If you do some browser research on the topics of hair damage, hair restoration treatments and general haircare practices, you’ll soon realise just how much information on these subjects is available. You can drill down into these categories and find insights on specific aspects of each; you can find out about different types of hair loss and damage, gender differences in patterns of hair loss, how it affects pregnant women, people recovering from COVID-19, and so on.

One subject that isn’t covered too well is how hair ages across different ethnicities. That’s a glaring omission. Fortunately, it’s one that researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have taken steps to address. Their recent report throws up some interesting findings which have implications for how we tackle hair damage in people from different ethnic backgrounds. Read on to find out more!

The Study

The BUSM report wasn’t based on new empirical research but rather on a literature review of previous studies on hair ageing. The review was carried out by a research team of nine doctors, dermatologists and scientists who trawled through a mountain of research papers, textbooks, clinical trials, commentaries and reviews in the hunt for anything that touched upon the changes we experience in our hair structure as we grow older.

Of particular relevance was how this diverged according to ethnic background. Eventually, the team settled on a selection of sixty-nine publications written between 1965 and 2019. The researchers mined these publications for information on hair structure, ageing characteristics of hair, and how this differed between races and ethnic backgrounds. Their results were published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology (JCAD).

Findings

Neelam Vashi MD, associate professor of dermatology at BUSM, was the corresponding author for the project. She outlined the headline finding of the study to JCAD. “Despite a similar chemical composition, the structural properties of hair vary between different ethnicities and, consequently, the ageing of hair differs as well.”

This difference shows itself in multiple ways. The rate at which people go grey is one example. The study found that the average age at which Caucasians start this process is mid-thirties. Asian people, on average, start greying in their late thirties, while those of African descent are spared the onset of greying until their mid-forties.

The way that different ethnic groups experience hair damage is also varied. People of Caucasian and Asian descent tend to incur damage at the end of the hair shaft. People of African descent are more likely to experience hair damage closer to the root. There are also ethnic differences in postmenopausal women in hair growth rates and the size of hair diameters.

The research team noted that there are two factors involved in hair ageing, these being a person’s internal physiological changes together with the external environmental factors that their hair is subject to. The latter would include pollutants and damage caused by haircare habits.

Implications

So, what are the implications of the study for people wanting to protect and preserve their hair as they grow older? This is an important question. There are academic studies that show that our opinion of how we look has a huge effect on how we feel and behave. These studies also confirm that our hair is often what people remember about us above everything else. (We have covered this in a previous blog post.) As a result, ‘good’ hair plays a huge role in people’s self-esteem and good mental health.

If people in their middle years and above are to receive the best haircare advice, we need to be aware that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all format; people of different ethnicities experience hair loss and damage at different times and in different ways. As Neelam Vashi points out, “As the population ages and becomes more diverse, it is of greater necessity to understand the hair ageing process in different types of hair.” And once we’ve understood that process, we need to adjust our approaches to haircare accordingly.

Conclusion

The human body faces all sorts of challenges as it ages. The same applies to our hair. If we are to enable people to protect their hair as they get older, we need to tailor advice and information to their individual needs. That includes taking a culturally sensitive approach where appropriate. The study by BUSM will undoubtedly help with that.

At Vinci Hair Clinic, we always strive to provide hair treatments and advice that are based on the needs of the individual client. That’s why we’ve been so successful over many years and why we remain one of the world’s leading hair restoration organisations. If you have concerns about hair loss, we can help. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to all our new clients. Simply get in touch to book your appointment!