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Aging Hair

Just like our skin will start to wrinkle and sag as we get older, our hair will also show signs of aging. Here are the 4 most prominent signs of aging hair:

Turning Gray

The average person notices their first gray hair in their 30s and most people by their 40s. Hair goes gray when cells stop producing pigment (melanin), which happens naturally with age. 

Scalp hair often starts graying usually at the temples and extends to the top of the scalp. Hair color becomes lighter, eventually turning white.

Graying is determined by genes. It tends to occur earlier in Caucasians and later in Asians. Nutritional supplements, vitamins, and other products will not stop or decrease the rate of graying.

Getting Thin

Hair is made of many protein strands. A single hair has a normal life between 3 and 10 years, then it falls out and is replaced with a new hair. How much hair you have on your body and head is also determined by your genes.

With aging nearly everyone has some hair loss with aging. The rate of hair growth also slows.

Hair strands become smaller and have less pigment. So the thick, coarse hair of a young adult eventually becomes thin, fine, light-colored hair. The density of hair is also greatly affected when many hair follicles stop producing new hairs.

Men may start showing signs of baldness by the time they are 30 years old and many men become nearly bald by age 60. A type of baldness related to the male hormone testosterone is called male-pattern baldness. Hair may be lost at the temples or at the top of the head. (Read more about Male Pattern Hair Loss here.)

Women can develop a similar type of baldness as they age. This is called female-pattern baldness. Hair becomes less dense and the scalp may become visible. (Read more about Female Pattern Hair Loss here)

Increase Dryness

The oil glands shrink over time and will get less efficient in producing oil to lubricate the hair, as such the hair is left much drier without sufficient coating.

Brittle Hair

As a person age, the hair also loses some of its elasticity causing it to become brittle. Yet dry, brittle hair is less related to aging and more related to the products use. Hair that is repeatedly treated with chemicals from bleaches, hair straighteners, permanent dyes -- can become stiff, dry and prone to breakage.


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Hair growth cycle


Unlike other mammals, human hair growth and loss is random and not seasonal or cyclic. At any given time, a random number of hairs will be in various stages of growth and shedding. There are three stages of hair growth: catagen, telogen, and anagen.


The catagen phase is a transitional stage that lasts for about 2-3weeks and about 1% of all hairs are in this phase at any time. During this time growth stops and the outer root sheath shrinks and attaches to the root of the hair. This is the formation of what is known as a club hair.


Telogen is the resting phase and accounts for 10-15% of all hairs. This phase lasts for about 3 to 4 months. During this phase the hair follicle is at rest and the club hair is completely formed. These are the hairs you lose when shampooing or combing your hair, about 25-100 Telogen hairs are shed normally each day. At the end of this phase, the hair follicle re-enters the Anagen phase.


Anagen is the active phase of the hair. The cells in the root of the hair are dividing rapidly. If the old hair has not already been shed during the Telogen phase, the new hair will push the club hair up the follicle and eventually out. During this phase, the hair grows about 1 cm every 28 days. Scalp hair stays in this active phase of growth for 3-10 years. Some people have difficulty growing their hair beyond a certain length because they have a short active phase of growth.  At any one time, about 85% of the hair on a person's scalp is at this growing (anagen) phase. However as people age, their rate of hair growth slows.


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At birth, we have approximately 100,000 hair follicles covering our scalp. It is generally believed that this is the largest number of follicles we will ever have and no “new” hair follicles will develop after birth.

Hair has two separate structures - the follicle in the skin and the shaft we see.

hair structure


A hair is a flexible keratin thread about 0.1 mm thick, with great strength and elasticity.

Follicle - The hair follicle is located in the dermis. At the base of the hair follicle is the dermal papilla which is fed by the bloodstream that carries nourishment to produce new hair – it is the point from which hair grows. Surrounding dermal papilla is the onion-shaped hair bulb which new hair is being made inside. New cells are continuously produced in the lower part of the bulb. As they grow and develop they steadily push the previously formed cells upwards.

The follicle is surrounded by two sheaths - an inner and outer sheath. These sheaths protect and mold the growing hair shaft. The inner sheath follows the hair shaft and ends below the opening of a sebaceous (oil) gland. The outer sheath continues all the way up to the gland.
The sebaceous gland produces sebum to condition the hair. More sebum is produced after puberty. The sebum production decreases in both men & women as we age, but more so in women.

Shaft - The hair shaft is made up of three layers. The inner layer is called the medulla. The next layer is the cortex and the outer layer is the cuticle. The cortex makes up the majority of the hair shaft and contains fibers which are important for hair‘s strength and elasticity. 

The cuticle is formed by tightly packed scales in an overlapping structure similar to roof shingles and serves to protect the cortex. There are pigment cells that are distributed throughout the cortex and medulla giving the hair its characteristic colour.

The outer root sheath surrounds the hair follicle and secures the hair shaft within the follicle.