Why does our hair become less shiny as we get older

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Dr Asim Shahmalak is Britain’s leading hair transplant surgeon. Dr Shahmalak, who practices in Harley Street and at his Crown Clinic in Manchester, and is one of the few surgeons in the country who can also perform eyebrow and eyelash transplants. He was a general surgeon in the NHS for more than 20 years before specialising in hair loss ands its treatment. He is also one of Britain’s leading experts in female hair loss and the treatment of it.

His celebrity patients include Coronation Street star Jack P Shepherd, model Calum Best, Homes Under The Hammer star Martin Roberts and former footballer Didi Hamann, who all had FUE (follicular unit extraction) procedures with Dr Shahmalak at Crown Clinic. The TV doctor Christian Jessen has had two FUT (follicular unit transplantation) procedures at Crown Clinic.

How does the structure of a woman’s hair tend to change as she ages?

A woman's hair naturally thins as she ages because of falling levels of estrogen in the body – sometimes dramatically so post-menopause.

The female sex hormone gives the hair density, and helps with lustre and texture, although scientists still aren’t exactly sure how the relationship works.

Ironically, low levels of estrogen causing thinning, can also cause unwanted hair in other areas because of an imbalance with testosterone.

Although the menopause is a factor in hair thinning, up to 13 per cent of women have some degree of hair thinning and loss before they go through it. After the menopause, that figure rises to 75 per cent.

The structure weakens and hair becomes less durable, with a greater tendency to snap and split at the ends, making it more important to have it regularly cut and use scalp-nourishing shampoos.

What changes happen within the hair bulb/root to enact these changes?

The bulb or root shrinks because it is not being nourished properly, leaving the hair weaker and more prone to breakages. Excessive sebum production, known as seborrhea and sometimes as a result of stress, can exacerbate the problem if it is allowed to stagnate under the scalp. Because it blocks the follicle where the hair’s re-production cells are based, it generates toxins that collect around the root and prevent proper blood circulation. This shrinks the roots because they become asphyxiated and compressed. So it’s important to treat excessively greasy hair before it builds up.

How else does a woman's hair tend to change – and why?

It’s widely believed now that it is genes rather than environmental factors like stress that cause greying in hair. A Danish study three years ago using identical and non-identical twins found little difference between greyness of hair among twins with identical genes. Otherwise, there is little scientific knowledge as to why some people go grey earlier.

The process of greying is fairly well understood though, and quite complicated. Every hair follicle contains pigment cells called melanocytes. The melanocytes produce eumelanin, which is black or dark brown, and pheomelanin, which is reddish-yellow.

They pass these melanins to the cells that produce the main hair protein keratin, thus deciding colour. When the keratin-producing cells die as the hair grows, they retain the coloring from the melanin.

When you first start to go grey, the melanocytes are still present, but becoming less active so hair appears lighter. As greying progresses, the melanocytes die off until there aren't any cells left to produce the colour. This is exacerbated by ageing, but factors such as excessive UV light from strong sunshine can also damage hair over a long period by breaking down the melanin.

Why does hair tend to get less shiny as we age?

The decrease in melanin that affects colour also affects the sheen of our hair. This can be exacerbated by too much sunshine because ultra violet light can oxidize the melanin, which as well as giving sheen, also helps prevent a build up of chemicals that stunt growth and damage follicles. Combined with lower estrogen levels, losing melanin in this way simply means the hair is drier, more tired looking and has less bounce and bulk. There are shampoos and nutrients that will help however.

Why else might it become more frizzy/dry?

Changes to hormones make can hair more frizzy and drier. Other external factors include changes in hair texture and colour, as the sebaceous glands that produce thick, vibrant hair work less efficiently as you age. You need just the right amount of sebum to give your hair body and keep it healthy. Too much damages the roots, just as too little will make it dry and frizzy. Additionally, hair growth cycles affect density and frizziness. Usually they alternate between a growth phase (called anagen and lasting about three years) and a resting phase (telogen – which lasts three months). During telogen, the hair remains in the follicle until it is pushed out by the growth of a new hair in the anagen phase. At any one time, up to about 15 per cent of hairs are in telogen or resting. A sudden stress on the body, like menopause, pregnancy or illness, can trigger large numbers of hairs to enter the telogen phase at the same time – leaving hair looking dry and frizzy and having less body generally. After about three months, a large number of hairs will be shed. As the new hairs start to grow out, so the density of hair will hopefully thicken again.

Our Surgeon

Dr. Asim Shahmalak

Dr Asim Shahmalak is a world-renowned hair transplant surgeon who performed the UK’s first eyelash transplant in 2009. He runs Crown Clinic – one of Britain’s most successful and best known hair transplant clinics. He has treated a number of high-profile industry leaders and celebrities including the medical broadcaster Dr Christian Jessen, best known for Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies.

Expert hair transplant surgery by Dr Shahmalak

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When the sun comes out, we know that we need to apply sunscreen to protect our skin, but many people forget to pay the same care to protecting their hair. Between the sun, sea and swimming pools, many of our favourite summer activities can significantly damage our hair – so the next time you go out to enjoy the sunshine, find out what you can do to protect it.

 

Why does sun damage the hair?

 

Sun damage to the hair is caused by the harmful UVA and UVB rays, which damage the outermost layer of the layer – the cuticle – and weaken the protein structure of the hair, making it dry, brittle and more prone to breaking. Some people find that their hair lightens in the sun, as the rays act in a similar fashion to bleach, stripping the melanin from the hair.

