Sunday, February 25, 2024

Hair in Perimenopause and Menopause Part 3: Silver!

Silver, gray, white - whatever you call them - these hairs can be assertive. Getting silver hairs sometimes means getting a whole different head of hair. Even if your hair doesn’t change much, there can be a new set of issues to deal with.

There are some product-links for which I may receive a small commission if clicked, at no cost to you and providing none of your personal information to me.

This post will cover 1) changes you may notice in your hair - like more frizz. 2) Changes in porosity in silver hairs. 3) How to manage silver-hair frizz. 4) Stopping or starting to use hair color. 5) Managing discoloration in light-colored hair.

Silver hairs have a tendency to be wider (greater diameter) than pigmented hairs, especially under age 65. Wider (more coarse) hairs need flexibility to be manageable.

Silver hairs may also be more likely to contain the medulla, which is a semi-hollow core at the center of hair increases rigidity. If your individual silver hairs don’t feel wider than the others (held between the fingers), but they behave in a less-flexible or more “wiry” manner, this is probably the reason.

Silver hairs may have more - or different - kinking than pigmented hairs. You might notice hairs have a different texture or curl pattern than the rest of your hair. Kinking also calls for more care directed at flexibility and lubrication [see Part 2] for easier styling and manageability.

What Does That Mean!? Your hair needs flexibility!!! That’s going to come from:

  • Choosing products that might be designed for hydration, for moisturizing, for color-protection [See Part 2]
  • Using a hair mask or deep conditioning treatment sometimes
  • A little oil before washing (as a treatment, or to help detangle hair that is long, thick, curly or tangly). -OR-
  • Oil pre-wash treatments, especially on the more-wiry places.
  • Deep condition - before washing or after. Before if your hair gets limp or flat with deep conditioners.

How to get hairs to group together (not frizz)

(Hint: Use the power of water.)

This paintbrush (left) spreads out and is inflexible when dry. It will be difficult to contain this "frizz!" When dipped in water (right) the power of surface tension between water and fibers holds them together. When dry, this force is lost. But while drying - hair re-shapes itself in this form. Weak (temporary) bonds in the proteins will hold hair in the shape it was while wet. Frizz management starts with wet hair.

While hair is wet
  • Leave-in conditioners, styling creams - to increase flexibility.
  • Use a brush/comb/finger comb to align hairs and press them together. 
  • Slide sections of hair between your palms, or pinch locks between your fingers - pressing hairs together, sliding from root to ends during conditioning. Often called the "praying hands" technique online, this is like smoothing out a decorative ribbon - or straightening the legs of pants as they go on a hanger to stay un-wrinkled.
Dry in ways that contain loose strands: 
  • Twists, braids, rollers, “no heat” curls - those work for a wide variety of hair-types and pre-smooth hairs for whatever you’re planning next. While you're at it - direct the roots in whatever direction you want them to go when dry too.
  • If you’re a wash-and-go or wash-and-wear ONLY person, use a styling product that has some thickness and density to pull those hairs into a group or into your desired shape. That could be a leave-in conditioner or a styling foam or gel, cream or whatever works for you.
  • See the theme? Catch those silver hairs while they’re wet and give them some directions. When you give hair direction while wet, you are temporarily changing part of it’s support structure - some of the hydrogen bonds in the internal protein structure. That’s the reason hair that’s “set” while wet lasts longer. It works for frizz too. Managing your silver halo frizz starts on wet hair.

Porosity: Silver hairs may be more persistently low-porosity. You might notice groups of silver hairs never seem to get wet - they appear dry and springy right out of the shower. Low-porosity hair tends to make people think, “My hair doesn’t soak anything up - it just sits on top,” and then they avoid richer products. Low porosity hair can work well with conditioners containing a little oil, or styling creams, or oil pre-wash treatments to add flexibility. Hydrolyzed proteins may be helpful for retaining hydration in difficult-to-hydrate hair. The trick can be to apply the products with water and focus on even distribution (water helps with that) do you get your hairs well-treated - bit don't end up using so much product your hair is heavy or coated-feeling.

- Be careful about product residue. If any product makes your hair feel more-dry or frizzy or tangly, it could be leaving a residue that isn’t removed during cleansing. Low porosity hair interacts with oils and hair products differently than more-porous hair (dyed, highlighted, etc.).

