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How to Care for Aging Hair

Whether thick and coarse or fine and delicate, find out how to care for mature hair and how to make it look good regardless of age.

With age, you may find it difficult to wear your hair long.
With age, you may find it difficult to wear your hair long.

The Effects of Aging on Hair

Your hair will almost certainly turn gray and eventually white as you grow older, but that’s not the only thing that happens. Its texture also changes. If your hair is fine textured it will become even finer and more delicate, and if it's thick, it will become coarse and wiry. You may also find it difficult to wear your hair long.

But with proper care, you can make it look as good as it did in younger years.

When Hair Turns Fine and Delicate

Shampooing Fine Hair

Fine hair looks good with a freshly washed, natural breeziness. But the problem with frequent washing is that it either dries hair out or stimulates sebum production, which makes it flat and oily—it is true that sebum production slows down with age, but it doesn’t stop completely.

The trick is to shampoo only once and use so little product that you barely work up a lather. Always use a mild shampoo.

Conditioner for Fine Hair

Products containing panthenol are ideal to keep fine hair in good condition. Panthenol moisturizes without weighing hair down.

Does Your Hair Always Look Flat and Lifeless?

If your hair looks flat and lifeless, it could be due to product build-up resulting from heavy conditioners, hairspray, mousse and setting lotions etc. Revive your hair by applying a clarifying shampoo once a week.

Drying Fine hair

When you use a hairdryer, don't forget that fine, aging hair can be delicate. Protect it with a blow dry lotion formulated for fine hair and hold the dryer 6 to 12 inches from your head. Never go above the medium heat setting.

Styling Tools

Styling tools like round brushes, curling irons, straight irons and rollers can cause untold damage.

If you have to use round brushes or rollers, be very careful when removing them: gently unroll rather than pulling or yanking out.

Keep curling and straight irons at a low to medium setting.

Coloring Fine Hair

Chemical coloring products are great for fine hair. They raise the scales of the cuticle, which creates an overall impression of volume. The down side is that chemically colored hair tends to be dry. To counteract this, apply a deep conditioner once a week, but make sure it’s designed for fine hair—anything else will weigh your hair down and you’ll be back to square one.

If conventional chemical coloring products cause your hair too much damage, you may want to try a progressive colorant instead. Products like Grecian Formula gently and gradually darken hair without ammonia and peroxide. If you're in the United States, however, such products do contain lead acetate, which may pose a health risk. This substance is banned for cosmetic use in Europe and Canada.

Semi- or demi-permanent hair colors are kinder to hair than permanent products, but results on gray and white are often unpredictable. It’s best to seek advice from a hairdresser before experimenting.

If you choose not to color your hair, you can counteract yellowness by applying a silver rinse. Because it contains only minimal hydrogen peroxide and no ammonia, it's perfectly safe and won't damage even the finest or most delicate of hair. To sustain its effect, wash regularly with a so-called silver shampoo.

Yellowness, by the way, is caused by UV rays. Look for hair care products with sunblocker—these also stop color fading if your hair is dyed.

When you use a hairdryer, remember that fine, aging hair is delicate.
When you use a hairdryer, remember that fine, aging hair is delicate.

When Hair Turns Coarse and Wiry

If your hair is thick, it will turn coarse and wiry when you go gray. It looks dull and dry if it’s not properly cared for, and is difficult to style.

Shampoos and Conditioners for Coarse Hair

You can tame coarse hair with shampoos and conditioners containing silk protein, which is a natural polymer used in the cosmetic industry as a ‘film-former’. As such, it leaves a light residue on each strand to make hair smooth and easy to comb after washing. If silk protein doesn’t work for you, you might need a heavier product with silicone. Luckily, coarse hair is strong and springy, so such products can't weigh it down.

Nevertheless, you should still apply a clarifying shampoo once a week, or your hair will start to feel tacky due to product build-up. Because clarifying shampoo leaves hair particularly absorbent, it’s a good idea to follow up with a hot oil treatment.

Coarse hair is thirsty and needs constant moisturizing and conditioning, so always use a shine spray or leave-in conditioner after styling for extra gloss and softness.

