The Relationship Between Aging and Hair Loss
There are plenty of reasons why your hair changes with time, but aging and hair loss are, for a fact, related. It is natural for our bodies to undergo various changes as we age from metabolism to hair texture. However, we’ve been associating having a lush mane with beauty and overall personality for the longest time now. So, it is undeniable that hair loss as a phenomenon of aging is still bothersome.
How does age affect hair?
Let’s find out about the changes your hair goes through with age. Hair loss may be the final effect but it is certainly not the only one.
Each of our hair strands goes through three stages- the growth stage, transition stage, & resting stage.
As we grow older, hair spends more time in the third stage, i.e., the resting stage. It happens because the cells gradually lose their optimum functioning capacity. Consequently, your hair sheds faster than it regrows & when it does, it is usually thinner or not as strong as it used to be when you were younger. A large number of hair follicles actually stop producing new hair. This natural aspect of the aging process is commonly known as senescent alopecia.
Thus, even though your scalp coverage is at its peak when you’re 35 (approximately), by the age of 45, there will be a five percent decrease, and by the time you reach 50, scalp coverage will drop ten to twelve percent than the maximum.
Nearly everyone suffers a fair amount of shedding with age, but hair thinning patterns differ between men and women. While male-pattern baldness typically occurs along the hairline or at the crown of the head, female-pattern baldness is more diffuse, i.e., hair becomes uniformly less dense as a result of which the scalp might start showing.
The changing texture of your hair changes the diameter of your hair fiber. As a result, the curvature of your hair gradually loses consistency as you age- this is more noticeable for women with wavy and curly hair. Your hair might increasingly appear frizzy with more flyaways. It is often accompanied by frustrating tangles.
We all know that aging inadvertently means greying hair, but why, in the first place, do our bodies eventually produce grey hair? Apart from time, genetic factors also contribute to when and how your hair turns grey.
Melanocyte cells render color to our hair. Hair follicles produce melanin which makes our hair pigmented. Because our overall bodily functions can’t function as well in our younger days, melanin production also gets affected. Producing pigmented hair takes up way more energy compared to general hair production.
Age limits the body’s energy, prioritizing other systems over hair color to ensure that your aging body works properly.
You may recall that your skin used to produce excessive oil during your teenage years. However, your scalp’s sebaceous glands change with hormonal imbalances (especially for women) over time. The hair feels drier because the sebum production slows down as you grow older.
Why are aging and hair loss related?
Here I uncover the various factors that are possibly responsible for hair loss with age.
Cellular Aging & mutations:
Hair loss and aging are connected at the cellular level. The cells that produce hair become less efficient with growing age, and eventually, hair starts to fall out.
Women experience several hormonal fluctuations in their lifetime, be it puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, menopause, or aging. Ups and downs in estrogen levels can negatively affect how hair grows by reducing the growth phase of the hair cycle. It eventually leads to increased fallouts.
Even low progesterone levels (during menopause) can cause hair thinning in women. Less hormone is equal to slower hair growth and a receding hairline.
Androgens are male hormones. These male hormones help stimulate hair growth on the head and other body parts. So, reduced androgen in men can cause balding with age.
Loss of Collagen:
Age also minimizes the amount of collagen the body produces, thus affecting your scalp and skin. Reduced collagen impacts the texture of your hair. Collagen is the key ingredient that produces scalp oils that help keep your scalp moisturized & your hair manageable and smooth.
Thyroid disorders can disrupt a person’s hormone production capability. The thyroid affects the root of the hair. Thus, hair fallouts without the guarantee of being replaced by new hair fibers. In some cases, hair loss can also be seen on eyebrows as a sign of aging.
When we say that hormonal imbalances can lead to hair loss, we mean the presence of both too much and too little of these chemicals. The glands in your endocrine system are supposed to produce hormones. Thus, many endocrine disorders also lead to hair thinning.
Product Buildup & heat abuse:
Over the years, as people notice hair shedding or quality degradation, many start using different styling products to cover it up. A thing as basic as shampoo can also cause buildups on the scalp if used frequently. Product buildups accumulate over time and, combined with dust and dead cells can leave your hair looking dull.
So, it would be best if you kept checks on your scalp so that your favorite products don’t leave damaging buildups. Much like the chemical abuse from styling processes, frequent heat abuse can also affect your hair health in terms of texture and thinning at the end of the strands.
Lack of a rich & balanced diet:
Hair is basically made up of protein, namely keratin. To maintain healthy & fuller hair, the scalp needs to get the necessary amount of protein and nutrients. People tend to eat smaller portions with age, leading to a nutritional deficit.
