When you've gotten accustomed to styling your hair a certain way and making the most of its texture, it can be startling to find it changing. Many different things can change the texture of your hair. While you may not be able to reverse undesired changes in your hair completely, there are some things you can do to help.
As you get older, especially after age 35, your hair follicles start producing less melanin. Melanin is what gives color to your hair. However, your hair doesn't actually turn gray. Once your hair follicle produces a hair, it won't change color on its own. When that hair falls out, it may be replaced by a new hair that has less color. Gray hair tends to be drier since your hair follicles produce less sebum as you age. This is what causes the change in your hair's texture as you age.
Undergoing chemotherapy can cause your hair to fall out, and the hair that grows back may be a different texture. Many people find that their hair grows back curly when it used to be straight. The shape of your hair follicle determines whether your hair is curly or straight. Your hair follicle may collapse when your hair falls out, which can cause your hair to grow back curly. Your hair follicles may also become twisted during chemotherapy.
Your hormone levels can affect the quality and quantity of your hair growth. Any time you experience major hormonal changes, you may also experience changes in your hair.
Pregnancy and postpartum
During pregnancy, you have high levels of estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and growth factors. These hormones can cause your hair to grow faster and to grow in thicker. Many pregnant women experience this as part of the "glow" of pregnancy. Unfortunately, after your baby is born, your hormones eventually return to their normal levels. When this happens, you'll probably start noticing a good bit of hair loss.
With menopause, your estrogen level falls, but your level of the male hormone androgen stays the same for longer. This imbalance in male and female hormones can cause you to lose hair and cause the hair you do have to become thinner. You may also notice excessive growth of facial hair.
Over or underactive thyroid gland
If you have prolonged hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), it can affect your hair growth. You may experience thinning all over your entire scalp rather than your hair falling out in patches. Because of the long length of the hair growth cycle, you probably won't notice hair loss until several months after you develop thyroid disease. Once you treat your thyroid disease, your hair should return to normal, though it may take a while.
Thyroid diseases are usually caused by autoimmune diseases. People who develop one autoimmune disease are more likely to develop another. Alopecia areata is another autoimmune disease that can cause hair loss. Alopecia areata causes hair to fall out in circular patches rather than all over. Other autoimmune diseases that may cause hair changes include lupus erythematosus and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Caring for your changing hair
Regardless of the reason for your hair's changing texture, here are some tips for taking care of your hair at any age:
Don't wash too often
Washing your hair too often will cause it to become dry and brittle. Wash your hair twice a week with a shampoo designed for your hair type, which may be normal, oily, or dry.
Use conditioners and volumizers
Conditioners help replenish the oils that shampoo strips from your hair. This can be especially important for gray hair that doesn't have as much oil to begin with. A volumizer can plump up your hair and make it look thicker and healthier.
See a professional
If you decide to color your hair, go to a professional rather than do it yourself. At-home dye kits are often very drying and damaging to the hair, and a trained stylist can help you decide on the right type of hair color to use on your hair and help you pick out the best hair care products.
Minimize heat-styling products
Try not to use heat-styling products such as blow dryers, hot curlers, and straightening irons. The heat from these can damage your hair. If you do use them, pretreat your hair with a protective treatment to shield it against damage.
Eat a healthy protein-rich diet
Your hair follicles are made of protein, so make sure you're getting enough in your diet. You should also make sure you're getting sufficient nutrients by eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Talk to your doctor about your medications
Some medications can affect your hair. If you've noticed changes in your hair, talk to your doctor to make sure the medicine you're taking isn't the cause.
British Thyroid Foundation: "Hair loss and thyroid disorders."
Cancer Hair Care: "New hair growth commonly asked Q&A."
Cleveland Clinic: "Your Guide to Aging, Thinning Hair: 5 Simple Tips."
International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Hormonal Effects on Hair Follicles."
Library of Congress: "Why does hair turn gray?"
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