also hair transplants, but most women aren’t good candidates for them since you need donor hair from the sides and back of your scalp, where women’s hair, unlike men’s, is thin and considered “unstable.”
True: Lasers can help with hair regrowth.
Many hair clinics offer laser therapy to stimulate hair regrowth, which works but costs several thousand dollars, Dr. Francis says. Relatively new on the market are lasers you can use at home, such as the HairMax LaserComb—or the newer HairMax LaserBand. “It pushes hair out of its resting phase into its growing phase,” Francis explains. Company-funded data shows over 90% of users experience moderate hair regrowth.
False: If you pluck out a gray hair, two more will grow back in its place.
Go ahead and pluck all you want; it won’t make the grays grow back in any faster. “This is really an old wives’ tale—women would pluck a gray hair, then notice more coming in, and assume there was a correlation when that’s really not the case,” says Dr. Jaliman. It’s fine to pluck an occasional gray chin or eyebrow hair, but beware of waging war on your tresses—too much plucking can weaken hair, making it more susceptible to split ends and breakage, warns Jaliman.
False: It’s normal to develop a lot more body hair as you get older.
You don’t tend to see furry arms and legs in middle age and beyond, but the same hormonal changes that cause hair to thin on your head can also cause hair to sprout on your face, leaving you with whiskers and an oh-so-frustrating mustache, says Jaliman. While it’s normal to see a chin hair now and then and a slightly thicker coating of peach fuzz, check with your primary care physician or a dermatologist about a significant increase in facial hair, since it could be triggered by a medical problem, such as a thyroid disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), anemia, or an autoimmune disease such as lupus, all of which are more likely to crop up or worsen with age.
True: Worrying can turn your hair white.
One theory is that the stress hormone adrenaline actually damages melanocytes, the hair cells that produce melanin, which is the pigment that gives your hair its color. “Stress won’t cause your hair to change color when you’re younger, but it can speed up the graying or whitening process that starts naturally in your 30s or 40s,” Francis explains. “We also know that going through a major crisis can trigger alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation that turns the melanocytes off,” she adds. As a result, you could notice patches of white or gray develop among your regularly colored hair.