What Happens To Hair With Advancing Age?

Medically reviewedby Edna Skopljak M.D.
WrittenbyLiza Schermann
Last updated

Ageing is a natural process that causes different effects on the human body. Due to its nature, you cannot avoid it. However, there is increasing encouragement to embrace the ageing process with continuous enhancement of life quality. Indeed, the European Commission and the World Health Organization have been heartily deploying the concept of active ageing.

Also aiming at promoting healthy ageing, through this blog, we want to provide you with in-depth information about the process, how it impacts your hair wellness as well as how to slow it down.

What Happens To The Scalp And Hair As We Age?

Hair ageing through numbers

One study conducted in Maryborough, collected data of around 1500 adults, and revealed that hair wellness tends to degenerate under the influence of ageing, especially males suffering from pattern hair loss.

The study found that the frequency and severity of androgenetic alopecia in men increased with advancing age. This finding was consistent with previous studies when the age-specific prevalence of mid-frontal and vertex scalp hair loss happened to 44.9% of males in the research group.

On the other hand, in females, ageing has a moderate impact on the progress of pattern hair loss. The study asserted that the age-specific frequency of hair loss in women was only 10.5%. Among them, about 32.2% had moderate-to-severe hair loss.

The research also proved an increase in the commonness of grey hair when we age. In detail, the age-specific prevalence of grey hair in males was 75.6%, and in females was 74.8%.

(Source: Gan et al., 2005. Prevalence of Male and Female Pattern Hair Loss in Maryborough.)

Ageing influences on the scalp

Though it is hard to see the ageing effects on a non-balding scalp, they do exist and progress with time. Underneath the hair, the scalp may become pale, dry, and lax under the influence of ageing.

More importantly, the scalp skin structure also changes when you look at the inside. One of the changes is that the dermal-epidermal junction flattens out, which causes a reduction in the contiguous surface between the two layers. Also, it leads to decreased cellular supply of nutrients and oxygen, the potential for proliferation, and skin absorption.

Other changes in the scalp include the reduced quantity of epidermal cells and melanocytes, the loss of fibroblast (collagen-secreting cells) and vascular network.

Ageing influences on Hair

Due to the common effects of ageing, hair becomes harder to maintain, and hair conditions worsen. The hair growth rate slows down with age, accompanied by the emergence of smaller hair strands with less pigment. As a result, people may experience thin, fine, light-coloured hair and even baldness. In other words, some of the most visible signs of ageing are hair greying, hair loss, and balding.

Many factors influence these processes, such as genders, genetics, or races. Greying and thinning can begin around the age of 40. Baldness due to ageing frequently arises with a receding hairline in men, while women will have thinner, finer hair.

The condition of age-related thinning is defined as senescent alopecia and is characterized by a scalp-wide reduction in the number of hairs. This kind of alopecia typically occurs between the ages of 50 and 80 in a person without a prior history of hair thinning and underlying scalp diseases. Additionally, this alopecia type can be transferred to pattern hair loss and significantly alter hair wellness in men. For women, during menopause, a drop in estrogen levels could contribute to hair thinning.

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Why Hair Ageing Happens?

On average, adults typically lose 100-150 hair strands each day. As they continue to age, the telogen phase becomes longer. Therefore, the extent of hair shedding increases, resulting in thinning, which is common in the senior population. Conversely, the anagen phase of hair growth is more likely to shorten under the influence of ageing and race. However, it is unclear when or what triggers a shortening of this phase. In addition, the time between the shedding of the hair and anagen regrowth becomes longer, leading to a reduction in the hair present on the scalp.

As you age, the metabolic processes also get slower. Sadly, these changes in diverse bodily functions will more often than not trigger age-related hair changes. In other words, metabolism malfunction can cause hair degradation. Multiple issues related to nutrition could happen, such as protein and calorie malnutrition, deficiencies of essential amino acids, trace elements, and vitamins. Hair growth and pigmentation thus may be impaired.

Stem cells in the scalp also experience mutations due to ageing, causing hair loss, shrinking follicles and thinner hair. Moreover, hair turns grey because the pigment cells reduce, followed by a reduction in hair growth and hair diameter. As a result, some people experience widespread thinning of their hair as they get older.

Research has also found the features of oxidative stress in anagen scalp hair follicles of those experiencing grey hair. It proves that oxidative stress, produced by the ongoing cellular mechanism, plays a role in the ageing of the scalp skin.

What Affects The Ageing Process?

How fast the ageing process takes place varies among individuals according to their unique body conditions. As people get older, endogenous biological factors (e.g., genes) and external factors such as diet, environment, and personal habits get involved in the ageing process.

That is to say, the unique genetic code of each person has a critical say in their ageing process. As the human body is a machine with pre-programmed self-destruction happening at a particular time within a range of a few years, genetically, we are all programmed for ageing. It has always been a natural and unavoidable process.

Meanwhile, metabolism plays a vital role in the regulation of ageing and growth. It produces reactive chemicals or oxidizing agents that may increase the ageing process due to cell damage.

In addition to the biological factors, the environment and lifestyle can actively impact how we age. When we look closely, malnutrition and nutritional inadequacy in elderly people can be the possible outcomes of several factors.

First, people tend to lose their appetite regardless of their illness alongside their advancing age. This condition is called "anorexia of ageing". Second, many diseases (e.g., thyroid, cardiovascular) appear with age, leading to increased metabolic demand and nutrient loss, and at the same time, decreased appetite, nutrient absorption, and caloric intake. Finally, aged people can suffer side effects of medical treatments, which may affect nutritional status.

How To Age Healthily?

Studies have suggested maintaining proper nutrition to achieve a substantially longer and healthier life. A diet with high intakes of fruit and vegetables, legumes, grains and cereals, fish and seafood, and nuts can be an excellent choice to improve health and reduce some of the lifestyle-controlled aspects of ageing. Furthermore, regular physical activities, for example, walking or playing sports, are good options to maintain active ageing.

On the other hand, smoking, overexposure to sunlight, and stress more likely produce undesirable effects on health, followed by a boost to the ageing process. Indeed, smoking induces adverse effects on hair cells and inhibits the transport of nutrients, leading to collagen breakdown. And sun overexposure can degrade collagen and elastin and cause uneven pigmentation for the skin.


Under the ageing process, our scalp becomes pale, dry, and lax. Also, its skin structure gets changes such as the flattening of dermal-epidermal junction, which causes a decrease in nutrient and oxygen supply as well as proliferation and skin absorption. Regarding hair, age advancement triggers greying, shedding, and possibly baldness.

Those effects occur as a consequence of the slower metabolic processes and your nutritional state. When people age, the likelihood of malnutrition and nutritional inadequacy is higher due to appetite loss, illness, and medical treatments. Besides, oxidative stress is another factor driving ageing, especially in the scalp skin.

Research has found the connection between ageing and pattern hair loss which commonly starts after puberty. As we age, the anagen phase shortens, and the telogen becomes longer. Consequently, a reduction in the hair presents on the scalp.

How you age is a correspondence of biological and external factors. Though it is hard to control the prior, the latter can be adjusted by the environment and lifestyle. A healthy diet and habits will be helpful to reduce the harmful effects of ageing. On the other hand, it can worsen by smoking, stress, or sunlight overexposure.


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