11 Commandments of Ageproof Hair
Yes, even it grows older, losing body and shine as the years go by. (Sigh.) But these pro tips will help your hair act like its teenage self again. Scrunchie not included.
Scale back on washing.
As your scalp starts producing less oil, your hair becomes less lustrous and resilient. Over-shampooing further saps essential oil. "Aim to wash no more often than every other day," says Marcus Francis, a Los Angeles–based stylist. If you're someone who works out regularly, Francis suggests ridding yourself of sweat between shampoos by massaging your scalp in the shower; the pressure of the water will help exfoliate excess oil from your scalp.
Replenish lost oil.
To help make up for what your scalp is not producing, try this all-natural trick from Nunzio Saviano, a stylist and the owner of the Nunzio Saviano Salon, in Manhattan. A couple of times each month, heat up a teaspoon of coconut oil (available in health-food stores) in a microwave until it turns to liquid. Massage it into your scalp and leave it on for an hour or two, or even overnight; shampoo out. Lest you think the oil will weigh down your hair, Saviano says his clients with thinning hair often find that the treatment makes their hair more buoyant, not less. Bonus: The massage may also help boost scalp circulation, promoting healthier hair growth, says Fusco.
Switch things up seasonally.
Older hair is more climate-sensitive than younger hair. "Try to change your shampoo and conditioner every season, or at least every six months," says Francis. Opt for an ultra-hydrating duo, along with a deep conditioner, in the dry winter months, and splurge on a UV-protectant product for the spring and summer. When the temperature drops, try Redken Extreme Shampoo and Conditioner ($27, amazon.com) and Extreme Strength Builder Plus mask ($18, ulta.com). Living Proof Restore Instant Protection ($26, livingproof.com) will shield against UV rays and humidity during the sunnier, stickier months.
Don't skip those appointments. "One of the keys to keeping your hair in good shape as you age is being diligent about maintenance," says Saviano, who points out that it's easier to maintain hair than to undo damage. Aim for a trim every six to eight weeks or so.
Choppy ends make thinning hair appear even more straggly. A better bet is to choose a cut that is closer to all one length, which will add weight and density to the ends, says Saviano. A universally flattering option is the classic bob, which is typically longer in the front and a bit shorter, with stacked layers, at the nape. (The lob is a shoulder-skimming version of the cut.) This look "leaves length around the face, which is something many women like, and it has extra fullness in the back," says Francis.
Just say no.
Fads, such as baby bangs, asymmetrical cuts, and Easter egg–colored ends, are probably not advisable after the age of 40, says Brad Johns, a celebrity colorist at the Samuel Shriqui Salon, in New York City. You've heard of certain looks being "forgiving" to older faces? Right. These aren't.
Smooth your strands.
Your hair may start to lose shine and feel rougher as it ages, says Jason Backe, a colorist and a co-owner of the Ted Gibson Salon, in New York City. You can't change its physiological structure, but you can flatten and lock down the cuticle by using a smoothing serum (such as Shu Uemura Ultimate Remedy Extreme Restoration Duo Serum; $38, shuuemuraartofhair-usa.com) or an in-salon gloss or keratin treatment (prices vary by region). This will make your hair softer and improve its sheen. Another easy way to restore shine? Use the air-flow attachment when you blow-dry, and make sure that you're always aiming down the hair shafts, which will keep the cuticle layer from flipping up and looking fuzzy.
Go back to your roots.
If you intend to hide the grays as you age, the most flattering color will be something close to whatever grew out of your head when you were a toddler, says Johns. To that end, use your childhood color as a guide, but keep in mind that extreme hues (even if you wore them well in preschool) are not flattering to aging skin, says Sharon Dorram of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger, in New York City: "Very light hair, like platinum blond, can wash you out, while dark, inky shades can look harsh." To err on the safe side, Dorram suggests starting with highlights, which subtly lighten hair, or lowlights, which subtly deepen it. Both require less frequent touch-ups than all-over dye. Streaks also keep color from becoming too monochromatic (or wiglike).
To the extent that you can, curtail regular use of volumizing products, like mousse and root lifters. They do provide body, but they are also typically laced with drying alcohol. The same holds for reliance on a flatiron, damaging chemical processes, like bleaching, and even back-combing.
Invest in good hot tools.
If you do heat-style, buying high-quality dryers and irons that work in a single pass or twirl is key, since aging hair is more vulnerable to breakage and splitting, says Francis. (It's the repetition that sizzles strands.) Try the DryBar Buttercup Blowdryer ($195, thedrybar.com) or the Chi Ceramic and Titanium Hair Styling Iron ($130, ulta.com). Also, always use a heat-protecting spray to minimize frying, like Suave Professionals Heat Protection Spray ($3 at drugstores).
"Hair that moves and looks touchable is youthful," says Backe. Think of women who have aged gracefully, such as Julianne Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Julia Roberts. "One thing they have in common is soft, chic hair that's never stiff," says Backe. This means it's time to retire the firm-hold spray and opt for flexible stylers. Use nothing that leaves hair crunchy.