This post is all about some possible recourses to stop thinning hair after 50. Topics discussed are the potential reasons why hair falls out, the science behind hair growth cycle time, and thinning hair remedies, products, and lifestyle changes.
How to stop thinning hair after 50. This has been one of my obsessive problems to solve over the past 10 years or so since hitting menopause. There are no easy answers, no silver bullets, and believe me, I really wanted them.
The causes of hair loss are multi-faceted, differ between individuals and the science is still early. For all those reasons, I almost didn’t write this post.
But the truth is I couldn’t not write it simply because it is so very relevant to many of us in this age group. The statistics read that (only) about 30-50% of women suffer from thinning hair. My observation and many conversations with age-related women indicate that number is vastly underestimated. Anecdotally, I believe hair thinning affects at least 80% of us.
After years of trial and error and much money spent, my hair, formerly known as thick, is now less thin than it was. I would like to share the tweaking I have done to get there. In fact, before and after photos are posted at the end of this article.
While these suggestions have ultimately worked for me, they may not even be suitable for you. There are many causes of hair thinning including genetics based balding. At a minimum, I hope that you will come away more knowledgeable and as such armed with some possible solutions and ideas you might not have had otherwise.
To begin, let’s first discuss the biology behind hair, hair growth and hair loss.
Hair Loss Journey
In the average course of events, every day about 50-100 hairs fall out of our heads. While the amount of normal hair loss is highly personal and most of us do not count hairs, if we remain observant, we can detect whether hair loss seems unusually high. Some of the signs include:
- Noticeable patches of thin or missing hair
- The hair part gets wider
- Smaller thinner ponytails
- Seeing hair break off
- Observable hair fallout: brush, floor, shower, pillows
Hair Growth Cycle Phases
The hair growth cycle has 3 phases from growth to loss as illustrated below:
What this shows is:
- The majority (85-90%) of the hairs on our head are normally in the Anagen or growth phase which can last many years (6 years+).
- Before a hair falls out, it goes through a transition phase called Catagen during which a hair follicle shrinks.
- The third phase, Telogen, lasts 5-6 weeks or longer at which point the hair finally falls out.
- There are many factors including menopause that can disrupt the hair growth cycle. This would mean that fewer hairs would be in the Growth phase and more would be in the other phases.
- The regrowth phase begins once again with the Anagen Phase.
Types of Hair Loss
I have compiled a chart that provides an overview of 4 of the more common types of hair loss and hair breakage in women over 50. There are many more.
The first 3 Loss Types are all a result of a disruption to the hair follicle in either the Anagen growth phase or Telogen phase. The causes of each of the losses range from hormonal changes, disease, disease treatment and genetic reasons. And, once we hit menopause, our hair becomes thinner, follicles can shrink, hair grows more slowly and falls out more easily.
The 4th Loss Type, Hair Breakage, is when the hair remains in its follicle or root and simply breaks off from its shaft causing thinning hair and hair that cannot grow beyond a certain point. Menopause and dying our hair, for instance, are 2 prime underlying causes that result in more porous weaker hair that is more susceptible to breakage.
Do Sulfates Cause Hair Loss?
Great question! The answer, along with the whole topic of sulfates, is highly controversial and opaque. And as such, deserves airtime. Here are some facts that you may not know. Let me know where you land on the topic. (Spoiler alert: getting rid of as many sulfates as possible has helped me improve my hair loss)
Sulfates are chemicals that are used as cleansers in many different types of products from dish and laundry detergents to shampoos. They are used for their increased lathering effect ostensibly to remove oil and dirt. The two sulfates used in shampoos are:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
Sulfates are not considered “clean” substances because of how they are made: (Palm Oil=destruction of rain forests), health concerns which include possible cancer-causing substances as well as testing on animals. The jury is out on it being a carcinogen, although there is expert consensus that sulfates are considered safe in concentrations below 1%. With that said, most shampoos contain concentrations of 10-25%! Additionally, sulfates can strip natural oils from the scalp making aging hair even more dry and brittle.
This is all especially confounding when in fact, a high lather is not even necessary to get hair and scalp cleanser.
Now that we have some background information on hair growth and hair loss, let’s discuss the 7 steps I have taken (and you can too) to reverse course.
7 Steps to Stop Thinning Hair After 50
Step 1: Hair Dye and Hair Loss
I think the best of all worlds is not to even color hair, however, I am not ready yet to do that. Instead, I have opted to tweak how my hair is colored and how often. Below are coloring suggestions for those of you who do it yourself and for those of you who, like me, outsource the task.
