These days, legendary 90’s supermodel Cindy Crawford laments not the inevitable loss of collagen or slowing metabolism that accompanies aging: She simply wants her old hair back. “Everyone loves to talk about plastic surgery and all that stuff, but hair is the most underestimated thing—if you have good color and shiny hair, you can see that across a room,” she recently told Allure magazine. “Now, I look at my daughter's and I'm like, 'You have my old hair! I want it back!'"
That’s because just as our skin succumbs to the pull of gravity, our hair—an oft-overlooked feature in the gargantuan anti-aging industry—changes in ways that we wish it wouldn’t. Yup, we’re talking hair loss, thinning, graying and dullness.
While plenty of experts say the slump starts after age 30, “it varies from person to person,” says Alan J. Bauman, M.D., a top U.S. medical expert on hair loss and restoration. “There are many factors that play a role: heredity, diet habits and even over-styling can cause your hair to age prematurely. An often overlooked factor is smoking, which is especially damaging to your hair.”
Mindy Goldstein, Ph.D., former president of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, echoes this sentiment. “The follicles in aging hair are smaller and have less pigment,” she explains. “So the thick, coarse hair of a young adult eventually becomes thin, fine, light-colored hair.”
Gray hairs may be the most obvious sign of impending dotage, but they seem less distressing when we take a closer look at all the other annoying ways hair quality degrades with age. “The first sign of loss is shine and opulence, which we associate with healthy hair and youth,” says N.Y.C.-based hairstylist, author and salon owner Eva Scrivo. Another issue: thinning. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 30 million American women are dealing with hereditary hair loss. Diet, medical problems, hormones, stress and certain medications can also be factors, so if the loss is dramatic (more than typical 100 strands you should expect to shed every day), see a doctor to rule out any major issues.
It’s a bummer, we know.
Luckily, with so many new over-the-counter and prescription products it’s never been easier to add life to your locks. Scrivo recommends first buying trial sizes in order to suss out what really works without making too big a financial commitment “What worked in your 20s is not going to work in your 60s,” she points out.
Strength: In her role as vice president of research and development Dr. Goldstein helped develop Keranique, a new anti-aging hair care line for women that’s imbued with a keratin and protein complex to help strengthen the hair shaft and make hair appear fuller, stronger and shinier.
Shine: Just like skin loses its glow, most everyone tends to see a lack of overall luster. The key is keeping the outermost layer of hair—the cuticle—flat and smooth so it reflects light. But years of wear-and-tear, styling and sun damage means the roughed-up cuticle doesn’t reflect way it used to. Silicones are one way to get the glow back, but ultimately weigh down hair. Scrivo swears by all-natural amla oil, an Ayurvedic remedy that naturally strengthens the hair and nourishes the scalp. “Brush it in your hair before you go to bed, then rinse it out in the morning,” she advises. She also recommends Shu Uemura’s Prime Plenish, a line specially formulated to bulk up aging hair fibers and Kérastase’s Age Recharge line to strengthen brittle strands.
Glaze treatments also provide weeks of effortless glossines, but there are other, more holistic, not to mention easier ways to help preserve and produce luster.
Brush: Dead skin cells collect on the scalp. “Imagine if you never exfoliated your face,” Scrivo says. “Regular brushing really helps.” She points out that there are three cycles of hair growth: growth, shedding and resting. If you’re not brushing properly making sure bristles stimulate the scalp, you can actually deter the progress, she explains. Most hairstylists recommend the Mason Pearson Popular brush because it combines both plastic and boar bristles for a deep combing.
Clarify: Scrivo recommends Bumble and Bumble's Sunday Shampoo, a once a week product to remove build-up. “If it feels too stripping, pour a drop to into your regular shampoo,” she says.
Diet: When we’re young, we tend to eat fats—both healthy and otherwise—without batting a lash. But with age comes a slower metabolism so fatty foods get banned, which is better for our waistlines, but not for the hair. The simple remedy? “Eat an egg everyday,” Scrivo advises. Duck eggs are her preference because they contain five times the amount of biotin to foster healthy strands.
Bauman gives the thumbs up to supplements. “Iron and protein deficiencies are among the most common nutritional triggers for unhealthy hair, while vitamins, especially B, are important to the overall health of hair. He likes treatments such as Viviscal Professional and pharmaceutical grade biotin to help support longer, thicker, healthier hair.”
Color: Add some richness to your fading base color to recreate the youthful highlights that suggest a summer of playing outdoors. “Hair color can be so transformative because it not only adds dimension, but it also boosts your complexion,” says Scrivo. Skin with pink tones would do well to seek cool-toned highlights; add golden hues to warm up dull skin and help add a glow-inducing reflection around your face. “Obviously, it’s more expensive to get professional highlights than just doing a single process at home out of a box, but it’s an investment into look more youthful,” says Scrivo.
Cut: Never underestimate the power of a great haircut. Because the planes of your face alter with time, a great cut can play up all the right features, while downgrading those you’d rather not. For example, well-positioned layers can draw the eye up and a strategically angled bob can strengthen your jaw line and emphasize cheekbones. Scrivo recommends soft, side-swept bangs to create an asymmetrical line that can help widen and plump narrowed features.
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