Do you feel bad about… your hair?

NEW YORK – Even though some women embrace their naturally silvery tresses – think Miranda, in the ‘Sex and the City’ reboot, ditching her trademark red in favor of a sleek gray bob – the laissez-faire attitude likely won’t extend to other changes women see in their hair as they age.

Most people expect their hair to turn gray, but the hair actually undergoes a myriad of changes with age, becoming less dense and more unruly, brittle, and more difficult to grow.

“Thick, shiny hair is a hallmark of youth,” said Dr. Erika Schwartz, a physician in integrative medicine who founded Evolved Science, a functional longevity practice in Manhattan that offers a variety of treatments to treat thinning and thinning hair. dull.

“Like everything else as you age, your hair suffers the consequences. “

While many doctors report a spike in hair thinning in patients who have had Covid-19 or are facing the stress of pandemic life (who isn’t?), Hair loss and changes in texture related to aging require a different approach to effectively treat.

Along with getting hair transplants, “you can’t just do something and stop,” said Dr. Gary Linkov, facial plastic surgeon and hair restorer in Manhattan.

“You have to keep going if you want to maintain your results. “

Here, we answer some of the most pressing questions about what’s going on with your hair, and which treatments and products are really worth trying.

What exactly happens to hair as it ages?

For starters, there is a loss of melanin, which is why hair turns gray or white, said Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, a dermatologist in Manhattan and the Hamptons.

The exact time this happens is often determined by genetics, as it is or how far the hairline recedes or, as is more common in men than in women, baldness occurs.

Yet for almost everyone, the growth cycle slows down, resulting in a longer resting phase, or “telogen,” of hair growth.

At the same time, changes in the follicle cause each strand of hair to come out of the scalp with a thinner diameter – a process often referred to as “miniaturization”. The collective result is “overall more diffuse and thinner hair,” said Dr Nussbaum.

But that’s not all.

Hormonal changes – especially in women, less estrogen and progesterone – also decrease the production of sebum, the natural emollient that coats hair and makes it appear shiny, Dr. Schwartz said.

And because the hair is not protected and hydrated, it is more prone to breakage and damage from heat styling and, say, coloring that gray hair.

Since I was 50, I can’t let my hair grow past my shoulders. Which give?

“I tell my patients they can’t imagine it: hair really spends less time in the growth phase as we get older,” said Dr. Dendy Engelman, dermatologist in Manhattan.

Less growing time or more standing time means that “the hair will likely fall out before it reaches the desired length,” she said.

KeepItAnchored, a line of hair care products, including shampoo and conditioner ‘Leave-In Scalp Essence’ launched by Procter & Gamble in 2020, is specifically aimed at helping the scalp to ‘hold’ hair longer by combating the effects of oxidative stress with antioxidants and zinc.

“Think of your scalp like parched earth. When it’s dehydrated, hair becomes less rooted, ”said Dr. Jeni Thomas, Senior Scientist at Procter & Gamble and Founder of KeepItAnchored.

“You can’t control your age and you can’t control your DNA, but you can control the scalp oxidative stress component of hair loss.”

My hair is frizzy and unmanageable all the time. Should I change the product?

May be.

“A lot of women have figured out what worked in their thirties, but then they face changes in their forties and have to figure it out again,” said Dr. Debra Lin, Scientist and Engineer and Head of Product and Innovation. for Better Not Younger, a line of hair care supplements and products formulated to combat age-related hair problems.

Dr Lin recommends conditioners formulated with fatty acid-rich “plant butters” (think mango and macadamia nuts) and light oils made from sunflower seeds and camellias, for example, to smooth strands and reduce hair loss. breakage without leaving the hair greasy and limp.

Argan Oil Taming Serum from Hair Biology, a Procter & Gamble line that targets women over 50, uses argan oil and silicones to improve manageability in strands of hair, another complaint from many in the world. all 50 years and over.

“We know that the curvature of hair fibers changes and becomes less regular as we age, but we don’t know exactly why this happens – just whether it happens,” said Dr Thomas, who is also a scientist. principal of Hair Biology.

Mr. John Barrett, a hairstylist who handles Martha Stewart and Hillary Clinton’s signature cuts in his Manhattan salon, advises clients to wash their hair no more than twice a week with a mild shampoo and to sleep in moisturizing hair masks to improve workability and shine. His mantra: do less.

“Most hair problems are self-inflicted,” Mr. Barrett said.

What about shampoos, supplements, and serums? Do these things actually work?

They can, but choose wisely. Most specialty shampoos and serums, like Scalp Stimulating Booster from Curlsmith, a UK-based hair care line, work by improving blood flow to the follicles.

Curlsmith’s serum includes ginger and guarana, which have been shown to improve circulation, said Ms Afope Atoyebi, a trichologist in London who has consulted for the company.

Dr Linkov pointed out that the only topical solution benefiting from significant medical research is minoxidil, sold under the brand name Rogaine, which works by dilating blood vessels and can prolong the growth phase of hair.

Some doctors also prescribe topical finasteride, traditionally taken in pill form and better known by the brand name Propecia, which prevents testosterone from converting to DHT, an androgen (male sex hormone) which is linked to thinning hair. in both men and women.

Finasteride should not be taken by women who are or may become pregnant.

Dr. Schwartz prescribes a serum composed of finasteride, minoxidil and biotin for patients who are not going to become pregnant.

Supplements, likewise, can be helpful.

Nutrafol, for example, makes a supplement that uses maca powder, saw palmetto, and other ingredients to fight hair loss associated with hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause.

The company’s Phase 1 clinical trial for the supplement was recently published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.

“It has solid clinical studies and a reputation for good results among dermatologists,” said Dr. Marina Peredo, a dermatologist in Manhattan and Long Island.

Dr. Engelman loves Prose, which makes supplements suitable for age, hair type, lifestyle, and other factors, as well as the prescription drug spironolactone, which is an androgen blocker and can also help fight acne.

“I call it the beauty pill,” Dr. Engelman said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.