Why does hair texture change over time?

Jan Welters/Trunk Archives

When I lost all my hair in my twenties (thanks to cancer and chemo), I held onto hope that it would grow back thick and curly, like it had before I got sick. But that’s not what happened. Instead, the new growth became wavy, with a tendency to fall flat.

Where did my dense curls go? New York stylist Nuncio Saviano says his clients often complain about changes in texture, although the change usually happens over time, rather than all at once, like mine. The chemo sped up a process that most people come to know gradually and attribute to the weather, poor hair care or “a bad haircut,” Saviano says. “But it’s really your hair that has changed.”

Melissa Piliang, MD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, explains what happens: “Each hair grows for a while and then falls out,” she says. And although “people lose hair at different rates,” the lifespan of a lock is about three to seven years. After seven years, you may notice visible changes – hair that looks curlier or straighter, fuller or thinner – because, in theory, you would have different hair than you had at the start of the cycle .

The reasons why new hair grows differently are varied. An illness like mine can undoubtedly have an impact. Diet, stress and medication play a role. Cumulative wear and tear from chemical processing, weaves, braids or heat styling can also cause hair to break or fall out prematurely, leading to loss of density. But among the biggest factors for most people, especially women, are hormones and aging. The former can impact hair texture, because “hormones can…turn on or off genes that cause hair to change shape, making it curlier or straighter,” says Piliang. And aging can impact density, as follicles get smaller and produce finer hair fibers. “Once an adult, twice a child,” notes Washington, DC, dermatologist Cheryl M. Burgess, MD, who says hair is often soft and fine in childhood, thicker and coarser in adulthood. , then soft and fine again in old age.

A medium strand lasts three to seven years. So, in the seventh year, you may have a whole new head of hair.

The news isn’t all bad, though. Some people get an upgrade. Susie Neilson, 29, says her once frizzy, wavy hair is now noticeably smoother and straighter. “I’m pretty happy with it, to be honest. My hair has become easier to comb.

And some see this transformation as an opportunity to improve their lot, treating their hair gently in the hope that it grows healthier. Los Angeles Stylist Shai Amiel says the key to better hair tomorrow is doing less today. “Don’t do buns, ponytails, braids, twists,” he says. In short, leave the hair as natural as possible.

Although I’m still not in love with my new texture, we have established a truce. I’m doing less and letting my waves dry naturally and thanks to a new cut from Saviano, they’re trying not to fall flat. “You have to work with the changes in your new texture, rather than fight them,” says Saviano. So I had to. I also console myself with the fact that in seven years my curls may be back. Or not. But in the meantime, I’m going to make the most of what I have.

This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of ELLE.

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