Fact: Grey, thinning, shedding hair is a natural part of aging. Whether it stems from transitional phases of life (re: childbirth and menopause), stress, or traumatic hair styling from your 20s and 30s, there's a laundry list of reasons as to why you may be experiencing what feels like a sudden change to your once-lustrous hair. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with aging (or the hair changes that comes along with it), many people find themselves yearning for ways to revive their strands. Thankfully, there are ways to bring your locks back to their full potential.
To learn about what causes age-related hair changes as well as what we can do help out our strands, we called on doctor of medicine Sophia Kogan, celebrity hairstylist Irinel de Leon, and professional hairdresser Nate Rosenkranz. If you've hit 40 and are struggling with an increase in post-shower hair shedding, thinner ponytails, and generally lackluster strands, we've rounded up seven tips below.
Meet the Expert
- Sophia Kogan is an MD who focuses on integrative hair health.
- Irinel de Leon is a celebrity hairstylist and natural hair expert based in L.A. She is also a brand ambassador for Ouidad.
- Nate Rosenkranz is a professional celebrity hairdresser based in New York City. He has done looks for editorial, television, and NYFW.
Keep reading to find out how to get amazing hair after 40.
Take Care of Your Scalp to Stimulate Hair Growth
We'll admit we tend to give every other part of our hair more attention than we do our scalp (namely, our split ends). That said, Kogan maintains that giving your scalp some TLC is an effective way to prevent the causes of hair thinning and promote hair growth. "Scalp health is dependent on internal factors like the balance of sex and stress hormones, as well as oxidative stress and gut health," she says. "That said, not washing your hair too frequently, avoiding color, harsh processing and chemicals, as well as massaging your scalp can all help to stimulate growth."
Use Ammonia-Free Hair Color to Avoid Damage
You've likely heard of ammonia in hair dyes before (it's what's used to open up the cuticle to prepare it for color deposit). However, according to Kogan, it has a higher pH, which can damage your scalp and the hair follicles as well as compromise the structural integrity of your hair. Not to mention, the fumes can be harmful to breathe in. "When talking to your stylist, ask about natural, organic hair dyes and avoid hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, ethanolamines and paraphenylenediamine (PPD)," advises Kogan. Luckily, many hair color brands, including Matrix, have altered their color formulas to be ammonia-free, which are less harmful for your hair and result in shinier, softer locks post-coloring.
Reduce Hair Loss By Avoiding Stress
Easier said than done, we know, but the hair follicle isn’t separate from your body, so how you treat the rest of your body directly affects your hair health. Kogan explains that hair damage from chronic stress can accumulate over time and contribute to a slow process of insidious hair shedding. Acute stress, on the other hand, is different. "When a major acute stressor occurs, it can cause a huge shift in our hormonal and neurochemical balance, which can signal a significant percentage of hair follicles to prematurely shift from the growth phase (anagen) to the resting phase (telogen)," explains Kogan. "During the telogen phase, hair is no longer able to grow and prepares to shed. As a result, you might see increased shedding, thinning around the temples, or hair falling out in large clumps at about three to six months after the stressful event occurs."
Be Gentle With Styling to Avoid Breakage
Those too-tight braids, extensions, and mile-high ponytails you sported as a 20-year-old could be the cause of the lackluster locks you're currently experiencing. "Your scalp is sensitive and prone to damage over time, so things like excessive rubbing, stretching and brushing can all damage your hair follicles and over time, cause irreversible hair loss," says de Leon. "Tight hairstyles in your 20s and 30s can also lead to traction alopecia, which is totally preventable." Bottom line: be gentle with your strands today to avoid even more damage once you hit your 50s.
Use Moisture-Rich Products for Shiny Hair
Because there’s less sebum production coming from the scalp as we age, hair is prone to experiencing textural changes (think dryness and brittleness), especially post-menopause. To combat this, de Leon says to use moisture-rich products and stay away from anything too drying like clarifying shampoos. Also, our experts agree that harsh chemicals in everyday hair care products as well as over-styling from extreme heat can all contribute to hair damage. Opt for a biotin-infused serum to help tackle lackluster strands and give you the healthy, frizz-free hair you're used to.
Achieve Volume With the Right Products
"The best thing to do to achieve volume for fine or thinning hair is to start with the right products that are formulated to address your specific needs," notes Rosenkranz. To achieve volume, he says to start by shampooing with Alterna Haircare's Caviar Anti-Aging Clinical Densifying Shampoo ($34), making sure to thoroughly clean the hair closest to the scalp where you want the volume to originate from. Rinse and add a small amount of Alterna Haircare's Caviar Anti-Aging Multiplying Volume Conditioner ($34), avoiding the root to avoid adding any excess weight to the hair.
Then, blow dry your hair with a dryer that has a nozzle or “concentrator” to control the airflow. "The concentrator is the attachment that almost all hairdryers come with but very few people actually use when blowing out their hair at home," he says. "A concentrator focuses the stream of hot air and airflow onto a very small section, instead of letting it spread out." Dry the root first in the opposite direction that you want it to lay when your style is finished. "This will add maximum volume to your hair and help make styling the rest of your hair easier because the root will be dry already," says Rosenkranz.
Heal From the Inside Out
While it's tempting to slather on lotions and oils in hopes of healthier, stronger hair, both de Leon and Kogan explain that much of what makes hair healthy comes from within. "It’s important to realize that the health of the scalp and hair is not only affected by external factors, but also by the internal environment of the entire body—that’s why it’s important to take a holistic approach to healthy hair," says Kogan. "If you’re looking to try a supplement, Nutrafol Women and Women’s Balance Supplements ($88) contain saw palmetto to counter DHT (the hormone responsible for thinning hair), ashwagandha for increased stress, astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant to fight oxidative stress from the environment and curcumin for immune balance."