Aging can affect the hair and nails in different ways. One of the most
obvious changes that occurs with age is gray hair. Hair color comes from a
pigment or color produced by the skin. The skin makes less pigment as a
person gets older. Often, the genes determine when the hair starts to turn
gray. Rarely, gray hair can begin as early as the late teen years. Many
people begin to have gray hair in their 30s. Other people are in their 50s
or older before they lose hair color.
Normal changes occur in the hair and nails as people age.
Usually, hair begins turning gray around the temples, then at the top of
the scalp. The hair becomes lighter over time, eventually turning white. As
a person gets older, body and facial hair will also turn gray. This usually
happens later than scalp hair. Often, hair in the armpit, chest, and pubic
areas does not turn gray.
Another age-related change is hair loss. Normally, when a hair falls out,
a new one grows in to replace it. As a person ages, however, hairs do not
grow back in as quickly. Hair strands become finer as well. These factors
combine to give the appearance of much less hair.
Both men and women lose their hair as they age.
About 25% of men show
some signs of baldness by the age of 30. About 2/3 of men are bald or
partially bald at the age of 60. Usually men will notice that they lose hair
from the top and the front of the scalp. This pattern of hair loss is called
male pattern baldness. It is associated with decreased levels of the male
hormone, testosterone. Women will also show a typical pattern of hair loss.
As they age, hair becomes less dense all over, and the scalp may become
visible. This is called female pattern baldness.
Finally, individuals may lose body and facial hair. Although the number
of hairs is fewer, each hair may become coarser. Women may lose body hair
but develop coarse facial hair. This tends to appear on the chin and around
the lips. Men may find that eyebrow, ear, and nose hair becomes longer and
Fingernails and toenails also change with age.
Since nails and hair both
contain protein, the nails and hair undergo similar changes. Nails grow more
slowly and may lose some of their color. This may cause them to be dull and
brittle. They may also appear yellow. Nails often become very hard, thick,
and curved. This is most noticeable in the toenails. Nails may also break or
split from time to time. Sometimes, long straight ridges occur in the
fingernails. This is another normal change associated with aging.
Hair or nail changes may also occur as the result of infections, illness,
nutrition problems, or injury. Any new or worsening symptoms should be
reported to the healthcare professional.
- hair and nail changes associated with age
- age-related changes in hair and nails