Transitioning from coloring or highlighting to your natural color:

  • Porosity tends to decrease as un-dyed hair grows in. During that growth process - focus especially on the formerly-dyed hair with conditioner and treatments. Your hair’s new growth may need less of some products or smaller amounts of conditioner. It may behave differently with products you have used for a long time. Lower porosity hair tends to be more selective about which products is responds well to.
  • Most styling products are designed for somewhat porous hair, given that they are designed for the majority of women - who dye their hair.
  • Hair may behave differently. Dyed (or lightened) hair has a less-smooth surface due to damaged cuticles and loss of the oil-based layer that sits atop un-damaged cuticles. Those two effects create some surface roughness and “grip” that helps hair hold a style and keeps curls from slipping out. If hair grows in with less damage, it loses that built-in “styling grip.” That grip or traction can be replaced (if you wish) with:
  • Texturizing or volumizing shampoos, conditioners, styling creams or foams, sea salt sprays, “air-dry” styling creams. 
  • Products containing starches or natural gums tend to be volumizing as well.
  • Products may leave residue or dryness that they didn’t before. Un-damaged hair interacts with products differently than dyed or highlighted hair. It is less quick to absorb water, less likely to absorb oils, and does not “soak up” or bond with conditioner the same. 
  • This might mean you need to use a “clarifying” shampoo more often. You may need lighter products. If you used oils on your hair, you may need to switch oils or use less (or use them in products instead of alone).

Beginning to color or highlight hair you didn’t color before:

These processes make hair more porous. It will need porous-hair-care to stay hydrated and flexible and avoid breakage. I have posts about porous hair care HERE and HERE. Colored or lightened hair tends to need extra time with conditioner, does better with oils, and needs extra help with hydration. Many of the new-ish bond-building hair products are very appropriate for dyed and highlighted hair.

You can prevent damage during coloring or highlighting with these tips:

  • Use an oil pre-wash treatment with a hair-penetrating oil or use a protein-containing product or both. The reason using hair-penetrating oils or protein before coloring hair are beneficial is that both protein even out porosity in hair temporarily. This prevents the harsh chemicals of hair dye from having too much contact with the more-porous areas in your hair.
  • An oil treatment would be applied to dry hair, 4-8 hours before the last wash prior to highlighting.
  • A protein-containing conditioner or protein treatment would be applied before conditioning (for a protein treatment) or during conditioning (for a protein-containing conditioner) in the last wash prior to highlighting/color.

UV protection decreases as the amount of silver hair on your head increases. That’s both the hair’s ability to protect your scalp as well as the protection that color-pigments provide your hair. Pigments in hair filter out skin-damaging UV light from the sun. 

  • Wear a hat, a scarf, a UV buff if you’re in the sun for extended periods. This protects your scalp and also reduces the chance of hair-discoloration. There are UV protecting shampoos and conditioners, but most are not broad-spectrum protection. They also will tend to become less effective over the day (just like sunscreen on your skin). Those products may protect your hair, but you need a physical barrier for your scalp for the best protection. [UV protection posts HERE and HERE]

Discoloration: Silver hair can take on a yellowish or brassy cast. Here are some causes - and solutions.

  • Hard water/high mineral content (especially iron). Use a hard water shampoo, rinse or demineralizing treatment regularly. Invest in an iron filter for the water if you own a home in a place where iron in water is very high, or allow some water to settle overnight and pour through a coffee filter for hair-washing. Reverse osmosis or distilled water may be an option. Products you might consider can be found in this post. 
  • Dark-colored products: Some oils and additives will deposit color on hair. Tar shampoos are a good example! But also coffee bean extracts, some essential oils and darker-hued plant oils. The solution is (for better or for worse) to avoid those products.
  • Sebum: Depending on your climate and environment - not washing often enough may result in discoloration due to oxidation of sebum. On the up-side - lower porosity silver hair may tolerate more-frequent washing. Hair may need different wash-frequencies in different seasons and under different conditions.
  • Environment: If you smoke, or live and work with smokers, that smoke can discolor hair. Smoky environments of any sort may cause discoloration. Air purifiers with HEPA filters that remove very fine particulate matter may help if you cannot eliminate the sources of smoke (such as wildfire smoke). 

