What Happens to Hair as it Ages?

Published 10th Jun 2024 by Chlo Weldon

Of course, it’s inevitable that as time goes on, our hair gradually begins to change, just as our skin and bodies do as we age. Clients may start to encounter noticeable changes like colour loss, hair loss, an increase in dryness, and the thinning of hair. We spoke to experts in the industry to find out what happens to the hair and scalp as it ages, and what clients should be doing in their haircare routines as they get older.


Hair is at its best when virgin hair, but as hairdressers, it’s known that this is quite rare. So, it’s generally said that hair is at its prime when in the 20s. “It should be at its peak of thickness, having just come out of its teenage hormonal state,” says Melissa Timperley, owner of Melissa Timperley Salons. “In your 20s, the cuticle is tight, and the hair shafts are thicker,” adds Christopher Laird, session stylist and co-owner of November Collective.

And as hair is at its prime time, it’s important for clients to protect their hair from damage as much as possible during this period. “The roots and scalp tend to be oilier at this stage, so clients should use balancing treatments like clay masks,” recommends Christopher. “Using nourishing and hydrating products will also help protect the mids of the hair during clients’ 20s, and blow-dry oils and serums for the ends of the hair are a simple yet effective way to keep hair looking and feeling healthy,” adds Christopher.


“The changes in hair diameter tend to follow a curvature trend, meaning the hair diameter gets thicker before it reaches a maximum and begins to slowly decline with age,” says Paul Windle, owner of Windle London. “It is extremely common that hair loses its colour and greys with age. This is due to the hair follicles producing less melanin which causes grey hairs to form, which often begins in the 30s, however can differ with genetics.”

Due to loss of colour pigmentation, clients are more prone to hair colouring to help camouflage grey strands during this stage. “Clients will need to start hydrating their scalp more than normal,” says Christopher. “Hydrating jelly masks are a great treatment as they’re lightweight and don’t weigh down roots. This, along with nourishing products that smooth and repair.” So, the earlier clients keep a good haircare routine, the better as it will become second nature. “Washing your hair too often can cause it to become brittle and dry, so two/three times a week is sufficient,” adds Kelly Shone-Adams, OSMO technical advisor and owner of Technocracy Hair Salon. Barb Mahony, salon owner of Do My Hair, recommends using protein-based shampoo due to loss of protein with age.

How about convincing clients to embrace their grey? Here are some expert tips for transitioning to grey...


As clients head into their 40s, hair loss and hair thinning become common. “The hair follicles can shrink in diameter with age which produces thinner hair strands,” says Paul. “Around the age of 40, it is common for women to see a slow decrease in hair diameter, resulting in thinner and slower growing hair as they age. Whereas for men, hair begins to thin and decrease in growth at the average age of mid-twenties.” Which is why a healthy diet is vital: “Ensure clients have a healthy intake of Omega-3,” advises Melissa.

“Lipid changes can also be affected by age, which affects sebum production, shine and smoothness,” adds Paul. “The matrix cells can change which affects the lipid 18-MEA – what gives the cuticle its natural shine and hydrophobic barrier. The size of sebaceous glands within hair follicles begin to decline around the late 40s.”


There are also many factors such as hormones, imbalances, deficiencies, and medical conditions that can lead to changes within hair. Kelly explains: “Hormonal changes can lead to dryness to the scalp and hair due to less oil production from the scalps sebaceous glands.” As the scalp becomes dry, Christopher advises to “exfoliate the scalp to remove any build-up of skin and oil”.

Clients will begin to notice changes to their hair and scalp post-menopause. “Decrease in oestrogen can lead to miniaturisation of hairs, where they become shorter and finer,” explains Danny Coles, trichologist and director of Haringtons Hairdressing, Northwood. “As a result, this can cause the scalp to feel greasier as the sebum has less hair moisture, so advising clients on routines and treatments can help.”

Paul stresses the importance in protecting ageing hair: “Ageing hair is more prone to damage as the hair diameter is thinner and the hair/follicle is missing some of the vital lipids,” he explains. “Grey hair is often more sensitive to damage through weathering (environmental damage) as it is more prone to UV damage and protein loss. It is important to avoid extensive heat or chemical damage in ageing hair as it will likely do more damage to clients in their 50s rather than those in their 20s.”

But Andrew Barton, celebrity hairdresser, believes clients can still feel 50 and fabulous when it comes down to their hair. He shares some tips: "The most important thing about hair colour as you get older is that it should flatter the skin tone which also changes as we age. Very often, women start to suit lighter and cooler tones, as these work best with more mature skin tones – which is why we see so many women in their 50s really embracing blonde and silver/grey tones. "Clever colour is about enhancing clients' style and this includes more variations of tones to help blend the grey hairs, rather than covering them up. This actually gives a much softer, less noticeable regrowth." As hairdressers, it's important to keep clients updated with a mix of product recommendations and services tailored to their hair, to keep it looking and feeling fresh no matter how old they are.

Chlo Weldon

Chlo Weldon

Published 10th Jun 2024

Chlo writes regular content for the print magazine and website, as well as scheduling the content for HJ’s social media channels. Chlo has a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism and previously worked as Assistant Editor at craft magazine Tattered Lace. After moving to London from her small hometown to be part of the HJ team, she is loving every minute of being involved in the industry. She loves a good treatment and is on a mission for a longer and thicker mane.

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