We spend a lot of time, effort, and money on our hair. From getting it cut, styled, and dyed to the products we use every day. Like our skin, our hair changes throughout our lives in response to our age, hormones, and medical conditions.
So how does hair change and what can you expect at different times of your life?
Often, the type of hair you were born with is different from your hair as an adult. Many children are born with lighter hair, which darkens as they get older. Similarly, those born with curly hair may have straight hair later on in life or vice versa.
Our hormone levels affect pretty much everything to do with our health, from the inside to the outside. As we go through puberty, females in particular start producing estrogen in greater amounts, which can cause hair to become thicker and grow faster.
Among other things, hormones are also one of the common causes of dandruff which can start appearing at this time.
After puberty, one of the greatest times of hormonal upheaval (if you choose to have kids) is during pregnancy. Pregnant women will notice changes in their skin, nails, and hair. It is said to be the pregnancy glow. Hair becomes thicker and silkier, nails grow faster and are stronger and skin can glow, though many women experience breakouts.
During pregnancy, the increase in estrogen causes the hair to stay in the follicle for longer, meaning that you have more hair on your head than you typically would. After giving birth, many women find that they lose hair in large amounts. This is due to the drop in hormones and the shedding of hair that should have fallen out naturally during the previous nine months. You will usually start to notice hair thickening and growing faster after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.
In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about and your hair will return to normal. This process may be slower and less noticeable if you’re exclusively breastfeeding or pumping. If you still feel you’re losing too much hair 12 months after giving birth, then you should visit your GP who will be able to do a blood test to see if there are any reasons you might still be experiencing hair loss.
Aging and menopause
As you get older, you might notice that your hair is changing over time. It might not grow as quickly and feel coarse and brittle. It may even go from being straight to curly or vice versa. It will also start to turn grey. Some people notice their first grey hairs in their early 20s, others much later. Usually by the time you’re in your 50s, your hair will have a lot of grey in it, if not be mostly grey.
This is usually hair’s response to our body getting older as well as any genetic predisposition you might have.
Your hair can go through many changes during menopause and perimenopause. You may notice some of the following changes:
- Your hair feels more coarse
- It breaks more easily
- You find it doesn’t grow as long as it used to
- You notice thinning around the hairline, parting and crown
Again, it’s estrogen, or lack of it that has an effect on your hair. Some women find that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help with these issues but you should always consult with your doctor first.
There are also many products on the market that claim to help with thinning and aging hair. A lot of them are a waste of money, so it might be best to get one directly from a trichologist.
A lot about the way we look is down to genetics and that includes hair. Your genetic history can determine the color of your hair, the thickness and even the texture. You may notice how siblings have very similar hair or that male pattern baldness tends to be inherited too. Some people are very lucky and will maintain hair that is think and strong for most of their lives.
Additionally, you may inherit an illness that affects hair growth or texture.
If you’re not only internal factors that influence the look and feel of your hair. What you do to it on a daily basis can also damage it too. Think about what you do to your hair on a regular basis. Chances are you either have it dyed or bleached on order to achieve the color you want. If you keep on top of your color, then you may be having this redone every 1-3 months. Repeated dying and bleaching can damage your hair, making it look bad and be prone to breaking. This can be avoided somewhat by having your hair done professionally or using the right products. Everyone’s hair is different and some people might find theirs more resilient than others to repeated bleaching and dying.
Heat damage from styling tools is also a major cause. Frequent blow-drying, straightening and curling can damage the structure of the hair, making it look brittle and break easily too. Modern styling tools are much better than they used to be as they are made with hair friendly coatings which reduce the amount of time you need to apply heat. Even with these tools, you are still applying hot metal directly to your hair.
There are a lot of hair products out there that claim to reduce or prevent styling damage. Again, some of these work better than others so you might need to try a few first before you find one that’s right for you.
Illness & Medical Treatments
There are a number of medical conditions that can cause hair to change or fall out. The most well known of these is Alopecia areata. This is actually caused by an immune condition that causes the body to attack the hair follicles, which then fall out.
Other medical causes can include:
- Autoimmune disorders such as Lupus
- Thyroid disease
- Scalp infection
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Some of these conditions can be cured and others can be managed with medical care. In many cases, once the underlying cause is removed, the hair begins to recover.
In some cases, it isn’t the medical condition that causes hair changes, but the treatment for another issue. For example, Topirimate, which is used to treat epilepsy and migraine has been shown to cause hair loss in some users, which can continue for months after the drug has been stopped.
Other medications include:
- Acne medications
- Blood pressure medications
- Beta blockers
These are the most common medications where the side effects include hair loss. It won’t necessarily happen to everyone who takes the medication and your doctor will weigh up the pros and cons of taking the medication against the potential side effects.
One of the most well known causes of hair loss side effects is experienced by people receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Hair will usually grow back once treatment stops but can often be a different color, thickness or texture than before.
Our hair is a huge part of our overall self image and self esteem. When it begins to change in a way that we perceive as negatively, then it can cause a lot of distress. There have been many advancement in treatments of a medical and cosmetic nature so there are a lot of options to make your hair look better for longer. So there you go…