  • Porosity: More-porous hair is more likely to be discolored long-term. Manage porosity by avoiding hair-damaging handling, limiting high-heat styling (use a heat-protectant!). Protect your hair from the sun, which increases porosity. Rinse or cleanse your hair after getting sweaty or swimming to remove salts and - whatever else is in your hair. 

Purple and Blue Shampoos and conditioners: These work by depositing tiny amounts of pigment on the hair, which cancel out their opposite color. 

On the color wheel at right, yellow-orange is opposite purple-blue. So if you can deposit a little purple, it’s meant to trick our eyes and brains into seeing the absence of either (the yellow-orange and also the purple-blue). 

For some people, blue works better than purple. 

Getting this right can take some trial and error. If shampoos don’t work, conditioners or toning masks might.

Some product examples:


  • Overtone toning conditioners (you can choose purple, blue, pink or green "toning"). This link is to their shop - great photos to help you choose the color that's right for you.

  • AG Sterling Silver Toning Shampoo (sulfate-free)
  • By The Way Toning Shampoo - Gentle detergents, enriched with oils
  • Additives for DIY

    • Would it shock you to know that you can also add food coloring to your shampoo or conditioner? As long as you're not allergic to the dyes. Blue + Red = Purple. Adjust the amount of blue to get the result you want.

    Science-y Hair Blog © 2024 by  Wendy M.S. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

    Saturday, February 17, 2024

    Hair, Peri to Menopause: Update your Hair Care!

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    Part 2: Like a software update, if you're in or past your 40s or 50s - your hair-care needs an update! 

    This post is full of links to more information. The bullet lists contain hair and scalp-care tips and goals.

    There are 1) product lists, and 2) an example of simple “product-swaps” to help your hair-care work better for you.  This post contain affiliate links for which I may receive a small commission when clicked, at no cost to you, and revealing none of your personal information to me.

    Practical Hair-Care Updates 

    Reduce frizz and mechanical damage with:

    • Satin/silk pillowcase. It’s the smooth /slippery texture that prevents friction and frizz on hair and scalp.
    • Sleep bonnet/buff - a smooth / slippery texture.
    • Wide tooth combs, brushes with widely spaced, flexible “bristles” in a flexible base.
    • Broader ponytail holders (not skinny rubber-band width that easily tangle).

    Increase flexibility using:
    • Oil before shampooing to dry-detangle and lubricate for 10-30 minutes, or...
    • Oil pre-wash treatments (link to more information) Coconut, avocado, olive, babassu, sunflower may work well to soften  more assertive and unruly hairs. Every 1-3 weeks depending on how often you wash and your hair's needs. Leave on from 1 to 4 or 6 hours, or as works with your schedule.
    • Deep Condition - every 1-3 weeks depending on your wash-schedule and hair's needs.
    • Protein in some products for hydration. Protein-rich products may be better than deep conditioners for Fine hair.
    • Squish to Condish (more about this below - it's really helpful, and FREE).
    • Choose at least 1 product with a little oil, or branded as a moisturizing product - even if you have avoided them in the past.
    • Humectants for hydration. See the product lists below.

    • Microfiber towel or cotton-polyester blend tee-shirt for smoother drying. Why? It helps reduce frizz and stress/breakage by allowing hairs to dry evenly. Don't rub! Blot, wrap and dab. 😇
    • Hard water? Hard water deposits on and inside hair and can increase stiffness and dryness. Chelating shampoos and DIY rinses can be helpful to keep hair feeling flexible. More information here. 

    Avoid and reduce scalp irritation:
    • Warm, not hot water for washing and rinsing.
    • Gentler shampoo - sulfate-free, moisturizing or “for color-protection”
    • Direct hair dryer away from scalp.
    • Scalp massage (gentle) or shampoo brush to exfoliate.
    • Stop using products that cause itching or burning (ears, scalp, neck, chest, back, hairline).
    • Stop using products that cause increased shedding.
    • See your doctor or dermatologist if scalp symptoms develop (itching, peeling or flaking, hair shedding, burning, redness, pigment-changes).
    • Treat scalp issues as your dermatologist or doctor recommends. It may not feel style-forward, but a healthy scalp = stronger hair. Worth it!
    • Blot the scalp dry. Don't hang around with a wet scalp - that's just asking for trouble.
    • Rinse your scalp after heavy sweating. Sweat can be irritating.
    • Protect from UV / sunlight - wear a hat!
    • Protect your scalp with a hat, scarf or hood in cold or windy weather. This can cause severe skin dehydration and inflammation.

