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Caring for Senior Hair

It's tough.

Senior hair, consisting of mostly grey hairs, is usually quite fragile. Unless you take great care to condition, treat it, and handle it gently, you may have straw-like hair that breaks easily, and is hard to style.

So, totally unsolicited or compensated, here are my Rules for Caring for Senior Hair.

  1. At a maximum, only ONE process - coloring, straightening/curling - you have to make a choice, or your hair's health will suffer. Grey hair is more fragile than hair with more pigment. Two or more processes will stress it more than it can take.
  2. If you are more than 50% grey, stop coloring your hair. It's less aging to go natural than to have the hair not match the face's age. We need to re-claim our natural hair's beauty. 
  3. Here are some tips for the transition. For more advice, and some photos to inspire you, go here. FWIW, Helen Mirren is my hero - I have hair very like hers - fine and moderately wavy, but relatively thin. I usually take a picture of her into the stylist's, and I've always walked out happy.
  4. Baby Boomers need to hear this - you really don't need to wash every day. If the roots get oily, you can either use a dry shampoo, or just use a gentle shampoo on the oily parts. Here is some advice on picking the right dry shampoo for you.
  5. You can reduce the cost of shampoo, and lessen the damage to your hair if you dilute your shampoo about 1/2 and 1/2. Most of use over-apply the suds.
  6. Follow up with conditioner - don't apply it to the entire head (if your hair is fine, it will flatten it), just the oldest hair. Don't use much - about the size of a quarter - and work it into your palms before massaging the damaged parts. The most important thing to do is to leave it on long enough - up to five minutes. If you're concerned about using too much water, turn off the shower during that time, and turn it on again for the rinse. While you're waiting, massage the scalp and use your fingers to gently detangle the hair.
  7. If possible, air dry. If not, use the dryer until about 2/3 dry, then let air-dry.
  8. NEVER use hot rollers - the heat will be highest at the ends, the most damaged part. There are alternatives - foam rollers, plastic mesh rollers, putting in mouse/gel and scrunching the curls. Hair straighteners are also hard on hair, so don't use them everyday.
  9. If you have to use rollers, put them in after your hair is mostly dry. You can use your hair dryer on cool or low to finish. Leave the rollers in until the hair is completely cool, then style.
  10. Condition at least once a week with a deep conditioner. Leave in overnight.
  11. Get a trim regularly - it gets rid of the split ends, and makes it easier to brush. If your hair is very long, you will have to baby it to keep it in good shape.
  12. Use hats in sunny climates. Not only can you sunburn the scalp, but it's damaging to hair.
  13. If you swim, BEFORE you get into the pool, wet hair thoroughly. It will 'seal' the hair shaft, and keep the chlorine from being absorbed. Use a cap, if you can stand it. I don't, because I don't like the feel of them.


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