Fewer Hair Coloring Appointments
As hard as it is, this has substantially helped my hair loss. To assist with the pain of longer between-time visits, a root color cover-up comes in very handy. I’ve used many different types and this particular root color does not cost a lot and gets the job done. Good long-lasting adhesion to the hair and easy spray-on.
Gentle Color Process
If you have color-resistant hair and are typically put under heat to help with that, talk to your colorist about alternatives to heat as well as potential alternatives to how she/he is applying the color. With a knowledgeable colorist, this conversation can result in a less damaging color routine modification.
If you color on your own, be aware that not all dyes are created equal. Here is a good article on the least damaging box dyes that you might not have considered: The 10 Least-Damaging Box Hair Dyes.
Step 2: Vitamins for Hair Loss
Vitamins, using the right ones, and taking them consistently throughout a minimum of 90 days are a game-changer for reducing hair loss. While Biotin has been touted as the best to prevent hair thinning, my personal experience is that Biotin alone is not sufficient for sustaining longer-lasting hair growth.
The mind shift in understanding what additional vitamin(s) to choose is to focus on what improves your immune system. Inclusive of Biotin, consider B Complex along with B-12; Vitamin C; Zinc; Vitamin E; Iron; Vitamin D. Horsetail is also a very effective supplement. Again, the common theme here is improving your immune system.
It’s much easier and safer to take a comprehensive vitamin that includes all the above. While I have used many on the market including some very expensive brands, the best for me has been this one:
Another option that worked for me for about 6 months is a hair serum called Vegamour. The serum is not oily and the fragrance is very light. It contains caffeine, turmeric, glycerin and Vitamin B5. The company does stipulate that it takes at least 30 days of consistent and daily application to see results. I found this to be true. As I mentioned, it stopped working after about 6 months, but it did give my hair a good start in regrowth.
Step 3: Sulfate Free Hair Products
I switched over to strictly sulfate-free for everything that touches my hair. I notice a big difference in the increased moisture level of my hair (read: less breakage) and the amount of hair left in my shower (read: hair loss).
Many manufacturers have gotten on the sulfate-free bandwagon in recent times, so lucky for us there are now many good options (and good lathering options) available.
Davines hands down has some of the best sulfate-free shampoos. They are an Italian manufacturer that makes their shampoos cleanly with their own olives/olive oil. They have multiple shampoo lines. A few good all-purpose Davines product lines are OI, Momo, and Love which include shampoos and conditioners. Click on the photo below to access the Davines US website.
Drunk Elephant’s lesser-known Cocomino Glossing Shampoo and Marula Cream Conditioner are very gentle on the hair with just a very faint almond scent.
Click here to buy from Ulta
Step 4: Shampoo Hair Less Often
Every 3-5 days be careful to dry it carefully and gently. This includes fewer blow-dry times.
Step 5: Stress Management
Even in my 20s and 30s, extreme stress would increase hair fallout and the same thing happens now. Learning to minimize and manage it is a worthwhile lifelong endeavor.
Step 6: Sleep and Hair Loss
Bodies don’t function optimally on less-than-needed sleep. See #2 above relative to improving your immune system. 8-9 hours+.
Step 7: Modify Hairstyles
I used to wear my hair pulled up in a bun on the top of my head until I noticed a receding hairline with more hair falling out because of the pulling. This is called “traction alopecia”. Needless to say, I don’t wear my hair like that anymore.
Honorable Mention: Red Light Therapy Cap
I believe there is a lot more to come with red light therapy. In fact, subsequent to the time I originally wrote this, I did a deeper dive into red light therapy here along with a discussion around red light therapy masks. The theory is that it stimulates scalp tissues, and increases oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicle. These caps have been surprisingly successful for some who have very severe hair loss, although I have yet to try them. Hence, it’s an honorable mention.
Growing hair and maintaining that growth requires wearing a cap every day. They are also not inexpensive although, given the severity of hair loss and the possibility of true hair growth, it may be worth the splurge for some.
To learn more about iRestore, click on the image for their website.
To purchase from Amazon, click below.
Some Final Thoughts
This post was all possible recourses to stop thinning hair. Topics included the potential reasons why hair falls out, the science behind hair growth cycles, thinning hair remedies, products, and lifestyle changes.
As promised, below are my before and after photos. This shows 6 months of applying the 7 steps. Good luck to all of you and I welcome hearing about your hair journeys!
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