    Use products that contain lubricating emollients. Jojoba oil, Squalane, Hemisqualane. A list follows. The lubricating component of oils on our scalp tends to decrease between ages 40-60.

    Offload some of the problem-solving to somebody else:

    Me! [Shameless plug]

    I provide Hair Analysis Service, which can take a lot of guesswork out of hair-care product choice. I also have a Customized Product Recommendation Service, for which you provide information about your hair and goals and shopping preferences, and I supply recommendations for products to achieve those goals.

    I've helped hundreds of people through hair analysis. I want you to be happy with your hair! I use a chemistry and experience-based approach to choosing products.

    Science-y Hair Blog © 2011 by  Wendy M.S. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

     Product Lists

    (For creating lubrication, maintaining flexibility)

    Key to symbols: 

    ☁️ Lightweight

    💧 Humectant-rich

    🧬 Protein

    🩵 Sulfate-free cleanser

    Jojoba Oil

    Squalane & Hemisqualane

    Amodimethicone: Amodimethicone is an amino-modified silicone. It bonds to damaged areas in hair and then creates a water-resisting film over those areas to make hair behave in a less-porous manner. Like a smart-network of protection. Amodimethicone reduces cuticle damage and moisture loss during high-heat styling, and helps hair retain color better. Some examples:

    ©Science-y Hair Blog 2023

    Product Swap Examples: 

    You need to update your products so they have a little more "oomph!" But hang on to your wallet. There are solutions for every budget and shopping preference. 

    • Let's say you've used a product like Herbal Essences shampoo, but it's not working as well for you as is used to. You might switch to one of Herbal Essence's Sulfate-Free shampoos, which contains detergents that can be gentler to scalp and hair (and also color-preserving if you color your hair). The oil in the product makes it milder and a little conditioning.

    • If you've been a Tresemme or Aussie fan, you might consider Maui Moisture 💧, which has a variety of options, all designed to keep hair hydrated, and with different amounts of oils and butters, depending on how much softening your hair needs.
    • Or you might alternate between using a "regular strength" drugstore conditioner and a hair mask like Garnier's Papaya mask or Mielle Babassu & Mint hair mask 💧🧬.

    Not sure about deep conditioning?

    • DIY-ers rejoice! There is nothing easier than a do-it-yourself deep conditioner! 
      • Add a drop or two (whatever makes your hair happy) of oil to your usual rinse-out conditioner.
      • Add a little of a protein additive or moisturizing additive such as from HairLabs (see this post for really great, affordable additives).
      • Leave on for 5-10+ minutes with gentle heat.

    Do you Heat-Style, Highlight or use Permanent Hair Color?

    The Free Hydration Technique that Might Transform Your Hair.

    Condition your hair the optimal-hydration-way. 

    Apply more conditioner on the ends and the top layers (and any place that is extra-frizzy or tangly).

    Comb through. 

    Either right away, or just before rinsing - "squish to condish." [I have a post about this].

    1. Splash, spray or allow some water to trickle into your conditioned hair.
    2. Squeeze or scrunch or press, pinch, slide over your hair with your hands. Work the conditioner in gently. Think of mixing batter or dough to get all the dry-floury places incorporated. This assures conditioner is thoroughly distributed.
    3. Is your hair heavier, more saturated, flexible and clingy? Does it need more water or conditioner? If not...
    4. Rinse. Don't over-rinse. 20 seconds is usually enough for rinsing. Some people recommend only adding the water and "squishing it in" and then not rinsing. That is an option, do what works for you.
    Take the time to manually work conditioner through your hair. It makes such a difference.

    Method on Type 4 hair (using a bowl to catch-reuse conditioner during rinsing).
    Method at a hair salon showing how hair gets more clingy when water is added to conditioner.

    Upcoming posts: Silver Hair care and management, Hair Thinning.