Once a dreaded condition synonymous with aging, natural gray hair is now celebrated — even envied — by the young and older alike. But even if you are among the 75 percent of women ages 16 to 65 who color their strands, according to a Statistic Brain Research Institute study, your hair may show other telltale signs of aging. With new technology in hair care, you no longer have to simply brush them off.
Genetics play a role in hair health, but environment and nutrition can make or break (pun intended) your strands. Protein and iron deficiencies are often the roots of abnormal hair loss and dull-looking hair. As Dr. Alan Bauman, a prominent hair restoration physician, affirms, “When your body thinks it’s starving, it doesn’t make ‘luxury’ items like hair. Just as there’s no way to stop getting older, there’s no way to keep hair from aging. All you can do is maintain hair’s health and give it the nutrients it needs to be strong.” One of our go-to sources for incremental protein is Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. Add daily to a smoothie, shake, or cup of tea.
To help with all your non-nutrition-related hair issues, we tapped Roberto Gonzales, senior colorist at Carter Barnes in Atlanta, for recommendations.
Problem: You’re not ready to go gray.
Solution: Reversing gray requires more than a box of drugstore color. A good colorist can ensure you get the shade you want without damaging fragile hair. “Talk about your natural color and the level of maintenance you can handle,” Gonzales says. “Many [women] opt to go blond, as it blends in best with gray, but this does require significant upkeep.” Be prepared that achieving your ultimate shade may take time. Gonzales says, “If you’ve been a brunette in the past, it’s a gradual process transforming hair from brown to light brown to blond, with three- to four-week intervals to achieve color.” Gonzales suggests highlights to speed the process along.
Problem: You grew out your gray, but it looks yellow and sad.
Solution: A violet shampoo is a must for gray hair, since it neutralizes yellow and diminishes brassiness. Gonzales recommends Aveda’s Blue Malva, Pravana’s The Perfect Blonde, or Tressa’s Watercolors Violet Washe.
Problem: Your salon color fades too fast.
Solution: Gray and graying hair loses salon color quicker and appears drier and duller faster. Gonzales turns to hair masks to deliver much-needed conditioning and hydration. Kérastase Resistance Masque Force Architecte, Oribe Signature Moisture Masque, and Monat Replenish Masque are among his faves.
Problem: Your tresses are frizzy or dry and brittle.
Solution: To calm frizz, Gonzales recommends a Coppola keratin treatment or Brazilian Blowout. Both soften and smooth hair for up to 12 weeks. (Full disclosure: The Brazilian Blowout is not proven to be formaldehyde free.) For a less expensive approach try Ouai’s Anti-Frizz Hair Sheets. Created by celebrity hair stylist Jen Atkin, the single-use hemp sheets deliver an aromatic combo of coconut oil and shea butter to leave hair shiny, smooth, and flyaway free.
There are fewer solutions for dry and brittle hair. Like the rest of our bodies, aging hair does not bounce back from damage as quickly. Gonzales cautions against overuse of heat tools, as they often irritate the scalp, triggering oil glands to overproduce. To minimize chemical damage, spread out salon services. Coloring and straightening in one visit may save you time, but it will cause significant stress on your tresses. While hair masks can restore locks in the short term, Gonzales turns to multitaskers like Monat Rejuvabeads Split End Mender, Kérastase Resistance Serum Extentioniste, Monat Rejuvenique Oil Intensive to help repair dry, brittle strands.
Problem: Your hair seems to be falling out in clumps.
Solution: The American Academy of Dermatology confirms that we shed 50 to 100 hairs daily. Gonzales adds that even normal hair loss can look like a lot because much of it occurs while we are shampooing, but stress and hormonal imbalances may increase hair loss. “Stress shedding affects the entire scalp about three to four months after a major event,” he says. “While heredity hair loss usually affects the front hairline.” Gonzales’ hair loss hero is FDA-approved Rogaine 5% Minoxidil, as it prolongs hair’s growing phase while diminishing the resting phase and revitalizes hair follicles. Rogaine’s clinical studies show that 81 percent of women regrow hair in 24 weeks with daily use. Alternatively, a dietary supplement may bolster hair growth. Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, an integrative medicine physician and author who specializes in women’s health, says she has had good success in her practice with her Lush Locks daily vitamin. Beyond products, Gonzales notes that your stylist can help the appearance of thinning hair with the right cut and styling techniques.
Problem: Your locks lack the va-va-va-voom they once had.
Solution: Chalk it up to hair spending more time in the resting (versus growing) phase. As loss of volume reflects the health of your scalp — much more so than strands of hair themselves — Gonzales recommends treatments such as Aveda Pramāsana Protective Scalp Concentrate and Alterna Caviar Repair Lengthening Hair & Scalp Elixir for a healthier scalp that can produce longer, stronger strands.