14 Everyday Mistakes That Are Aging Your Hair
Some hair thinning can be expected leading up to menopause, thanks to hormonal changes. But any one of these things could be making it worse.
You don’t give much thought to your scalp
There’s only so much you can do with hair products. “All of us are more about instant gratification,” says celebrity stylist Nunzio Saviano, founder of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York. “You do all the things you’re supposed to do on the outside, but you’re not taking care of the root of the problem—and the root of the problem is taking care of the scalp and hair follicles.” The older you get, the more you lose the small veins in your scalp, meaning your hair follicles aren’t getting the nutrients they need, he says. One easy way to get the blood flowing—and make your hair lush again—is by giving your hair that classic 100 strokes a day. Sure, it might smooth your hair, but best of all, it stimulates your scalp.
You have the wrong hairbrush
Those plastic-knobbed brushes might be cheap, but they’re not doing your hair any favors. The plastic can easily snag hair, damaging tresses. Instead, buy a boar bristle brush, which will stimulate the scalp without harming your hair, recommends New York City-based TV hair stylist Laura Burns. “They kind of glide through the hair and don’t pull it,” she says.
You wash your hair every day
The texture of your hair might change as you get older for the same reason that you’ve been noticing your skin is losing its glow: Your skin stops secreting as much oil, says dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD. She recommends cutting back on how often you wash your hair—stick to about two or three times a week—and using a gentler shampoo when you do suds up. A sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner will keep your scalp and hair from drying out too much in the shower, she says.
You’re always pulling your hair back
A ponytail is a lifesaver on a bad hair day, but making it your daily style could contribute to the thinning that already happens naturally with age. “When a ponytail is really tight, it’s a lot of pressure on the follicle,” says Saviano. “Day after day, the follicle just gives in, and you lose that hair.” Resist pulling your hair back unless you really need to, and during activities like a workout, try to keep the ponytail loose so you aren’t putting so much stress on your roots.
You rely on dry shampoo
“Dry shampoo is probably one of the worst products you can use because it just clogs the pores,” says Saviano. Using it once or twice a week is fine, he adds, but using it day after day will interfere with healthy oils your hair needs to retain its youthful luster. For a better anti-aging hair care routine, make sure you’re washing your hair a couple of times a week; shampooing your roots helps stimulate the scalp, says Saviano.
You use heavy, sticky products
Pomades and mousses may have worked wonders when your hair was younger and thicker, but if it’s thinning now, those heavy products are no longer the right choice. “Be gentle: Don’t use a product that is too sticky—nothing you put in and then have to really pull to work the brush through your hair,” says Burns.Using products that stiffen your hair is just one of the hairstyle mistakes that age your face—and you should avoid them. Swap out mousse and root boost for lighter products, like a gentle volumizer or a hair tonic, she suggests.
You load up on product
It’s not just about what you use; it’s how much. “Less is better,” says Saviano. The more creams, serums, and sprays you layer onto your hair, the heavier and duller it will look—which is just the opposite of what you need from anti-aging hair care. Give your hair bounce and shine by cutting back on the amount of product you use.
You spend a ton of time in the sun
You wouldn’t go out in the sun without protecting your skin—right?—so the same should go for your hair. UV damage from the sun can dry out strands and make hair color fade faster, says Dr. Shainhouse. She recommends wearing a wide-brimmed hat to block those harmful rays. “It will keep the sun off of your face, ears, and scalp, which are susceptible to age spots, premature wrinkling, sunburn, and developing skin cancer,” she says.
You don’t give pollution a second thought
Sunlight isn’t the only danger to your hair in the great outdoors. Wind and changes in humidity can make your hair frizzy, compelling you to try and tame it with products and heat. And toxins in air pollution can do a number on your tresses. “They produce free radicals reactive oxygen species that damage hair cells and disrupt the normal biochemistry of hair, thus making hair age faster and damage prone,” says cosmetic surgeon Sonam Yadav, MBBS, medical director of Juverne. To protect yourself, try a protective product like Moroccanoil Protect & Prevent Spray or Nexxus City Shield Hair Crème.
You straighten or curl your hair every day
Curling irons and flat irons may give your hair the style you want, but all that heat is very hard on your hair. Your hair already loses moisture and softness as you age; using hot tools makes your tresses even drier and more brittle, says Saviano. “In general, the less you use them, the better it is,” he says. Air drying your hair is just one of the 50 everyday habits that make you look younger.
Your diet is lacking key nutrients
“Menopause causes thinning and fall of hair in almost all women due to the decrease in estrogen levels that are a normal part of menopause,” says Dr. Yadav. Some cases are more extreme, with women noticing the patchy balding called female pattern hair loss. Eating iron- and calcium-rich foods like spinach, dairy, and eggs can help. If hair loss is extreme and noticeable work with your doctor to rule out underlying medical issues that could be throwing your hormones out of whack. Watch out for these other signs your hair is desperate for certain nutrients.
You’ve been skipping your workouts
Exercise is great for your heart, brain, and pretty much every other part of your body—hair included. If you’ve been getting less physical activity as you age, your body isn’t the only part of you that’s missing out. Anti-aging hair is dependent on the blood-pumping benefits of a healthy circulatory system. “Get as much circulation as you can get,” says Burns. “Blood flow to the scalp is great.”
Your shampoo is too intense
B-D-S Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock
As your hair gets drier through the years, a clarifying shampoo might be too strong. “Using a heavier shampoo like detoxifying shampoos might strip natural oils from the hair,” says Saviano. “You feel squeaky clean, which is good, but if you’re not using conditioner, your hair will look dull.” Talk to your stylist about the right shampoo and conditioner for your hair type.
You ignore self-care
Emotional and physical stress take a toll on your body, and your body might respond by putting the breaks on some of your hair follicles, says Dr. Shainhouse. To keep stress from making age-related hair loss more pronounced, make sure you’re addressing sources of chronic stress in your life. Talk to a mental health provider about coping strategies, or pick up stress-busting activities like meditation and exercise. Check out these 12 little things that happen to your body after just 15 minutes of meditation; you’ll be amazed.