Make sure styling products like mousse and hairspray are free of alcohol, which has a drying effect.

Coloring Coarse Hair

Another problem with coarse, gray hair is that it’s difficult to dye. Coloring products either begin to fade only days after application, or barely take at all.

You can solve this problem by pre-treating or 'softening' your hair to make it less resistant to colorants.

How to 'Soften' Coarse Hair Before Coloring

Directly before using a chemical coloring product, apply 20 volume cream developer. Leave it on your hair for ten minutes, then rinse and towel dry. This lifts the scales of the hair cuticle so that coloring products are able to penetrate the hair shaft for more vibrant, longer lasting color.

Should a Mature Woman Cut Her Hair Short?

For many women, long hair symbolizes youth and femininity. The trouble is, it optically pulls facial features down after a certain age, which has an aging effect.

There are two options: one is to wear an upswept style; the other is a haircut.

For the sake of convenience, most older women opt to cut their hair, but there’s no need to cut it short. Shoulder or chin length can also have a 'lifting effect'.

Cutting Fine Hair

If your hair is fine, go for a blunt cut. A bob or pageboy works for most women—a great variation is the disheveled bob, which adds volume.

Cutting fine hair too short will make it look sparse, so don’t go for a 'close to the head' style.

Cutting Coarse Hair

If your hair is thick and coarse, a feathered or layered cut is ideal. Try flicking it up at the sides and back similar to the way Jane Fonda does in the photo below.

Another Good Reason a Mature Women Might Cut Her Hair

Regardless of whether long hair still suits you, reduced sebum production is the most genuine reason to cut aging hair.

Aging causes sebum production to slow down, so at some point there isn’t enough to reach the hair ends. The result is dryness and splitting. Eventually, the damage is irreparable, so that not even an upswept style looks good.

If your hair is thick and coarse, flick it up at the sides and back.
If your hair is thick and coarse, flick it up at the sides and back.

Hair Loss in Women

One of the worse things that can happen to any woman is hair loss.

It’s normal to lose 70 to 100 hairs a day, but if you lose more, you should visit your doctor.

Hair loss is normally temporary in women, with traction alopecia being the most common cause. This is usually triggered by frequently pulling the hair back to a tight ponytail, chignon or suchlike.

Other common causes are medications, infections, diets that lack sufficient iron and protein, and hormonal imbalances resulting from stress, the pill, pregnancy or menopause. Whatever you think the cause might be, seek professional advice; there’s nearly always a simple remedy.

Image Credits

First image by TaniaVdB (https://pixabay.com/en/woman-blond-girl-smile-beauty-509960/)

Second image image by T.J. Lentz (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Third image by Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

© 2016 Jayne Lancer

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Comments 4 comments

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 8 months ago from Sydney

This is the best article I've found on aging hair. Thank you!


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 8 months ago from Sydney

Sorry for that brief comment, I was on my phone. I wanted to say that I've learned more from this one article than several others I've read on hairdressing sites. I always thought the problem with growing old would be GREY hair, but it's the texture that bugs me much more than the color. I used to have heavy, glossy, straight hair so it's a real source of grief to find myself with kinky hair the texture of straw. Maybe now I'll be able try a few things to come to terms with my hair!


Jayne Lancer profile image

Jayne Lancer 8 months ago from West London, UK Author

Thank you, Marisa.

Yes, that's a common misconception - the gray color is not the only problem when hair ages. But the chemicals needed to restore color only exacerbate the other problems, so it's a vicious cycle.

I hope the type of products I've pointed towards are of some help to you. As you indicate, you most probably won't get your hair to look the same as it used to, but you can get it to look good again with the right treatment and perhaps a different style.

It sounds as though your hair was exceptionally beautiful, so your grief is understandable.


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 8 months ago from Sydney

Yes Jayne, I'm a bit of a "plain Jane" and my hair was my best feature (sometimes on a bad day, I thought it was my ONLY good feature!), so it is painful!

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    Jayne Lancer profile image

    Jayne Lancer248 Followers
    56 Articles

    A beauty consultant and former hairdresser by profession, Jayne has been advising on cosmetics and skin and hair care for almost 20 years.



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