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3 Tips To Fight Back Against Damaged Hair After 40
If you’ve been staring at your hair in the mirror wondering what the heck happened to it once you turned 40, a new study has the answer. Thanks to previous research, we know that the hair shaft becomes thinner and more brittle over time, and now new findings in theJournal of Cosmetic Dermatologystudy reveal that the hair’s cuticle also becomes more fragile as a woman enters her 40s and 50s, making strands more susceptible to breakage and dryness.
Researchers from Gifu University in Japan collected hair fibers from 121 women, ranging from ages 10 to 70, and found that in women younger than 40, hair showed signs of damage to the hair’s outer cuticle, the kind you get from everyday wear and tear (heat styling, exposure to the elements, etc.). But after you hit 40, the damage begins to go deeper, extending to the hair’s inner cuticle, known as the endocuticle.
This type of damage is a result of the body’s reduced ability to repair itself, says Nicole Rogers, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University. In your 20s and 30s, the body (including your hair) bounces back from outside damage fairly quickly. But as you hit middle age, hair breaks down more quickly and the outer cuticle is repaired at a slower rate, leaving the inner cuticle vulnerable to the same outside attacks it once was shielded from.
MORE:Why The Heck Is My Hair Falling Out?
But you don’t have to just soldier through days of constant splitting ends and bone-dry hair—there are steps you can take to decrease the damage to your hair.
1. Go easy on coloring
Keep hair dye jobs as minimal as possible, sticking to shades that don’t require bleach or opting for partial highlights instead of going light all over. The intense chemical processes it takes to brighten brown hair to, say, platinum blonde, makes it more porous and subject to breakage, says Rogers. (Check out the best hair colors for women over 40.)
2. Style smarter
Use styling products that contain silicone or dimethicone, which coat your strands and protect the hair shaft in addition to making hair look fuller and thicker. Before you heat style, prep hair with a heat shielding spray like Alterna Bamboo Smooth Anti-Breakage Thermal Protectant Spray (; ulta.com), which contains strengthening organic bamboo extract and reparative organic kendi oil. Rogers suggests getting heat styling tools with temperature gauges and keeping them at the lowest possible temperature settings. When blowing hair dry, keep the nozzle at least 6 inches away from strands, and also on the lowest heat setting.
3. Stack your diet
To strengthen hair from the inside out, Rogers recommends women consume the required 40 to 46 grams of protein each day (you shouldn’t need to supplement to hit this number) since hair strands are composed of mostly protein, along with adequate iron intake (about 18 mg daily for women under 50 and 8 mg for women over 50).
Video: 10 Tips to Recover from Damaged Curly Hair
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