Black Hair care and aging
There’s no big surprise that with every day, we’re all getting older. As we know, changes to our bodies and moods are inevitable. From our skin and bones to our hormones and, of course, our hair.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the hair can actually age prematurely? Yes, it is possible!
Although aging typically starts around 30, there’s no firm start period. Just like your skin, your hair can age faster than you for a number of reasons.
Over manipulation, unhealthy eating habits, or just plain ol hereditary genes are just a few causes of your hair aging. Let’s break down hair aging and what this means for you and your natural hair needs.
How does aging affect hair and scalp | gray hair, hair loss, menopause, dry scalp
How Natural Hair Ages
So what exactly is happening to our hair as we age? To explore this we need to understand the composition of the hair. Your hair grows out of a follicle, which is essentially the hole in which your hair anchors to your head.
The hair starts growing from its bulb where all the cells grow and live, and from there, extend to grow to the hair strand we all see. Your hair is made up of a combination of things, but primarily the protein keratin.
Melanocytes are one of the cells in your hair located at the center of your hair follicle in the cortex, and their function is to create melanin which gives your hair its color.
As your hair ages and the follicles produce fewer cells, melanin production decreases as well causing the hair to grey. Do note that aging is only one of many reasons why hair turns grey and that grey hair is just one sign of aging hair.
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Lack of moisture
As your hair ages, you may notice it will also become more dry and wiry. Along with aging and dying cells, your sebaceous glands, which produce your body’s natural oils, begin to shrink and slow down production. Consequently, less oil reaches your hair and you lose moisture.
You may notice your gray hairs have a wiry frizzy texture, unlike your other strands. As you gray, you will want to transition your hair routine to accommodate and adequately care for your tresses.
Caring for Aging Natural hair
Let’s start with your wash day, shampoo. You may want to try using a blue or violet shampoo. These shampoos deposit hues that counter the brassy and yellow tones that hair tends to have as it turns grey.
The shampoo neutralizes the color and also gives the hair more shine. You don’t need to use these shampoos every wash day, but you should incorporate them into your regimen.
Try to deep condition your hair weekly and give yourself scalp massages to help stimulate oil production. You should already be deep conditioning your natural hair weekly, but if you weren’t already, you most definitely need to now.
You want to incorporate moisture-balancing deep conditioners that are free of silicones so that they penetrate your hair and truly get moisture into the strand. Now the debate on silicones is still ongoing, but if you’re a natural going grey, they may wind up being your friend as they help seal in and add shine to the hair.
Silicones also help maintain frizz as well, so they may be more effective at managing those stubborn flyaways.
Treatments to avoid
While your relationship to most ingredients and products for natural hair may change, chemicals and heat should still be used with extreme precaution. With less moisture, undoubtedly you can imagine, hair becomes less shiny and more susceptible to breakage. So be mindful of your styling. If you choose to use heating tools, try to lower the temperature and use them less often.
If you can, avoid using harsh chemicals and dyes all together which only damage and dry out your hair even more. If you find yourself not ready to embrace your grays, try natural alternatives to chemical dyes to retain more integrity of your hair.
There’s also plenty of alternative temporary color options on the market now like hair paints and waxes that you can use to play with color or hide your grey.
If you’re a natural who may prefer protective styling, then you need to make sure you are treating and caring for your hair before your style. Making sure your hair is adequately moisturized before the protective style helps to ensure you’ll retain your hair during its term.
For those protective styles that creep close to your edges and roots, ask your stylist to loosen their grip or perhaps try to avoid them altogether. The last thing you want is too much tension on your fragile strands. This goes for styling in general, loosen those ponytails and buns. If you feel like your hair is dull or lacking luster you can use serums and light oils like almond oil to enhance shine.
What happens to your scalp as you age?
Of course, we can’t neglect your scalp either, that is where your hair comes out of. Your scalp actually ages at a faster rate than the skin on your face, six times to be exact and twelve times faster than the skin on your body. Just like the skin on your body, your scalp loses elasticity with age and is more sensitive as it thins.
The number of blood vessels in your scalp and hair follicles starts to decline and fail as you get older. This means the amount of hair you have, your hair’s density, will decrease, as will the rate at which it grows. Styles that are more voluminous or even using larger parts can be more flattering as your density changes.
Your scalp, like your aging hair and skin, needs just as much attentiveness when it comes to maintaining moisture. Again, incorporating scalp massages with light oils and ensuring that you have a clean scalp will help prevent irritation and inflammation of the dry scalp. If you scratch an irritated dry scalp, you have the chance of damaging the existing follicles, so if we haven’t said it enough, moisture is imperative.
Aging hair doesn’t have to be the demise of your natural hair journey. Part of the natural hair journey is learning to embrace yourself throughout the stages and knowing that your journey won’t look like anyone else's. So whether you’re showing signs of doddering at 30 or 60, embrace the journey and know that you can still have healthy and beautiful hair with simple adjustments to your routine, styling, and regimen.
By: Charis Sanford
Charis Sanford is a writer and blogger in the Natural Hair space for the last 5 years. Her knowledge of textured hair care, specifically natural hair, extends over nearly two decades. To say Charis is passionate about black hair would be putting it mildly. She is a Natural Hair Consultant in her spare time and believes that good hair is healthy hair. As a mother of multicultural children, she finds education on all hair types imperative and strives to contribute to educational tools in mainstream media. Bio.