How Your Hair and Nails Change as You Age
Time marches on. Nowhere is this more evident than the changes we see in our aging skin. However, aging also takes its toll on hair and fingernails. Virtually no one is immune to graying and thinning hair. Similarly, aging affects fingernails and toenails, causing them to become weak and brittle.
You may not be able to reverse these signs of aging, but there are ways to help keep your hair and nails as healthy and beautiful as possible.
Here Comes the Gray
Hair color is created by the pigment melanin. Melanin exists in hair follicles and decreases as we age. Reduced levels of melanin affect color intensity. It also causes hair to gray when the follicles cease to produce it.
In rare cases, this happens as early as teen years or early 20s. Conversely, there are people in their 60s and 70s with little in the way of gray hair. For most of us, gray hairs begin to make their appearance in people in their 40s.
So, what can you do to stop or reverse graying hair? Absolutely nothing. There are some schools of thought among alternative medicine practitioners that you can eat certain foods and take supplements to keep gray hair at bay. Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies to support these claims. If you are the curious type you can do a quick web search that will produce millions of gray hair prevention remedies with a single mouse click.
Conventional wisdom points to either living with the inevitable or covering up the offending gray hairs with permanent or semi-permanent dyes, which are designed to recreate the original color of your hair. Just be advised that gray hairs are a stubborn lot. Over time they become increasingly resistant to dyes and temporary hair coloring products.
Fragile, Dull and Thinning Hair
As if gray hair wasn’t enough of a challenge you may also notice your hair becoming thinner and more fragile. In the past, much of the press about thinning hair was aimed directly at men. It has only been recently that we now know that we women suffer from pattern baldness like our male counterparts.
This type of natural hair loss is due to genetics, changing hormones and normal aging. Men typically have receding hairlines and baldness on top. Women tend to thin on the top and crown, while the front hairline remains. Women first notice hair loss beginning near the area where their hair is parted. Women rarely lose all of their hair although any noticeable hair loss can be a psychologically debilitating experience.
Anti-Aging Hair Care Tips
Prescription Hair Loss Solutions
Minoxidil is the only FDA approved medication to treat female pattern baldness. It is a topical medication that applied directly to the scalp. Research shows that it will regrow hair in 1 out of 4 or 5 women and significantly slows or stops hair loss in most women. It is also prescribed for men to treat male pattern baldness.
Finasteride is an oral medication that can be more effective than minoxidil. Finasteride interferes with a particular male hormone linked to hair loss. That's why it is only prescribed to men to treat male pattern baldness. Both minoxidil and finasteride require continued use to be effective. If these medications are stopped hair loss will revert to pretreatment levels.
Surgical and Non-Surgical Hair Replacement
In the case of both men and women, hair grafting can be a beneficial solution to thinning hair. Individual hair follicles are harvested from the back hairline and surgically transplanted to areas suffering from hair loss. Hair transplants are generally safe and have a 95%+ success rate according to Mayo Clinic. Just be advised this procedure is extremely expensive and not covered by insurance.
If you don’t want to deal with medication or surgery you can consider a non-surgical hair replacement. This involves matching real hair to your hair color. A mold is made of your scalp and a custom hairpiece is created to fit your head. The hairpiece is attached with a surgical-grade adhesive. You simply come back in for regular haircuts and maintenance. You can shower and swim in these custom hairpieces.
Consider your haircut and style as well. The perfect haircut and products can give the illusion of thicker hair. Do your research and find a stylist that specializes in fine, thinning hair.
Look for one that's been in the business for years that deals with female pattern baldness. Not every hairdresser is competent, compassionate or vaguely concerned with women's hair loss issues. When you find someone who is knowledgeable and understands your situation stick with that person.
Wigs or hairpieces offer a great alternative if your hair is too thin for styling. You can choose from human hair or synthetic versions depending on your budget. Human hair is much more expensive and requires regular washing and styling just like your own hair. Synthetics are much more forgiving. You can wash them and the shape bounces back without the need for styling. Synthetic wigs come in a wider variety of styles and the hair fibers last much longer than wigs made from human hair.
Care for Aging Hair
Here are a couple of low-cost ways to treat aging hair from the inside out. Make sure you are getting a well-balanced diet and regular exercise. Consuming the proper nutrients can help strengthen fragile hair and improve shine. Exercise improves blood flow, which in turn, improves skin and scalp health.
You can also look for haircare products formulated to plump up fine, thin hair shafts. If your hair is damaged due to overprocessing or simply brittle due to hormonal changes look for deep conditioning products that tame split ends and nourish your hair from the outside in.
Weak and Brittle Fingernails
Just like your hair, fingernails are made up of keratin. As you age, they are affected by hormonal changes and are prone to thinning and breakage. Fingernails are typically tough as nails. But as you age moisture levels and natural oils in the nail bed go into decline, which leads to weak, dry, brittle nails. On top of that, aging can result in slower-growing nails.
Help for Aging Fingernails
There are some easy preventative measures to take to keep your aging fingernails as healthy as possible:
- Once a week, moisturize and push back your cuticles and keep your fingernails neatly trimmed or filed. Don’t let them get too long. That's just asking for splits and breakage.
- Avoid nail polish if at all possible. Even if you use a “fortifying” formula, nail polish and removers are extremely drying. If you get regular manicures tell your technician you would rather have your nails buffed much like a man’s manicure. Buffing will create a shine similar to wearing clear nail polish. Buffing also stimulates blood flow in the area making your nail beds happy and healthy.
- Soak your nails once a week in extra virgin olive oil or liquid vitamin E. This home remedy is cheap and will help moisturize your cuticles and fingernails.
- Purchase a natural cuticle cream or oil and massage into your fingernails and cuticles each night before bed.
- Wear gloves when performing cleaning and gardening chores. Harsh detergents and household cleansers will do a serious number on your fingernails.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Don’t use your fingernails as tools.
- Drink plenty of water during the day. Water hydrates your entire body--fingernails included.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Linda Chechar