The ageing process has many visible signs, but perhaps none more noticeable than the changes getting older can cause to our hair.
Here we outline three key effects of ageing on hair growth and hair loss, that apply to both men and women, generally from their mid 30s onwards.
Hair growth slows down
The hair growth cycle comprises three separate stages: Anagen, Catagen and Telogen.
First is the Anagen phase during which there is rapid cell renewal in the follicle bulbs causing new hairs to actively grow. This usually lasts around 2 to 7 years. Next is the Catagen transitional phase where the hair growth pauses for around two weeks.
The final three-month long Telogen stage is where the fully grown hairs start working their way out until they are shed (this hair fall is sometimes referred to as a separate phase known as ‘Exogen’). The process then starts from the beginning again.
As we get older, the Anagen phase gradually becomes shorter and the Telogen stage simultaneously becomes longer. This results in slower hair growth.
Hair becomes thinner and less pigmented
In terms of going grey, hair follicles produce melanin which is responsible for pigmentation and determines hair colour.
Ageing is generally accompanied by a drop in follicular melanin production, often starting when a person reaches their 30s. This results in lighter, greying hair which may eventually turn white.
Although this biological process explains the mechanics of why hair goes grey, genetics are heavily involved in determining whether or not, or to what extent grey hair may develop. For example, Caucasians are more likely to turn grey earlier than Asians who tend to retain their dark hair colour for longer. There are external factors which are thought to speed up the greying process, one of which is smoking.
The hair also may become dry or more coarse in texture due to the body slowing down production of sebum and collagen as we age; collagen is a protein involved in ensuring the hair is kept strong and supple, whilst sebum keeps the scalp and hair moisturised.
Decreasing collagen levels have also been associated with age-related hair loss. This refers to a general drop in hair volume and the hair becoming thinner.
Hair loss becomes more likely
Androgenetic Alopecia – more commonly known as Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) and Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL) – is the main reason for people losing their hair later in life. However, it should not necessarily be associated with ‘old age’.
Genetically predisposed men and women can actually start to develop signs of this type of hair loss any time following puberty.
Typically genetic hair loss, which affects the top of the scalp from crown to hairline and temple regions only, has tended to develop later in life for women than for men. Now, thought to be thanks to a number of lifestyle factors and the general stress of modern life – stress being a well-known cause of shedding – both men and women are tending to start losing their hair at at earlier age than previous generations.
However, the likelihood of developing these hereditary conditions does still significantly increase with age. Whilst pattern hair loss may start to develop when a person is in their 20’s or 30’s, the incidence rate accelerates as time goes by.
By the time both men and women are 40 years of age 40 per cent are likely to show noticeable signs of hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Whilst the British Association of Dermatology states: “It affects about 50% of men over the age of 50… In women, the age of onset is later compared to male pattern hair loss, usually occurring in the 50s or 60s. Occasionally, FPHL in women may start earlier than this, in the 30s or 40s.”
Men will usually see defined areas of shedding appear, such as a receding hairline, and/or a thinning crown, whilst women are more likely to experience diffuse shedding along the top of the scalp, with thinning hair at the temples and their parting becoming wider.
What can be done about age-related hair thinning?
The first port of call for anyone experiencing unusual levels of shedding or noticeable hair loss is to visit a professional. A consultation at a dedicated hair loss clinic will provide you with a diagnosis of the cause, which will then allow the specialist to recommend a customised hair loss treatment course.
In the case of Androgenetic Alopecia, this will likely include one or both of the only clinically-proven, MHRA-licensed and FDA-approved medications – one topical and one oral (though the tablet form is only suitable for men aged 18 and over) to help prevent baldness and promote hair growth.
Further hair growth supporting products may be recommended for use alongside these medications, based on the individual’s needs.
In addition to medical suitability, the patient’s age is also taken into consideration as there are established upper age limits for certain hair loss solutions, which will be discussed during the consultation.
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.