 

Protecting your hair from the sun

 

Wearing a hat is an easy way to protect your hair and scalp from the sun, especially if you’re outside when the sun is at its strongest. Hair SPF is also an option, which can usually be bought as a spray to be misted over the hair. Pay extra attention to the scalp – many people forget that the scalp can burn just as easily as the rest of the skin, ending up with an itchy, flaky, burnt scalp. If you do burn your scalp, rinse your hair in cool water and apply aloe vera to the affected areas, and make sure to keep your head covered when going outdoors.

If your hair is looking dry, try a deep conditioning treatment to restore some of the lost moisture to the hair, and avoid wearing your hair in any tight styles that may pull on the scalp. Summer is also a good time to temporarily stop using hairdryers, straighteners and any other hot tools to avoid adding to the sun damage.

 

Protecting your hair from the sea

 

Salt water is notorious for drying out the hair. It leaches moisture out of it, making it incredibly brittle and tangled, which can cause significant breakage. Before you go swimming, saturate your hair with clean water to prevent it from absorbing as much salt water, and don’t let it sit in your hair – rinse it thoroughly as soon as you get out of the sea. Deep conditioners and hair masks will also help replenish the moisture.

 

Protecting your hair in a swimming pool

 

Just like salt water, chlorinated water is very harsh and drying on the hair, so you can take similar precautions to swim in the sea. You could also try a swimming cap, as this not only prevents the chlorine from damaging your hair, but it will also protect your scalp from sunburn. If you have highlighted or blonde hair, be especially careful when in a swimming pool, as the copper and chlorine in the water have been known to form a film that sticks to the proteins in hair, turning it a green shade. Thankfully, this isn’t permanent, but make sure to enter the pool with wet hair and rinse it as soon as you get out.

However you are spending your summer, if you have any questions or queries about your hair, take a look at our hair advice or give our team a call.

Over the past few months, there have been a significant number of reports in the news of people experiencing hair loss after being diagnosed with COVID-19. As a result, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed hair loss as a possible long-term effect of the illness, along with symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and joint pain. 

A study published by the medical journal The Lancet reported that 22% of the patients it had observed suffered from some degree of hair loss six months after falling ill, with women being more affected than men. 

 

Why does COVID-19 cause hair loss? 

 

Although there are several studies linking coronavirus and hair loss, many of the reports we hear about are anecdotal – at the moment, it’s too soon for scientists to officially establish a link between the two. 

However, the type of hair loss that COVID-19 sufferers are reporting seems to be consistent with telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium occurs when more hairs than usual suddenly enter the shedding phase of the hair growth cycle at once, causing a more noticeable amount of hair to shed at once. It’s normal to lose up to 150 hairs per day, but if you spot that you’re losing much more than that – such as clumps coming out when you’re brushing or washing your hair – it could be telogen effluvium. 

Due to the length of the hair cycle, telogen effluvium typically occurs two or three months after a period of significant stress, which can include illnesses such as COVID-19. When undergoing stressful situations, the body puts all its resources into maintaining essential functions only – which, unsurprisingly, does not include hair growth. As a result, you end up with hair loss. 

However, several other conditions can cause hair loss – such as thyroid issues or nutritional deficiencies – so if you are concerned, visit your GP, who can rule out other underlying causes with a simple blood test. 

 

Will my hair grow back after having COVID? 

 

If the hair loss is the result of telogen effluvium, most people will find that the hair will eventually grow back without the need for treatment. Typically, once the trigger or stressor is removed, the hair will grow back on its own. 

If you notice that the hair loss is persisting, there are a number of medical, cosmetic and hair transplant treatments available to help – Crown Clinic offers a range of options to support those struggling with hair loss, so don’t hesitate to get in touch

When performed by a qualified, experienced hair transplant surgeon, hair transplants are a very safe procedure. Hair restoration is a minimally invasive treatment that allows patients to return home the same day, with the procedure only requiring local anaesthetic. 

However, if you undergo a hair transplant abroad – such as in Turkey – the risk attached is much higher. 

 

Risks of hair transplants in Turkey 

 

It’s no secret that undergoing hair transplant surgery in countries such as Turkey is a gamble. Every year, countless patients are reeled in by the low prices and package deals offered by overseas clinics. Many of the clinics boast ‘five-star’ ratings and an active social media presence, duping unsuspecting patients into thinking they are visiting a reputable clinic. Although, when you dig a little deeper, you may discover the reviews are faked and the ‘after’ pictures are heavily edited or taken from other clinics. 

Another trick that patients fall for is believing that a surgeon will be carrying out the procedure, as many of the clinics advertise that a surgeon leads them to convince patients that they are legitimate. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean a surgeon will be carrying out the hair transplant itself. In fact, many clinics hire under-qualified technicians with little training to keep the costs down, only seeking the supervision of a surgeon if the procedure goes wrong. 

Over the years, Crown Clinic has fixed countless botched hair transplants, mainly from overseas clinics. The most common problems that we see are unnatural-looking hairlines and unsightly scarring as the result of the surgery being carried out by unlicensed practitioners. Other risks are infections, as sanitation is often extremely poor at the clinics and damage to the scalp due to the result of the incorrect tools being used to carry out the surgery. 

 

Are there any side effects to having a hair transplant? 

 

If you choose to have a hair transplant in the UK with a reputable surgeon, side effects will be minimal. The hygiene standards will be incredibly high, meaning the risk of infection is negligible, and you will be given clear instructions on how to take care of your scalp after the procedure. Crown Clinic has an excellent aftercare service, offering a day-by-day guide to ensure optimum healing and results.  

Unlike at overseas clinics, where it can be impossible to follow up after the procedure to discuss any concerns related to your hair transplant, Crown Clinic is more than happy to answer any questions you may have during this phase.