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Hair aging varies by background

Photo by: Julia Virvis via Pixabay

Hair, much like the skin it grows from, appears to age differently based on an individual’s ethnic background.

These findings were reported in a paper published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology (2021; 14(1):38–44).

“Despite a similar chemical composition, the structural properties of hair vary between different ethnicities and, consequently, the aging of hair differs as well. As the population ages and becomes more diverse, it is of greater necessity to understand the hair aging process in different types of hair,” said the paper’s corresponding author Dr. Neelam Vashi, in a press release.

Dr. Vashi is an associate professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine and director of the Boston University Cosmetic and Laser Center at Boston Medical Center.

The research team conducted a literature search to review what is known about changes in hair structure over time, with a focus on the differences in hair aging according to ethnic background. They collected information on hair structure, aging characteristics and responses to extrinsic damage.

They found that the onset of greying varied by ethnicity. The average age that Caucasians began greying was in the mid-30s, compared to late 30s for Asians, and mid-40s for those of African descent.

Aging-related hair damage patterns also differed, with Caucasians and Asians typically experiencing damage to the distal hair shaft, while damage closer to the root was characteristic of the hair of African-Americans.

Postmenopausal changes include decreased anagen hairs in the frontal scalp, lower growth rates and smaller hair diameters.

The authors note that the role of hair for both protection and cosmetic improvement makes it incredibly important to people’s physical and mental well-being. “A thorough understanding of the unique characteristics of hair aging among different races and ethnicities is essential for the appropriate management of mature patients,” said Dr. Vashi.

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