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Signs of Ageing and Menopausal Hair - and Tips to Style Grey Hair

Eva Proudman, resident hair expert and Chairman of the Institute of Trichologists, shares her expertise on ageing and menopausal hair - including top tips for styling your gorgeous grey locks!

October 15, 2021

Photo showing Maxine Laceby, a white woman in her fifties with short silver hair, she is wearing a beige top and smiling at the camera against a background of grass and trees

October 15, 2021

Hello to all you Absoluters out there! This month, I wanted to talk to you about the signs of ageing and menopausal hair - and how you can keep your locks looking lovely at all stages of life!

As we age, our bodies experience many physical and visible changes, and our hair is no exception. Hair will naturally change in colour and texture over time, so here are some facts to help you to give it the care and attention that it needs to stay looking fabulous.

What is our hair made of?

Our hair is made up of lots of tiny strands of protein. Each hair can have a lifespan of between 2 – 7 years. It grows at around ½ - 1cm per month.

The hair follicle is the second fastest dividing cell in our bodies, and it needs us to really look after it to keep it healthy.

Graphic showing how much human hair grows per month
As our hair ages, the lifespan of each hair becomes shorter with finer hair falling out and regrowing. As well as this normal ageing process other factors such as hereditary traits, endocrine disorders, hormonal changes and nutritional deficiencies can all play a part. 

How does the menopause affect hair?

The menopause can have a major impact on hair.

During the perimenopause, hormone levels start to fluctuate but also our menstrual cycle does too – what was once a light and regular cycle can become a heavy and more frequent cycle. This, in many cases that I see in clinic, leads to a depletion in serum ferritin, our stored iron.

Infographic listing foods good for boosting ferritin (iron) levels
Scientific research shows that low ferritin levels lead to an excessive hair shedding, called telogen effluvium. Keeping our ferritin levels up is key to keeping our hair growing and healthy. Some good food sources for this include red meat, beans, nuts, brown rice, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Additionally, Absolute Collagen can really help to support keeping our ferritin stores topped up as it contains the amino acid lysine, which aids in the absorption of iron.

Why does hair turn grey as we age?

Hair begins to turn grey when the melanocytes that produce the melanin which give the hair its colour begin to deplete and become ineffective. This is largely due to the ageing process but can also be genetically related.

Everyone, regardless of their hair colour, will develop grey hairs, but it is probably more noticeable on dark hair. In fact, the term grey is slightly misleading as the hair is white - it just looks “grey” as a result of being mixed in with normally pigmented hair. This is what gives us that wonderful array of “grey hair” tones.

Grey hair can also change in texture. It is usually finer, but may feel coarse due to a lack of the natural sebum that keeps our hair moisturised, as sebum production also decreases as we age.

Sometimes the hair may develop a curl or kink as it turns grey, but it varies and there isn’t one hard and fast rule.

Research into how the structure of grey hair changes is ongoing and inconclusive, but what does seem to happen is that the underlying structure of the hair changes as the melanocytes become inactive.

Quote graphic from Eva Proudman explaining how grey hair needs washing more frequently than other colours

Why do people go grey at different ages?

There are a few different factors that affect the ages people go grey.

  • Free radicals. These are unstable atoms that damage our health, sin and hair. They cause oxidative stress, which can speed up the process of greying. People who smoke, for example, often find that their hair will turn grey earlier than non-smokers - and don’t underestimate the impact of secondhand smoke, as this can have an effect too.
  • Diet. A poor diet that is low in iron, vitamin D and the B vitamins can also play a role in the process of hair turning grey. A good balanced diet will help, especially including foods that have strong antioxidant properties to help to combat the damage from free radicals.
  • UV rays. Grey hair is more susceptible to UV damage from the sun, so my advice is to invest in a good SPF product for hair.
  • Stress. It may sound obvious, but stress can be a trigger to the hair developing grey strands, so if you can, try to manage the stress in your life - and if you do notice greys beginning to form, don’t stress about it. Grey is beautiful, and many people embrace it and look wonderfully stylish - just look at Maxine herself!

Infographic listing foods that can help fight oxidative stress
How should you style grey hair?

A great cut is the first port of call to keep any hair looking at its best, and grey hair is no different.

Speak to your stylist about what they recommend, and look at maybe adding layers into the hair to keep the grey looking bouncy and full.

Regular shampooing and conditioning are essential, and if you are going to colour it you need to be prepared to keep on top of the regrowth. Remember, if you opt to dye your grey hair a darker shade - say, a rich glossy brunette - the grey will look more obvious than on a lighter shade, like a blonde.

Volumising shampoos and styling products can also be a help to give the hair more structure.

Infographic listing signs of ageing hair

What are the best ways to care for ageing and menopausal hair?

There are lots of ways to keep your hair nourished and well looked after as you age, and especially as you enter the menopause.

Start by reviewing your diet, paying close attention to your daily protein intake.

If you don’t eat enough protein, and your underlying stored vitamin and mineral levels have been depleted, your hair may shed more than usual and become much thinner through the mid lengths to ends.

Eating a balanced diet is your best defence against hair loss - “you are what you eat” couldn't be truer when it comes to your hair!

Make sure your diet includes a balance of protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. It is important to ensure that you have some mono-unsaturated oils such as olive oil as well as essential fatty acids too.

I recommend supplementing a healthy diet with a daily dose of Absolute Collagen, as it’s full of nourishing amino acids that your hair needs. Each little sachet of Absolute Collagen packs a mighty protein punch towards your daily requirement, and is so quick and easy to take!

Consider taking hair-specific vitamin, mineral and protein supplements to help you achieve the correct balance for healthy hair growth. If necessary, you can also take hair follicle treatments such as Minoxidil.

Plus, get active! You might be surprised to learn that exercise can boost hair health, but activity helps us to manage stress that can have a real negative effect on your hair as it raises the androgen levels in your body.

You don’t need to run a marathon - gentle exercise is very helpful. Yoga is great for helping with relaxation and reducing stress. Walking, attending an exercise class, going for a bike ride - whatever your favourite activity is, getting active will have a positive effect not just on your hair but also the other side effects that come with the menopause such as mood swings, weight gain and insomnia. All of these are really important in maintaining a good hormonal balance which ultimately promotes healthy hair growth.

List of the amino acids in Absolute Collagen alongside the benefits each amino acid has for hair
Remember to be gentle with your hair!

Our hair can’t tell us when it’s distressed - it needs us to stay informed about how best to care for it!

Always remember to use a good shampoo and conditioner - these are the basics for keeping the hair and scalp clean, balanced, and moisturised.

It’s important to dial down the heat, keeping heated styling to a minimum. This really supports the hair's overall health. If you do need to use heat to style your hair, always use a thermal protection product.

Why not embrace a new chapter in your life and change your colour and your style? Don’t be afraid to ring the changes - sometimes a good restyle can make the hair look thicker and fuller, as can clever styling tricks from your hairdresser. Trust the professionals to know what’s best!

And speaking of professionals, consider consulting a trichologist if you are worried about the effects of ageing on your hair. Trichologists are experts who work specifically with the hair and scalp, and will be able to advise you about any possible conditions that you may have, and, more importantly, how to manage and treat them to optimise the overall health of your hair.

And remember, when you subscribe to Absolute Collagen, you’ll be able to contact me directly to discuss your hair concerns. I am here to support the Absoluter community and look forward to hearing from you.

Headshot of Eva Proudman alongside a short bio detailing her expertise as a trichologist

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