Why hair plays a disappearing act after 40

Nearly half of women over 40 suffer from hair loss, but take note: It’s not inevitable. Here’s how you can prevent future shedding and even regrow what’s been lost.

By Annemarie Iverson
Photograph: Photo by: Plamen Petkov

How I Scored More Strands in an Hour
Hair extensions thicken the manes of many over-40 celebs (thought their lush locks were natural? Ha!), so I set out to see what they’d do for my sparse strands. To find a stylist near me to attach them, I went on hairuwear.com, which lists salons that use Great Lengths extensions (a brand I’d heard of). My pick: Marc Mena at New York’s Warren-Tricomi Salon.
"Extensions are better than Botox," says Mena, as he selects from bundles of human hair, each of which contains about 25 strands held together at one end with keratin protein. He then glues the bundles to the roots of my hair, using a bonding machine. (I’m told the extensions last four months, at which point I’ll return to the salon and get them removed with a solution that dissolves the keratin.)
It takes Mena an hour to attach 60 bundles, boosting my hair’s density by about 30 percent. (Although they’re called extensions, on me, it’s more like supplementation.) Mena trims the pieces to match the length of my own locks and gives me rules to follow for two days: No combing, no washing, no products containing silicone. All day, I swing my new superthick strands. I’m addicted.
However, like many potential addicts, I’m saved by the price of the fix: My extensions cost $1,500. Replacing them every four months would cost me $4,500 a year. I may splurge again for a special occasion — or I might try a temporary (and more affordable) approach. My friend swears by Hairdo (also at hairuwear.com), a line of clip-in hairpieces from celeb stylist Ken Paves. Prices start at $95.

Feigning Fatter Strands
Whether your hair loss is normal (but still annoying) or extreme, you can benefit from these expert-endorsed styling tricks.
To achieve faux fullness, try trimming your tresses. "Shorter is better when you’re losing hair," says Sally Hershberger, a New York City-based stylist who counts Meg Ryan and Jane Fonda among her clients. "But don’t layer too much; that can make your hair look even thinner," she warns. The ideal? A slightly layered bob, so you have both movement and the illusion of volume.
Color can also play a part. If thinning has exposed your scalp, play down the contrast between your skin and hair shades, Hershberger suggests. In other words, if your skin is fair, lighten your locks; for darker skin, deepen their tone.
Treat your hair with products that target the problem. Start by using stylers that boost density, usually by causing the hair shaft to swell slightly. Two to try: Oribe’s Volumista Spray, $29, oribe.com; and Fekkai More Density Styling Whip, $25, beauty.com.
Then focus on scalp stimulation, which keeps hair follicles healthy. Pros swear by Leonor Greyl Complexe Energisant, $79, www.leonorgreyl-usa.com.
Finally, check out anything that enhances shine without weighing hair down. Volumizing products are notorious for dulling strands (the plumping action can rough up the hair’s outer layer), so this step is a must. One we love: Nioxin Glossing Color Shield, $20; nioxin.com for salons.
Originally published in MORE magazine, April 2009.

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