Hair Growth and Age: What’s Going On?

Ever wonder why the older you get, the harder it seems to grow your hair past shoulder-length? Here’s the latest research on why that is and what you can do to get growing.

| March 4th, 2013
Hair Length and Age: What’s Going On?

You have begged, you have pleaded, wondered what kind of voodoo magic Demi Moore is up to and finally, given up. But there's no question that countless middle-aged women share the same lament: "Why—really, why?—won't my hair grow any faster? And is it just me, or does it seem to get slower each year?"

In a world of Blake Livelys and Giseles (not to mention plenty of more mature leading ladies), it can seem like everyone is sporting insanely long locks. But keep in mind two things. One, natural, mid-back hair growth is not as common as Hollywood would have you think. While there's no statistic measuring the overall population's varying hair lengths, consider a Los Angeles hair expert's very educated guess. "Oh please, it’s so rare! So many women have extensions. It's very, very unusual to see naturally long hair. I’d roughly estimate it’s not even 10 percent of women,” says Christophe Belkacemi, a top stylist at the Serge Normant at John Frieda salon in LA.

Second, the hair's anagen phase (aka the growth stage that is crucial to achieving great lengths) is, like everything else in the world of beauty, seemingly wasted on the young. A P&G (makers of such hair care as Pantene and Herbal Essences) report on the hair growth cycle found the following: “As people grow older, the period of anagen shortens. For example, the hair of someone with a five-year anagen can grow to a length of 60 centimeters before it enters the shedding phase. If their anagen period drops to three years as they age, their hair will then grow only to shoulder length before it falls out or is brushed out.” Not exactly Demi territory.

There’s another new, semi-depressing finding on the correlation between hair growth and aging. Biologically, researchers are finding that hair simply changes. Another in-depth study executed by P&G found that sebum (oil) production overall but here, specifically on the scalp, decreases rapidly starting at age 45. When hair becomes less able to keep itself hydrated, it can become coarser-looking and more susceptible to breakage. Again, not exactly conducive to growth.

And that leads us to the TLC factor. In the latter study, a few findings help explain why at some point, hair basically just kind of gives up in protest. First off, the actual diameter of individual hair strands lessens, which simply means your hair may look skimpier—hardly adding to the illusion of long, cascading locks. Additionally, consider a recent Unilever North America study, which spouted the following statistic: Long hair (that is 24 centimeters long, to be exact), will have 19,122 split ends. Lack of conditioning and breakage from brushing means your hair won't stand a chance when it comes to length. Talk about growing pains.

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