Just like the seasons, hair evolves and goes through drastic changes — ranging from texture, length and shine — as we get older.
Aging hair is inevitable and each decade brings new scalp discoveries — from white strands to hair thinning. In fact, a 2018 study done by the International Journal of Trichology found that graying will decrease hair luster and UV-A radiation is responsible for hair color changes.
While most people focus on anti-aging eye creams and face serums, your tresses — specifically your scalp — also need a revamped hair care routine as you mature. According to trichologist Bridgette Hill, oxidative stress and free radicals on your scalp can affect overall hair health. "Oxidative stress affects the scalp function by disrupting the hair growth cycles and decreasing lipid production, which affects the shine, smoothness and softness of hair fibers, and changes in hormones due to menopause affecting the diameter of the hair fiber making it thinner."
As we age, our scalp microbiome can change if we don't use the proper products. Also, environmental stressors can lead to an increase in certain microbes in our scalp which leads to dandruff and itchiness.
Experts shared more about the different changes we can expect as we hit 40, along with ways to overcome the challenges your tresses go through this time.
Hair changes women can expect in their 40s
By the time women hit their 40s, hair can start showing noticeable signs of aging. According to trichologist and hairstylist Shab Reslan, "Changes include weaker and more brittle hair and the inability to grow hair as long as it once used to."
In today's zeitgeist, voluminous hair and youth go hand in hand, which can make others feel insecure about changes in appearance. Trichologist Jennifer McCowan also said that women going through menopause could experience a transformation in hair texture, while others start seeing gray hairs when they gain or lose curls. "Some of the changes that women can expect to see are thinning [around] the temples, the center of their hair or around their part and often in the back of the head on the crown," she added.
Another factor related to aging hair is a lack of scalp care and maintenance, which could lead to deteriorating hair follicles. "The skin of the scalp experiences similar shifts just as the skin on our faces," mentioned Hill.
Hair shedding is typically expected with age, but an imbalance in hormones could also impact our scalp health. "Age-related hair loss can be caused by hormonal imbalances, decrease in collagen and necessary vitamins and minerals," said Hill.
Some other determinants that negatively disrupt the balance of hormones include:
- Prescription medicine intake
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Emotional and wellbeing stressors
- Hair care products and hair styling habits
Hair care routine for your 40s
Unfortunately, we can't expect to keep our strands feeling lustrous with regular shampoo and conditioner. Instead, Hill suggested investing in your scalp health as your hormones shift.
"Be efficient by integrating scalp and hair treatments into your sleep and exercise routines (before bedtime or exercise, apply a pre-shampoo scalp/hair treatment to allow for maximum benefit with little effort). [Also,] invest in science-based active ingredient scalp and hair products that are rich in fatty acids and glycerin that retain moisture," she advised.
"Make sure that you are using products that contain exfoliators to slough dead skin cells and build up the scalp, and other products to draw the impurities from the follicle to prevent from clogging the pores," McCowan added.
Diet also plays a role in your overall hair health. "Diets high in protein and balanced with healthy fats and an abundance of greens and vegetables are essential for healthy and strong hair growth," mentioned Reslan.
Hair loss treatment tips
Whether you have dandruff or lose hair every time you take a shower, it all starts with scalp care. "Once a week, stimulate the scalp with [a] pre-shampoo scalp oil [or] serum that [has] active ingredients like citrus oils, rosemary, mint and hyaluronic acid. They’ll not only enhance circulation but also offer anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties to decongest the scalp," Hill said.
Also, make sure you wash your hair regularly and don't be afraid to mess up a hairdo after working out. "Don't be afraid to wash. Any hair that comes out in the shower was cut off from its blood supply 3 to 3.5 months earlier, so it is important to get that old hair out to allow for new hair coming in," McCowan said.
Best anti-aging hair products for your 40s
Frizzy and unruly gray hair can be controlled with this treatment from The Inkey List. Reslan even uses this and said, "It keeps my own hair smooth even when exposed to rain and humidity."
For those who regularly use heated styling tools, it's essential to use a heat protectant. Reslan recommended this hydrating spray that works as a barrier and moisturizer. "[It's] my favorite styling product for protecting your hair from thermal damage and prolonging your hairstyle."
Add more volume and thickness to your hair with a lightweight serum. "This is my favorite volumizing and lightweight product that penetrates your hair to expand from the inside out," said Reslan.
The greatest thing about this cleanser is that it will cover every inch of your scalp. "The brilliantly designed applicator allows for massaging [and] stimulation; [while the] charcoal-activated AHA cleanser gently exfoliates, clarifies and nourishes the scalp for healthier hair growth," said Hill.
Hill also recommended using a scalp oil to stimulate growth. "This is a lightweight oil that reinforces and seals in moisture, making it ideal for all hair types and textures."
This Virtue product is also formulated with a one-of-a-kind keratin protein called Alpha Keratin 60ku to repair hair — the first of its kind, according to the brand.
Reslan suggested adding a scalp topical that stimulates the area while encouraging stronger hair growth. This KeraFactor duo is formulated with a combination of conditioners that help stimulate scalp circulation.
This Vegamour conditioner is made with a unique vegan keratin replacement called karmatin that helps promote growth and prevent breakage. Hill said this product "assists with repairing damage and restoring strength to the hair fiber without a sticky residue or buildup."
This Dr. Barbara Sturm shampoo is formulated with pro-vitamin B5, which helps nourish and repair the hair shaft and achieves an "anti-splitting effect". According to Hill, "This line is all about combating oxidative stress. Panthenol and glycerin are ideal ingredients for retaining moisture for the scalp and hair."
For those seeing the first signs of hair thinning, add this top-rated concentrated serum from Rene Furterer to your hair care routine. The brand notes that it'll help you preserve your scalp's natural balance and strengthen your hair.
McCowan recommends this hair mask to help restore the balance on your scalp. It focuses on nourishing the hair bulb while reducing free radicals. It also removes excess sebum and impurities from the scalp.
For those with dull-looking hair, this hair care set from Grown Alchemist is made with an ultra-hydrating blend of botanicals to return the shine to your strands.
Repair your lifeless hair with this serum from Dr. Barbara Sturm. The purpose of this product is to enhance the scalp microbiome with its active ingredients — cationic hyaluronic acid and glycerine. This product also has pro-vitamin B5 to boost shine and volume.
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