You don't need to be going gray for your hair to show signs of aging. Here's how to keep your locks looking young.
Photo: Koy Jung / Shutterstock.com
Here's a fun fact: Your hair quality changes decades before you start noticing grays, but the aging can be so subtle at first that you may not spot the damage until years later. In other words, when it comes to hair, it's never too early for some serious maintenance.
You may not think of protecting your hair from aging like you do your skin. But even in your 20s and 30s, hair becomes thinner and duller, with less volume and bounciness over time, says Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist (a specialist in hair and the scalp) and spokesperson for Philip Kingsley, a hair care line started by her father.
It can also become more difficult to grow longer locks. "Many women report that their parting seems wider, their scalp is more visible as they get older, and their hair will not grow as long."
But there's good news, too. There's a growing body of research on how to keep hair in top shape—plus new hair-care options that go way beyond deep conditioner. Here, a look at some of the new products and not-so-obvious tricks to keep locks looking youthful.
Start a scalp routine.
Giving your scalp some TLC doesn't just feel good—it can also improve your hair follicles for stronger, longer hair. "Treat your scalp like you would your face and adapt a scalp routine for optimal hair growth," says Kérastase celebrity hairstylist Jennifer Yepez. Make a routine of exfoliating to get buildup away from hair follicles (try Goop's Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub, $42; goop.com). Use a hair sheet mask for a dose of moisture (try L'Oréal's Everpure Intense Repair hair sheet mask, $4; amazon.com) and a scalp-specific serum to strengthen hair follicles (such as Kérastase's Sérum Extentioniste, $51; kerastase-usa.com). End with a simple DIY scalp massage to work in treatments. (Related: The Healthy Scalp Tips You Need for the Best Hair of Your Life)
Get a cell-rebuilder.
Battling early grays? Some users of nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3 that boosts your body's ability to keep high levels of NAD (a co-enzyme for cells that we lose as we age), report that the supplement turns graying hair back to its original color and prevents more grays. While there are no studies specifically on graying hair, there are promising studies on the supplement itself and NR researcher Charles Brenner, Ph.D., has spoken about anecdotal hair and nail growth. The supplement already has a cult following as users report more energy as an added perk. One Amazon best-selling option to try: Tru Niagen's B3 supplement version ($40; amazon.com).
Track results with a vitamin cocktail.
Taking vitamins and supplements can help slow down the aging process, says Yepez, who uses two hair vitamin formulas on a daily basis including Nutrafol ($88; nutrafol.com). The key though is to skip single-ingredient vitamins (like vitamin E) and go for a formula with multiple vitamins known to help growth of healthy hair, such as Grown Alchemist's hair complex ($75; barneys.com).
Supplements including biotin, silica, and B2 are some other names you've probably heard of that are being used to aid in healthy hair. While the vitamins are tested for safety, evidence is limited in the case of supplements like biotin and silica, so use your own experience to track results. (More on that here: Do Gummy Vitamins Actually Help Your Hair Grow?) Once you've settled on a product or a supplement, your best bet is to see how your hair looks and feel after two or three months of use. Snap a "before" hair selfie to better visually track results after months of regular use.
Grab the collagen.
Whether it's collagen-filled bone broth, peptides, or the powdered kind, adding collagen to your diet or morning smoothie is increasingly being touted as a boost to hair, skin, and nails. Thankfully there are some studies showing results: One 2016 study found that hair follicle stem cell aging could be prevented by maintaining optimal human collagen levels. In another study, participants who ingested collagen reported hair growth and more volume and thickness 90 days after starting the supplement. (Related: Why It's Never Too Early to Start Protecting the Collagen In Your Skin)
Look past the marketing jargon.
When you shop around, it's hard to know whether to shell out for the products targeted at damaged hair, those that talk about volume, or others promising your hair to grow. Rather than paying attention to how hair companies categorize their products, pick out conditioning treatments, masks, or serums that address the main problems of aging: thin hair and dry locks. When choosing vitamins, save cash by looking for hair-healthy ingredients such as vitamins B and E in more general multivitamins, rather than products sold specifically for hair growth, which tend to be more expensive.
Not sure of your own problem areas? Take a look at the hair of your parents. Genetics is often the most important predictor of how and when hair will age, says Kingsley. "The extent to which your hair loses volume as you age is largely down to genes," she adds.