To keep our hair looking good as we age, it needs special attention. Why? The sad story of our hair is that over time, fibers become thinner and begin to drop out — and never regenerate. Pigment cells stop producing as much pigment. Hormones that help stimulate follicle fibers diminish. Then, of course, there’s damage from chemicals used in hair dye.
But don’t despair. There are steps that women can take after menopause to offset these natural changes, says dermatologist Wilma Bergfeld, MD. “You can do a lot to strengthen and repair your hair for a thicker, more lustrous sheen, she says.
Dr. Bergfeld offers these tips to love your hair at any age:
1. Wash less frequently
Don’t overdo shampoo, but you should wash your scalp at least twice per week. Use the type of shampoo — for thick or fine, oily or dry — that best suits your hair type.
2. Don’t forget conditioners and volumizers
These are an important part of the mix. They work like a splint to strengthen your hair, providing more volume per fiber. They also change the electrostatic charge so that fibers stand apart from one another and your hair has more visual volume.
3. If you color your hair, use the right products
Be sure to protect your hair with shampoos or conditioners made specifically for color-treated hair.
4. Eat a complete diet
Be sure you are eating enough overall. “As you age, you start to eat smaller portions because your taste level goes down, and you become nutritionally deficient,” Dr. Bergfeld says. “Usually, when a person says, ‘I’m on a healthy diet,’ they’re on a restricted diet.”
5. Don’t skim on protein
Dr. Bergfeld suggests women eat a little bit of low-fat red meat a couple of times a week. “This captures your protein and other vital nutrients. Also, with age, subtle thyroid disease sneaks in. Patients get a little tired and think it’s old age, but they have mild iron storage anemia.”
6. Check medications with your doctor
Talk to your doctor about how any of your medications could affect your hair, and ask for advice on how to help counteract negative effects. Some drugs for conditions like cardiac disease or lipid-lowering medications can cause shedding of finer fibers, Dr. Bergfeld says. Also, when women stop hormone replacement medication, they should expect a fair amount of hair loss.
“There’s no one who has the hair at 60 or 70 that they had at 15,” Dr. Bergfeld says. ”That’s why it’s important to take care of your hair as you age.”