As a person ages, the texture of their hair can change. Hair can also become thinner and people may experience hair loss. Different people’s hair changes in different ways as they age.

Hair follicles, which are unique structures that grow hairs, are present in a person’s skin. These follicles can change over time, which can cause a person’s hair to change as they age.

Hair changes can also occur due to environmental exposure and physical stress.

This article discusses how the thickness and texture of hair can change with age. It also provides some hair care tips.

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As a person ages, their hair may become less thick and change in texture.

Weathered hair

As people grow older, their hair can become more weathered.

This means that a number of environmental factors can cause damage to the structure of the hair, resulting in hair that is not as shiny, elastic, or as strong as it was previously.

These environmental factors include exposure to:

  • ultraviolet (UV) light
  • humidity
  • wind
  • chemicals in hair products
  • chemicals in hair treatments

These factors can impact the growth and texture of individual hair fibers. These factors can also exacerbate the natural decrease in hair density that is related to aging.

African American women and children are more likely to use hair products that companies advertise to moisturize hair, promote hair growth, and chemically relax or straighten hair that is naturally curly.

Over time, these products can cause damage to hair fibers, making the hair more prone to breakage. A person’s hair may also tolerate these chemicals less as the hair ages and becomes less resilient to damage.

Reduced hair diameter

As a person ages, their individual hairs are likely to reduce in diameter. A decrease in hair diameter causes a reduction in tensile hair strength. This makes the hair weaker and more prone to breaking.

The diameter of the hair decreases at different rates and times among different groups of people.

One review states that the diameter of white people’s hair increases until they are around 40 years old. It then plateaus when a person is in their early 40s and proceeds to decrease from then onward.

The same review states that studies have reported a decrease in hair diameter after 40 years of age in Japanese women and after 50 years of age in Korean people.

The review adds that there have been no particular studies into the decrease in the diameter of coily hair.

Reduced hair density

It is typical to lose between 50–100 hairs each day. The body continually sheds old hair and new hair grows from the follicles. As people age, some follicles may stop producing new hairs, which can cause hair density to decrease.

The density of hair on a person’s head is defined as the number of hair fibers per centimeter (cm). Another name for the reduction in hair density is hair loss.

As people get older and their hair density decreases it can cause their hair to appear thinner. This can lead to baldness developing as hair continues to thin over time.

A person’s hair density often peaks at age 35 and begins to decline after then.

The average density of head hair in those of African descent is less than that of white people and those of Asian descent. As the density decreases with age in those of African descent, people may begin to perceive hair loss after approximately 50% of their hairs are gone.

The texture of hair changes naturally as a person ages.

However, when it comes to hair loss and reduced hair density, there are some medications that a person can take. These medications may reduce a person’s chances of developing hair that is less dense.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves minoxidil and finasteride as treatments for hair loss. The FDA has also cleared HairMax LaserComb as a possible treatment for hair loss.

A person can also help protect to their hair from weathering in a number of ways. These include:

  • preventing exposure to UV light
  • preventing exposure to humidity and wind
  • preventing exposure to chemicals in hair products
  • preventing exposure to chemicals in some hair treatments
  • washing their hair the recommended amount with shampoo
  • conditioning their hair when shampooing

To reduce the chance of developing weathered, damaged hair, a person should focus on caring for their hair.

There are a number of steps a person can take to care for their hair and reduce their chance of hair damage over time.

Below are some steps that a person may wish to follow:

  • Frequently wash oily hair. If a person has an oily scalp, then they may need to wash their hair as often as once a day. As a person ages, their scalp produces less oil, meaning they may need to wash it less often over time.
  • Concentrate on the scalp when shampooing. A person should concentrate on cleaning their scalp with shampoo rather than the entire length of their hairs. Only washing the hair itself can cause it to become dull or coarse.
  • Use conditioner. Conditioner use can improve the look of damaged hair, improve hair strength, and protect hair from harmful UV rays.
  • Protect hair when swimming. A person should wet and condition their hair before swimming to help prevent damage from chlorine. A person may also wish to wear a tight-fitting swimming cap in order to prevent hair from coming into contact with the water. After swimming a person should wash and condition their hair to help replace any lost moisture.

Haircare tips for coily hair

Coily hair can be fragile and prone to damage and injury.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), over half of African American women state that thinning hair or hair loss is their top hair concern.

The AAD provides the following haircare tips for coily hair:

  • Wash hair once a week or every other week. Washing the hair using this time frame can help prevent the buildup of haircare products that can cause the hair to become dry.
  • Use conditioner. If a person uses conditioners, they can protect their hair from damage. A person should use a conditioner every time they wash their hair. They should ensure they coat the ends of the hair with conditioner as these ends are the fragile part of the hair.
  • Hot oil treatment. A person should consider using hot oil treatments once a month. This treatment can add additional moisture to the hair as well as provide more elasticity to prevent breaking.
  • Using heat products before styling. Applying heat products to wet hair before styling can help minimize heat damage.
  • Use hair relaxers with caution. A person should use a professional hair stylist to apply hair relaxer with touch ups taking place every 2–3 months. A person should never apply hair relaxer to hair that is already relaxed.
  • Use ceramic combs or irons for hair pressing. If a person wants to press or thermally straighten their hair, they should use a ceramic comb or iron. A person should only use these devices once a week and should use a device with a dial to ensure it is not too hot. To avoid heat damage, a person should aim to use the lowest possible temperature setting that still achieves their desired result.
  • Make sure braids, cornrows, and weaves are not too tight. If a person feels pain whilst a stylist is styling their hair, they should ask the person to stop and redo it. Pain may be a sign that their style is too tight, which can cause damage to their hair.

Learn more about different hair types and how to care for them here.

A person’s hair can also become gray as they get older.

Melanin is a pigment-producing component that produces melanocyte cells. These cells play a role in the color of a person’s hair.

As people get older, they lose melanin. This means they produce less melanocyte cells, which causes their hair to lighten and turn gray as they get older.

Tips

Smoking can contribute to hair graying. A person can quit or avoid smoking to reduce their chances of having gray hair.

One 2018 review looked at the causes of premature graying hair and its possible treatments.

The authors note that vitamin B12 deficiencies and hypothyroidism may increase a person’s chances of having graying hair. A person can treat these causes with vitamin and hormone replacement therapy, respectively.

As people age, their hair can begin to change. The hair may begin to lessen in diameter and may become more weathered. This can make it more prone to breaking.

As people age, their hair density may also decrease. This can cause their hair to appear thinner and may lead to baldness.

People may wish to take steps to help prevent weathering of the hair. This involves using shampoos and conditioners that are appropriate for a person’s hair type and avoiding exposure to certain environmental factors such as wind, UV light, humidity, and certain chemicals.