As you embark on the journey of aging, you may find yourself navigating through an array of changes in your body, including the texture and volume of your hair. More than just an aesthetic concern, understanding the science behind age-related hair thinning and loss is essential for women in their 40s and beyond.
From exploring the impact of aging on the hair growth cycle to uncovering the role of essential vitamins and lifestyle choices, we will equip you with the knowledge and practical tips to foster healthy, lustrous locks through every stage of life.
Understanding Hair Loss in Aging Women
Hair loss is a common concern that affects many women, with more than half of the female population experiencing it at some point in their lives. Any woman can experience hair loss, but it’s more common in:
- Menopausal women
- Women who have just given birth
- Women older than 40
- Women on certain medications, including chemotherapy
- Women who wear tight hairstyles (ponytail, bun, tight braids)
Understanding the hair growth cycle helps us grasp the reasons behind hair loss. We can divide the life cycle of a hair strand into three main stages.
- When the hair is actively growing from the hair follicle, it is in the anagen stage. This can last 2-8 years.
- The catagen stage is when the hair stops growing and prepares to shed. This lasts up to 3 weeks.
The final stage is the telogen phase. The hair sheds, and the follicle remains dormant for around 3 months before new hair growth begins.
What Causes Hair Loss in Aging Women?
There are many factors that can contribute to hair loss in women, but let’s talk about some of the more common ones.
As a woman, you're likely well-acquainted with the ever-changing landscape of your hormones. These hormonal fluctuations can have a significant impact on various aspects of your health, including the health of your hair.
During menopause, there's a major shift in hormone levels, particularly in estrogen and progesterone. These hormone levels decrease during menopause, and it can lead to increased effects of androgens, the male hormones. This hormonal shift can manifest in different ways—you might notice your hair thinning, or even growing in places it doesn’t usually grow.
Another vital player in the hair game is your thyroid hormones. These hormones directly influence the hair growth cycle and even its pigmentation. Thyroid imbalances, particularly hypothyroidism, can have noticeable effects on the health and appearance of your hair.
Extreme emotional or physical stress causes a hormone response from the body. Increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline affect many of our bodily functions, including hair growth. In one particular type of hair loss called telogen effluvium, stress pushes the hair follicles into their resting phase. Within a couple of months, the hair falls out, and the cycle starts over.
- Iron: Iron deficiency is a common cause of hair loss, but the exact degree of its contribution remains uncertain. Certain populations, such as premenopausal women, vegans, and vegetarians, are at higher risk for iron deficiency. Although studies on the link between iron deficiency and hair loss yield conflicting results, addressing iron deficiency on a case-by-case basis is recommended. Increasing iron intake with dietary sources and oral iron supplementation can help achieve adequate iron levels.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D isn't just for strong bones and a healthy immune system; it's also linked to hair health. Data suggests it plays a role in hair follicle cycling. In one study, hair loss caused by low vitamin D levels showed improvement with vitamin D supplementation.
- B vitamins: Deficiency in B vitamins, particularly Biotin (B7), Folate (B9), and B12, can have noticeable effects on hair health and skin. When the body lacks these essential nutrients, it can lead to hair loss and dry, flaky skin. B vitamins play a crucial role in maintaining healthy hair and skin because they are involved in the production of keratin, a protein that makes up the structure of hair, nails, and the outer layer of the skin. While the link between B vitamin deficiency and hair loss is well-established, the effectiveness of supplementing B vitamins for promoting hair growth in individuals with deficiency is a topic of ongoing research.
Zinc: Zinc is a vital nutrient our bodies can't make by themselves; we need to get it from our diet (main sources are fish and meat). Not getting enough zinc has been shown to cause hair loss. However, the link between zinc levels and hair loss is not always clear-cut. While some studies suggest that zinc supplements could help, it's still a debate among experts.
What Women Can Do to Help Hair Growth
Women in their 40s and beyond can take proactive steps to support hair growth and maintain healthy locks. One essential aspect is diet and nutrition. Incorporating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, including those that aid in hair health like vitamin D, iron, and zinc, can combat deficiencies that may contribute to hair thinning. Focus on foods like lean meats, fish, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains to ensure you're getting the nutrients your hair needs to thrive.
If adding to your diet poses as a challenge, hair supplements are a great option. WILLO Hair Growth Support Capsules feature a clinically-studied, patented ingredient called Lustriva™ to support thicker, fuller hair & healthy hair growth. WILLO also contains a number of hair & scalp nutrients (both vitamins and minerals), plus high-quality, hair-loving ingredients like saw palmetto and holy basil extract. Learn more about the product here.
Lifestyle adjustments are another key element. Stress management is crucial, as chronic stress can lead to hair loss. Finding ways to relax, whether through meditation, yoga, or simply enjoying hobbies, can make a significant difference. Regular exercise improves circulation, which can benefit your hair follicles. Getting enough sleep is essential for overall well-being, including the health of your hair.
How to Reduce Hair Loss
In addition to dietary and lifestyle changes, adopting proper hair care practices can help reduce hair loss. Using gentle shampoos and avoiding excessive heat styling can help prevent damage. Finally, for those facing persistent hair loss issues, medical treatments and interventions can be explored. Consulting with a healthcare professional or dermatologist can provide insights into potential treatments, including medications or procedures to address hair loss concerns. By combining these approaches, women can take meaningful steps to support their hair growth and overall hair health as they embrace the aging process.