HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR HAIR IN YOUR 40’S
As women, each decade comes with new discoveries, but none is more apparent than our 40's. By that point, you’ve matured, you know yourself better, and you’re likely more confident than you’ve ever been before. Regardless, there’s another challenge during this time that every woman will face. Whether we’re looking forward to it or not, the big four-oh is about the time our skin begins to display its first signs of aging - that is, our facial and body skin. While many of us will run to the face serums and eye creams of the world to reduce its effects, these are not the only ways. Our scalps are the fastest aging skin there is (6x faster than our faces and 12x faster than our bodies!), and the way we treat it, and our hair, should also be revamped.
HOW OUR HAIR CHANGESJust like the seasons, hair will go through drastic changes as we age. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Did you know the average hair growth rate slows down at midlife? This is because it spends much more time in what is called the resting phase, and less time in the growth phase. It will still continue to grow, but not as quickly or as long as it once did.
A healthy hair growth cycle consists of four distinct phases: anagen (the growing phase), catagen (the transition phase), telogen (the resting phase), and exogen (the shedding phase). Each one of these phases runs on its own timeline, and these timelines can be affected by factors such as age, nutrition, and overall health. The first three stages deal with the activities of the hair follicles that produce individual hairs as well as the maturation of the hair, while the last stage rids the scalp of the old to prepare for the new.
Anagen kicks off the hair growing process. It is the longest of the four, lasting between three and five years for scalp hair and less for eyebrow and pubic hairs, although some individuals can continue growing a single hair for seven years or more. About 90 percent of all scalp hair is in the anagen phase at any given time. During anagen, the hair follicles push out hairs that won’t stop growing until they are either cut or naturally reach the end of their lifespan and fall away.
Once this chapter ends, catagen begins. Lasting a mere ten days or so, this is when the hair follicles shrink and hair growth starts to slow. In addition, the bottom of the follicle will separate from the hair itself but remain in place until the final day of growth. Luckily, only about five percent of scalp hair is in this phase at any point.
After the catagen phase is the telogen, or resting, phase. This is where your hair will spend most of its time after 40. It’s around three months long and approximately ten to fifteen percent of scalp hair experiences it at a time. During telogen, scalp hair is not growing as quickly, but it doesn’t usually fall out either. Thanks to the previous phase, during the final days of growing, new hairs slowly begin to form underneath the surface. This is what makes it different from the final stage.
The exogen phase closes out the hair growth cycle. Although several health experts do not regard this phase as separate from telogen, others see exogen as an extension of the latter. Hair is finally shed from the scalp for two to five months, so losing 50 to 100 strands per day is normal during this phase. This is often helped along by washing and brushing the hair. As this occurs, new hairs start to sprout from the hair follicles.
This refers to the number of hair strands growing per square inch on your scalp. How many hair strands you have is determined by many factors, but the average amount on any one head is between 80,000 and 120,000 hairs! Generally, hair density is highest at the back of the head in an area called the vertex. How many strands you’ll lose, however, is pretty much determined by how lucky you are genetically (thank your mom and dad for this one), though research also suggests the loss will commence sometime after 40 no matter what.
The most practical way to measure hair density is by conducting a visual analysis at home. Take a quick look in the mirror. If you can see your scalp without moving your hair at all, your hair density is likely on the lower end. If you only need to move your hair slightly to see your scalp, your density is probably somewhere in the middle. And if you move your hair around and it is still difficult to see your scalp, your hair density is likely on the higher end.
There is no such thing as the “right hair density”, but being aware of your own can be helpful. For example, knowing whether your density is on the thicker or thinner side can give you an idea of which hairstyles or hair products will work best for your hair type. If you have low hair density, you may want to avoid heavy oils and conditioners that weigh your hair down, or look for products that add volume. If you have a higher hair density, you might need to use heavier gels and butters to keep your hair under control, or wear styles that remove excess bulk. Your hair density can also fall somewhere in the middle, leaving more room to experiment with styles or focus on products that just keep your hair healthy.
Like density and length, color is another way we categorize our hair. It is perfectly normal for hair color to lighten as we age (aging is directly linked to the build-up of hydrogen peroxide over time that kills strand’s pigment cells).This is due to hormonal changes in the body. Sometimes, the hair follicles create less melanin - the pigment responsible for giving color to our skin and hair - or the genes turn off over time. Other times, stress (gray hairs), nutrition, sun exposure, temperatures, or genetics are the culprits. Whatever the reason, changes in hair color are a normal part of life and nothing to be afraid of.
SHINE + TEXTURE
If your hair feels drier, stiffer, or more coarse once you’ve turned 40, don’t worry. Changes in your hair’s texture levels are also normal. A natural loss of keratin proteins and fatty acids is occurring, making the hair duller and more vulnerable to damage. As a result, things you used to do regularly like coloring treatments or heat styling might rough up the hair’s surface instead and damage its inner cortex. It may even appear more or less textured in different places at the same time. Add naturally gray, wire-like hairs that don’t reflect light as well as your once smooth, saturated hair used to and you also have noticeably less shiny locks.
Now this is where hair texture can get pretty confusing. Even though graying hairs become increasingly more coarse after 40, the diameter or thickness of each individual pigmented strand (those that have not lost their color yet) decreases. The result? Finer hair overall. Frustrating right? And what’s more, this change is not even consistent! The diameter of these pigmented strands actually increases progressively throughout the early 40's, on average, before it begins to decrease around the age of 45. This creates a direct link between hair diameter and aging; as women get closer to menopause in their 40's and fifties, the sex hormones that assist in stimulating those follicle fibers diminish or stop producing new hair altogether.
