Your hair is a part of your identity. It tells the world so much about you, from whether you’ve overslept to how adventurous and creative you are. If you’re like so many other women, how you feel about your hair might even be tied to your self-esteem and feelings of attractiveness.
That’s why it’s so frustrating that your hair will likely change, thin, and even fall out as you age. Fifty percent of all women will experience hair thinning and loss before they’re 50. Although there are many causes, it’s often just another natural — and unwelcome — part of aging.
But here’s the good news: While there isn’t a cure-all for age-related hair thinning or hair loss, there are certain lifestyle and dietary changes you can make to help keep your hair healthy and looking beautiful well into your golden years.
Age-Related Hair Changes 101
As you age, your hair sheds faster than it regrows. For some, this can cause noticeable thinning over the entire scalp. For most women, hair loss is a result of genetic predispositions, changes in hormone levels (especially around menopause), or other natural changes that come with age.
But certain situations and behaviors can damage tresses or even cause hair loss. Extreme stress or traumatic life events — from the loss of a loved one to surgery — can lead to excessive shedding. Poor nutrition and drastic dieting/weight loss are other culprits. Even how you style your hair contributes to its health. Frequently using bleach, dyes, or other harsh products; repeatedly wearing tight ponytails, buns, or braids; and even regularly using curling wands or flat irons can make hair prone to breakage.
There are simple ways you can gauge the health of your hair before it starts thinning. If your hair feels brittle, tangles easily, has lots of split ends, or lacks the shine and bounce it once had, it’s time to make changes that will give your hair more strength and resilience.
Easy Actions for Healthier Hair
Maintaining the health of your hair isn’t a complicated process. In fact, it’s just two simple steps.
First, you must reduce the stress on your body. You can do this by exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep. If life gets especially hectic or overwhelming, relax by praying, meditating, or engaging in a hobby you enjoy.
Secondly, ensure you’re consuming a healthy, balanced diet every day. If your hair is in need of an extra support boost, talk to your doctor about increasing your intake of these five hair-strengthening vitamins:
1. Biotin: This is a vitamin B complex that helps produce keratin — an essential ingredient for strong, vibrant hair. Biotin deficiency can cause hair to be dry and brittle, so make sure you get the recommended 30 to 100 micrograms every day. Biotin can be taken as a supplement or found in foods like oats, green peas, lentils, brown rice, bulgur wheat, and brewer’s yeast.
2. Vitamin A: Rich in antioxidants, vitamin A is important for eye, cell, and hair health as you age. It aids in the production of sebum — a natural oil on the scalp that prevents dryness and reduces hair breakage. You can get the recommended 700 micrograms of vitamin A from supplements and/or foods like cod liver and krill oils, peaches, spinach, and carrots. But be careful not to regularly consume more than 750 micrograms a day — too much can lead to vitamin A toxicity.
3. Vitamin E: This is another source of antioxidants that fight free radical damage to skin and hair. It also improves the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, providing the scalp with the resources it needs to grow more hair. Foods rich in vitamin E include beans, nuts, leafy greens, soybeans, and wheat germ oil, or it can be consumed through oral supplements. Again, be sure to stick to the recommended daily dose for adults, 15 milligrams, as higher amounts of vitamin E can cause blood thinning over time.
4. Pantothenic Acid: Also known as vitamin B5, pantothenic acid has been shown to prevent graying and hair loss associated with aging by strengthening the hair follicles and ridding your scalp of excess dead skin. Pantothenic acid is included in most vitamin B complex supplements, but it’s also found in eggs, fresh meat (particularly kidney and liver), fresh vegetables, and whole grains.
5. Inositol: Although it’s not widely known, inositol plays a pivotal supporting role for a number of bodily functions like keeping the cells of the brain, intestines, eyes, and bone marrow healthy. Inositol is also believed to slow hair loss and increase hair growth, especially when combined with choline. Inositol is found in cantaloupe, citrus fruits, beans, whole grain bread, and brewer’s yeast, as well as in supplement form.
Hair loss is a natural part of aging, but you don’t have to let it define you. Making a few simple lifestyle and dietary changes can combat age-related hair loss and keep your locks growing healthy and strong for years to come.