If you’ve noticed changes in your hair recently, it’s not just your imagination. Lots of things can change the texture of your strands through the years. Over time, it’s possible for your hair to become more curly, straight, thin, or coarse. If you’re dealing with hair texture changes, we’ve got everything you need to know, including how to deal with your new texture. Read ahead for the causes and solutions for combating the problem.
Your genes play a major role in determining the shape of your hair follicles, but other things affect how your hair will grow. Hair strands are made up of a protein called keratin. Keratin is made up of amino acids. Depending on how these amino acids bond, the bonds increase the chance that the hair will bend. If a hair follicle is thick and round, amino acids called cysteines are less likely to gather close enough to form tight bonds, so the strand is more likely to be straight. Besides genetics, there are several other factors that can contribute to why the texture of your hair can change.
One of the most common reasons for texture change is androgenic alopecia, or pattern hair loss. Androgenic alopecia occurs when hair follicles on the scalp are genetically predisposed to be overly sensitive to normal levels of androgens (male hormones). This causes hair follicles to become smaller, and for hair to gradually become finer and shorter with each passing hair growth. This leads to an overall reduction in hair volume. If you suffer from alopecia, switching out your regular shampoo with a shampoo for hair loss can help.
Any increase or decrease in your body's hormones can directly influence how your body functions, including your hair growth. During times of great hormonal shifts, like pregnancy and menopause, it’s very common for changes in the texture of your hair. When estrogen levels rise during pregnancy, hair can become shinier, and more manageable. This occurs because the hair follicle gets slightly sturdier, and less prone to frizzing. Many women experience their best hair texture during pregnancy. On the other hand, menopause causes androgen hormone levels to increase, while estrogen levels drop in response. This results in thinning hair. Adding a biotin supplement to your diet and a thickening tonic to your hair care routine can help you combat the hair texture changes associated with menopause.
Just like you don’t have the same skin or muscle tone in your 20s or 30s as in your 50s and 60s, the same goes for your hair. Over time, your hair follicles experience wear and tear, resulting in slower hair growth. Loss of hair pigments leads to graying of hair, and this increases with age. Hair aging can also affect the health of follicles causing hair to fall out, and grow back as coarse hair. If you have mature hair, make sure you’re using an anti-aging shampoo and conditioner. Add an intense moisture boost weekly with an antioxidant-infused hair butter mask. For more on masking, see our previous post on hair masks.
Stress isn’t good for your body, and for the same reason, it’s not good for your hair. The type and amount of hormones present in your body when you are under stress can create changes to the texture of your hair. Stress can cause a person who normally has very thick hair to have significantly less. If you’re stressed out (and who isn’t in the days of coronavirus?) and you’ve noticed that your hair seems thinner, or is even falling out, revamp your hair care routine to include hair loss products. Using a multipurpose hair oil that can also be used for a facial massage can be a great act of self-care when you're stressed. Try this quick facial massage on yourself and try some stress management activities.
Excessive heat styling can make the texture of your hair feel dryer and become more fragile. Hot styling tools like blow dryers and flat irons add a pulling tension combined with the heat that’s incredibly harsh on your strands. And heat that is too hot can burn the hair causing it to blister and form bubbles on the hair shaft. This makes the hair coarse and promotes breakage. Wendy Fox-Warfield, Owner of Davines Concept Salon Parlor Hair Studio in Montclair, NJ says “The maximum heat of your hot tools depends on your hair texture, how much curl or straightening you want and how processed your hair is. For coarser hair, 380-400 degrees is ideal. For finer, more fragile hair, stay between 350-380 degrees.” Always, ALWAYS use a hair primer before heat styling.
Because your hair is primarily composed of protein, not eating enough protein can cause the texture of your hair to become weak and brittle. Keep your hair strong and healthy by loading up on lean proteins like beans and poultry. Fatty acids are also crucial to maintaining the texture of your hair, so make sure your diet also consists of things like nuts, seeds, and fish. And supplement your diet with vitamin C, which your body needs in order to create the protein known as collagen, an important part of your hair structure.
Chemical treatments, like bleach, weaken your hair bonds, leading to a drier texture and chemical damage. Chemically damaged hair looks dry and brittle, with little to no shine. Jen Plaia, Color Specialist and Co-Owner of Davines Concept Salon Ladybird Society in Austin, TX says “Pushing the hair with chemicals/lighteners will take all of the guts and glory out of your hair, leaving limp strands with holes in the cuticle layer. Your hair will become unmanageable, dull, and dry.” If you’re experiencing a change in hair texture due to chemical damage, Jen recommends washing less often and using a nourishing shampoo when you do. “Follow up with a vegan conditioner, and once a week swap the conditioner with a hair repair mask to replace your hair’s missing proteins,” says Jen. For more on treating thirsty, chemically-damaged strands, see our previous post How to Moisturize Your Hair.
Sudden hair changes in texture could signal a more serious condition. Anemia and insufficient vitamin D levels can bring on thinning hair. A thyroid disease can also result in a sudden change in the texture of your hair. If you're experiencing a sudden and unexpected hair change, it’s advisable to consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Things like stress, chemical hair treatments, heat styling and aging all contribute to the texture of your hair. With all of these things considered, you will see a change in your hair’s texture throughout your lifetime. If you’re noticing your strands aren’t what they used to be, identify the cause, and follow our advice. And for even more tips on a happy, healthy mane, see our previous post How To Get Shiny Hair.
by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor
cover photo by @karlibobarley