For most people, taking prescribed medicines becomes a regular part of life for the smooth running of various bodily functions after a certain age. Along with age, medication is something you don’t have control over. Believe it or not, even actual prescription medication can have hair thinning as side effects.
Aging hair loss and treatment
So, you’ve learned hair loss with age is inevitable, but how do you slow down hair aging? In this section, I’ll update you about the preventive measures you can take to maintain a healthier and fuller mane.
Eat a complete meal:
The saying “you are what you eat” is very true for your overall health, more so for your hair. With age, your food intake may lessen either for medical reasons or because your sense of taste goes down. Nutritional deficiency is something you cannot afford if you want to continue enjoying a healthy mane.
Adding protein to your meals is a must. Also, aging leads to fatigue. This tiredness might result from a slight iron shortage. So, you can also try including low-fat red meat as it tends to compensate for this shortage.
Other than protein, you can also make your meal complete with nutrient-rich foods like the following:
- Salmon and other fatty fish, which are a great source of Omega-3s
- Leafy vegetables containing vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and iron- all of which fit the healthy hair needs category,
- If you are a vegetarian, you can get your share of omega-3 fatty acids from avocados. They are also rich in vitamin E.
- You can also take multivitamin supplements. However, be sure to check with your doctor.
As you age, you encounter various life experiences, some of which can cause acute stress. Chronic stress often causes hair to thin rapidly due to changes in hormone levels. There is even a name for the typical stress-induced hair loss condition– telogen effluvium. Here are some tips to keep your stress levels at bay:
- Stick to routine physical exercise
- Seek a psychological professional, if required
- Improve your sleep cycle. Getting a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night can help.
- Practicing mindfulness or yoga can also restore calmness
- Engage in activities or hobbies of your interest
Don’t overdo routine hair care:
Too much of anything can be harmful, and the same goes for your daily hair care routine. Even washing or shampooing too frequently can make your hair brittle and lose its natural shine. So, abstain from overdoing it. Since shampoo not only cleans your scalp but commonly strips it of its natural oils, try using a conditioner with it.
Tying tight buns or ponytails every day, and using force to detangle wet hair are potential stressors for your hair health. Frequently using heat-based treatments or chemical dyes, curling, and straightening as well. So, try to use them to the minimum.
Massaging hair with oil is an age-old secret that can help slow down hair aging. The benefits of scalp massage go beyond hair and scalp. Besides deep conditioning your hair with oil, the massage increases blood flow to the scalp (promoting hair growth), decreases stress, and helps you relax.
Regular oil massage can replenish your hair & reverse the damage caused by chemical treatments. It strengthens the hair roots and thus reduces hair fall tendencies. Hair massages with ingredients like honey (anti-bacterial) are also known to keep certain hair fall-causing infections at bay.
How to stop hair loss in old age
That was about delaying hair aging. Let’s move on to how to stop hair loss in old age or reverse it.
There isn’t any cure for baldness as yet. However, certain treatments can show positive results as far as new hair growth is concerned. Taking oral Propecia (finasteride) or applying Rogaine (minoxidil topical) may reverse hair fall; however, there’s no guarantee, and there are side effects.
A hair transplant is another option to reverse old-age hair loss. Surgery fills up the bald spots, and the treatment is permanent. However, it is an expensive, invasive, and time-consuming procedure.
LLLT uses consistent laser power at a particular wavelength to offer deep stimulation to the dormant hair follicles. It betters the possibility of hair regrowth by reversing the natural breakdown of cells (cell apoptosis).
The red light that these devices emit helps improve the blood circulation in your scalp, thus making way for the scalp to remove more waste and gain more nutrients. The hair cells convert the laser energy to a molecule called ATP, which gives them usable energy. This energy helps rebuild the follicles that had miniaturized, thereby creating a perfect environment for hair to regrow.
Low-level laser therapy or red light therapy accounts for one of the most popular hair restoration treatments among the aging population. A variety of at-home devices like laser caps, helmets, bands & combs are available on online platforms today. Most of these FDA-approved medical devices have rave reviews among users for their efficiency without any recorded side effects.
Going through the detailed brand-wise product reviews can help you reach a more informed decision.
PRP (Platelet-rich plasma) hair restoration can treat male pattern baldness as well as female pattern baldness, commonly referred to as androgenic alopecia. This treatment targets the hair follicles that slow down with age, ultimately causing a receding hairline and thinning hair. The procedure involves administering the PRP directly to your scalp without surgical procedures or plugs. However, this is an invasive and expensive procedure that your insurance may not cover.
Hair loss and aging are directly proportional because aging is unavoidable. However, you can slow down the process by trying out some of the preventive tips I have thus shared. I Hope you age like a fine wine.