Demographic trends support the fact that America is growing older. Yet, in today's society, 'looking good' becomes no less important with age. In the area of professional hair care, stylists and manufacturers alike are now being challenged to address the specific needs of the older salon client. Among the most prevalent concerns of the mature are graying, hair discoloration, altered hair texture and hair thinning.
The Grayings of the Hair
Typically, hair begins to gray during one's 40s, and with advancing years, gray hair will eventually turn white. The graying of hair is less common in African-Americans than Caucasians, because highly pigmented races have more melanin (the primary pigment of the hair). Melanin is synthesized (or produced) within cells called melanocytes, which are situated on the uppermost part of the dermal papila (the hair root) and at the other sites along the root sheath. The activity level of the melanocyte cells, whereby melanin is produced, is age dependent. That is, as a person gets older, less of the pigment which gives hair its coloration, is produced. As gray hair turns white, melanocytes are no longer identified in the melanocytic zone.
Commonly, gray hair takes on a yellow or yellowish-green cast when it has been chemically treated. Environmental factors - pollutants, cigarette smoke, etc - can also contribute to discoloration. To remove the cast from gray hair, apply a half-and-half mixture of 20-volume peroxide developer and a metal eliminating conditioner to freshly shampooed hair. Leave it on for up to five minutes and no more. Rinse well and proceed to condition and style.
Exercise caution when using blue-pigmented shampoos which claim to counteract the yellow discoloration of gray hair. They may leave a blue or purple tinge in the hair.
Altered Hair Texture
Gray hair tends to be coarser and drier than pigmented hair. Often it is described as wiry and resistant. Dryness results as the activity of the sebaceous glands slow down with age. The professional stylist will often find it necessary, when chemically processing gray hair, to use an increased strength. For example, on normal-textured gray hair, a resistant strength relaxer may be necessary to achieve a proper degree of straightening. To help soften and provide manageability to coarse gray hair, use moisturizing conditioners and moisturizing styling/finishing products. Avoid conditioning treatments that contain excessive amounts of proteins. They will make the hair even harder to manage.
Alopecia is a term that refers to baldness, loss of hair or thinning of scalp hair. There are numerous causes. The alopecia that is related to age occurs in both men and women. Hair thinning among males, however, appears to be more pronounced. The degree of hair loss experienced by an individual is largely a function of heredity. Other factors related to health may also play a role. Thin hair can be made to look fuller with the use of polymeric and proteinous conditioners. They leave behind agents on the hair shaft and/or within the hair shaft, making it more voluminous. Hair colorings produce a similar effect. The expert use of hairsprays can make the hair look fuller, as well. It holds the hair in place as it is styled to camouflage thinning hair. Finally, skilled hair cutting can often give thin hair a thicker appearance.