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How to look after your hair when you’re over 40

8th June 2022

Alice Hart-Davis: I’m talking haircare with Michael Van Clarke, who is a leading, award-winning hairdresser and today I wanted to talk about haircare for the over forties. That’s a lot of us. What is it that changes about hair once we’re getting a bit older? And what do we need to be thinking of doing to it?

Michael Van-Clarke: I think as with the rest of our bodies, as we get older, the hair that’s being produced doesn’t have quite the same strength and suppleness, the ability to hold moisture. So, the hair that’s growing out at the scalp, isn’t quite as strong as it was in our twenties.

AHD: By the time we get to forties, it must be going downhill, quite fast?

MVC: Well, it would have gone through so many cycles. The average cycle for hair on the head is around five to seven years. After the age of 20, each cycle the hair will come back slightly thinner and for not quite so long.

AHD: So, what are the key things that people should be thinking about once they’re into their forties, in terms of managing their hair? Is it being kinder to their hair? Rather than being able to trash it like when you were younger?

MVC: I think that’s exactly. Yeah. I think it’s being more conscious. You can’t get away with some of the things that you did in your twenties. You come to your thirties; the hair’s not as responsive as it was before, so you have to start feeding it. After 40 you have to start putting a little bit back, with more care for the hair and the scalp. And, you know, we have clients going through, the decades where their hair is fantastic. And you can do that too, if you’re applying the right techniques and the right products, have wonderful hair through your life.

AHD: I would also think there’d be quite a big step-change when women hit the menopause as well. A lot of processes in the body are affected by the loss of oestrogen. I presume hair is as well.

MVC: Very much so.

AHD: For midlife haircare, along with mindful management for hair, there’s nourishing it with appropriate products, eating well and all the rest of it, because hair needs nourishment from the inside, from the root, not styling it too harshly. Anything else we should add to that?

MVC: Well, I think there are, there are things that take out of hair and there are other things that we can put back. So it’s a case of making sure you’re putting back enough to compensate for what you’re taking out. And one thing that definitely harms your hair is sunlight. You can’t totally avoid that, but we can protect against that. Seawater sort is very corrosive on hair. Chlorinated water, colouring. I think a big problem now with colouring being so popular, is that a lot of colour isn’t done very professionally and a lot of people have over colouring, which is completely unnecessary where the same piece of hair as being coloured again and again and again. You know, is a very tough substance, but it can’t withstand that sort of abuse and it’s often just not necessary, but that’s carelessness. Overheating doesn’t help, not do aggressive products that dehydrate the hair like siliconised products, uh, high alcohol products, highly plasticized products.

AHD: What are high alcohol products?

MVC: So some products need alcohol, certain things don’t work in water-soluble, certain things need to dry off very quickly when they’re on the hair. So, the alcohol dries off quickly to leave the on the hair. So some products do have some alcohol, but these are usually fruit alcohols, or vegetable alcohols, but it’s about not having too much.

AHD: Also with colouring, the older you get the more colour fades from our heads, that’s when it’s really tempting to keep whacking the colour in. So, is that something we should be cautious around?

MVC: Yeah, absolutely. So again, if we look at here where the hair shaft is degraded, now this, some parts of the hair don’t hold onto colour as well as than others.  So, colour will fade from this hair much quicker, simply because if you look at the structure of the hair, under a microscope it would almost be like a honeycomb effect where there’s far less structured hair. So, the colour molecules don’t have anything to hold on to. So, they will go in, but they will leach out quite quickly. It becomes a vicious cycle because the more you tint the hair and it breaks down, the quicker you have to tend to it again.

AHD: With so many things with getting older, it’s a question of being crafty about how you manage the hair, to keep it looking at its best.

Shop Michael Van Clarke haircare on The Tweakments Guide here.


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