STRENGTH + ELASTICITY
The final changes we’ll discuss are hair strength and elasticity. Remember how we said that less keratin in the hair can increase its vulnerability to damage? A dip in keratin protein levels can make the hair less elastic as well. Without it, the cells that form a protective outer cuticle become more fragile. Once that happens, they will eventually snap,rather than bounce back when pulled or stretched.
HAIR CARE FOR WOMEN IN THEIR 40’S
So, if our scalps have already begun aging well before we've reached this milestone, is there nothing we can do to make our hair look and feel healthy again? Though it may never look exactly the same as it did in youth, all is not lost. Here are several expert hair care tips for women in their 40's:
KEEP YOURSELF HYDRATED
It's no surprise that drinking lots of water is extremely important for hair health. It helps with everything, really, including our skin. Hair needs to be moisturized in order to grow as well as maintain that growth.
The more you wash your hair, the drier it becomes. This is because standard shampoos contain sulfates that create a good lather but strip the strands of their natural oils as well. What constitutes over-washing is not the same for everyone, so start by washing every other day with cool water to see how your hair adapts.
(The Pure Harmony Hairbath by Innersense Organic Beauty is a gentle shampoo that delivers a therapeutic, sulfate-free cleansing experience. It is the best volume shampoo for fine hair, has pumpkin seed oil for hair growth, and is the best shampoo to get rid of gray hair.)
BE MINDFUL OF HOW YOU STYLE
Once hair is weakened by aging, it is no longer as forgiving as it was previously. If you’re not careful, breakage will ensue. Avoid hairstyles that pull and tug, such as ponytails or braids, use lower heat settings on quality styling tools, and take a break from regular chemical treatments at the salon.
An even better way to keep damage at bay is to let your hair do its own thing. Embrace your natural texture and ditch the heat styling all together. This can make a big difference in your hair’s overall health, texture, thickness, and appearance.
ADD IN HAIR SERUMS + OILS
Due to shrinking oil glands, it can become harder for natural oils to reach the hair as we age. This inevitably leads to drier hair, but here's a simple way to counteract it. After using a more gentle shampoo and conditioner, incorporate a hair serum and natural oils to keep hair soft and manageable.
(The Nuele Hair Serum is the perfect multipurpose serum for all hair types, especially dry scalp. Scientifically crafted from Jojoba Oil, Argan Oil, Moringa Oil, Rosemary Oil, and Clary Sage, NUELE stands high above the competition.)
DON'T SKIP YOUR TRIMS
This only becomes more important the older you get. Long, scraggly split ends make your hair look thinner than it actually is, especially when the rest is already thinning. By keeping up with regular hair trims, your hair stays healthy and strong, no matter what age you are.
INVEST IN A GOOD HAIR MASK
Hair masks and dry hair literally go hand in hand. These heavy-duty conditioners are designed to penetrate the hair follicle, leaving it moisturized and infused with healthy ingredients. They can even help keep gray hairs moisturized and prevent split ends! Use once a week at most to combat dryness.
(An innovative symphony between a serum and a powder, the Hydrating Hair Mask by NUELE is packed with the rich nutrients of Moringa leaf, as well as peppermint oil for hair to increase blood flow into the follicles.)
TREAT YOUR SCALP
Behind every healthy head of hair is an even healthier scalp. Treating the roots directly will stimulate growth, help distribute natural, healthy oils, and keep your scalp healthy.
(Our MFLORENS collection has everything you’ll need to give your scalp the multi-level care it deserves. The No. 1 liquid scalp mask revitalizes the hair and scalp, No. 2 rejuvenates and regenerates, and No. 3 strengthens the hair shaft while protecting and smoothing each strand.)
For many people, aging can make it difficult to deal with another issue that they didn't struggle with before: dandruff. The shampoos that eradicated it easily when you were young barely seem to touch it after 40. If this sounds like you, it may be time to visit a dermatologist who can help get rid of these flakes for good.
Finally, a scalp massage while shampooing can also help, even before reaching our magic number. Scalp massaging tools stimulate blood flow, get rid of the dead skin, and help distribute product more evenly.
EMBRACE THE GRAY
Gone are the days when beauty referred exclusively to youth. Gray hair is in, and it doesn't mean a woman is "letting herself go". Life is a blessing and no one should be shamed for living it the way it was intended.
However, if you are adamant about dying your hair in your 40's, you should be aware of the risks. Although many hair color brands have altered their formulas, some still use ammonia (it's what opens the cuticle up to prepare it for color deposit). Ammonia also has a high pH, which can further damage your scalp, the hair follicles, and compromise the structural integrity of your hair. Other harmful additives include hydrogen peroxide, ethanolamines, and paraphenylenediamine (PPD). Instead, ask your stylist about natural, organic hair dyes.
Our fourth decade can be a time of much joy, pressure, and worry all wrapped into one. Between working all week long, running errands, caring for our families, homes, and friendships, practicing self care, and going through early menopause, there’s very little extra time and energy left to tend to our tresses. That’s why we’ve gathered a few simple ways to make hair care a part of your day. With the right routine and a bit of TLC, it is possible to have healthy hair well into your 40's and beyond.