When I was in my teens and twenties, my hair was long, lush, wavy and full bodied and made me look sexy. Now at 48, my hair is thin, the opposite of lush, limp and impossible to deal with. Is this a health problem that my doctor can help me with or is there someone else I can see to get my hair back to the way it was when I was younger.
I am going to use this question as a way of addressing a variety of subject reflecting hair questions that rise from our readership from time to time.
Hair changes with age and often becomes finer. The lushness and full bodied hair you are talking about is the result of the texture of your hair and its thickness. Over the years, our hair changes its character, not only turning gray, but also becoming finer. If you have long hair and you use a hair blower to dry your hair, curlers to add body to it, curling irons to add more body to it, you will damage the hair that you have more with each use. You may have gotten away with it when you were young and your hair was more coarse and your sebum glands were more active in producing the wax that protected your hair; however, at your present age your hair will tolerate less and less of these treatments. Curling iron and hot irons or all kinds, kill hair.
What you need to do is to lubricate your hair, restore hydrophobicity, neutrilize the charges on the negatively charged hair and add lipids (fats to your hair). Think about your fingernails. When the tip breaks, the break propagates further into the fingernail. Hair is like the fingernail and you can not prevent the propagation of the break in the fingernail by putting a gel on it to fix it. Good quality shampoos and rinses, possibly with silicone, will help maintain ‘hair health’. I put quotes around the term ‘hair health’ because you all should know that the hair in our head is keratin which is not alive to the concept of ‘health’ here reflects the preservation of hair qualities and our abilities to make the hair look and feel better to us.
Silicone will smooth the feel of your hair and reduce friction thereby making it easier to comb your hair. When you pull your comb through your hair with any resistance, you break the hair fibers. The silicone in many of the hair products help, but all silicone is not the same. Silicone in our hair products come in different size particles. If smaller particles of silicone are used, they coat the hair better but because they are small but they wash out more easily. Higher quality silicones can be very expensive products, so be careful when you buy them as many are over priced products. When buying a quality product, if you like it, stick with it.
Hair conditioners work to make the electrical charge on the hair more positive. The use of surfactants also has value. Hair is covered with a naturally produced hydrophobic oil (repels water) and the poils are easily damaged bu UV light. As the hydrophobic oils leave the hair, the hair develops a negative electrical charge. The use a surfactants reduces the electrical charge, but may not make the hair as hydrophobic as you may want (repelling water)
I know how important hair is for many people as the focus on your hair grooming takes a considerable amount of time daily. But you must recognize that your hair changes as you age (men and women) and many of the things we do to help our hair, actually damages it. Use a good commercial shampoo made by a reputable suppliers and a good conditioner to ‘top off’ your daily cleaning routine. Once you find the shampoo you like, stick with it. Sulfate free shampoos probably makes no difference in the products you buy. The use of spray-on solutions for UV protection may not work well (long hair as the overall length of the hair, end on end, can be many, many meters long). When you use good hair products, its is about deposition and evenness in its application and putting things on and into long hair is not easy.
Organic shampoos make no difference on your hair health. The use of hyaluronic acid can add moisture so it can be used for moisturization when found in products, but its use is still in a research mode. As hair is normally resistant to water, getting products into the hair can be very difficult but in the research mode, Hyaluronic acid seems to work well for moisturization.
Water conditions in the area you live in vary and may significantly impact the shampoos and conditioners you use. Check with the labels on the products you use and see if it discuss their use in hard water. Some companies put kelators into the products to normalize the water. Copper is the worst thing found in water and kelants can neutralize the impact of copper. Frequent washing of your hair with hard water is bad, so using a conditioner is important. Make sure that the water you use in washing and with conditioners is cooler water, as hot water can damage hair.
There are products that thicken the hair shafts by making it absorb water or by coating the hair shafts to make it look fuller. There are products that produce thicker and fuller hair but this is a difficult area to make recommendations for as many of the product offerings are not really effective. If one thickens the hair shaft by just a little, the overall effect on hair bulk can be very significant considering that the thickening impact reflects the length of the hair measured end-on-end from a bulk point of view. Such products can act as if you have added 5000+ hairs to your head. In some countries, oils are added (e.g. olive oil) which may thicken the hair as it coats each hair shaft.
For hair regrowth, minoxidil is the only game in town that has been proven to grow new hair follicles from balding areas. For frequency recommendations for washing: the less the better. skin has a microbial community and the sebum and flakes cause micro-organizes to eat that fat. These bacteria eat sebum and the unsaturated fatty acids these bugs produce are irritants. Wash 2-3 times a week may be ideal for addressing these ‘bugs’. People with lower hair density and lower hair bulk need less washing because less sebum is produced and the hair shafts have more air movement around them causing more drying. Asians, with their lower densities, might take note here.
Minoxidil is the only game in town for new hair growth. Propecia may work mostly on reversing the miniaturized hairs that are already beginning the genetic slide with androgenic alopecia.