Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/14/2022
When you’re wanting your hair to grow, it can feel like it takes an eternity—but does it really? Well, that partially depends on your age.
See, as we age, not only do we start to notice white hairs, our hair growth rate changes. Essentially, when you are younger, your hair may grow a bit faster. When you’re older? It may grow more slowly, if at all.
Hair loss can also be a problem as you age. To find out more about the rate of hair growth at every age, keep reading—then get some tips on how to encourage hair growth.
There’s no exact numerical rate that can be summed up for your hair growth cycle at each age. That said, we do know that hair grows more during the earlier stages of life and starts to grow less as you get older (specifically after you go through menopause).
On average, at your prime, hair grows about half an inch a month and up to 6 inches per year. Plus, the lifespan of a single strand of hair is between two and seven years.
As you age, that hair has a shorter lifespan, falling out and not always being replaced. If it is replaced, it may be with shorter, finer hair—which can give you the appearance of less hair.
The answer to this is yes and no. Technically, your hair doesn’t come to a complete standstill when you age, but many women do notice a slow down of hair growth—and even potentially some baldness. This is particularly common after a woman experiences menopause.
When your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone—two hormones key to menstruating—this is when you go into menopause.
Estrogen and progesterone also happen to be linked to your hair’s health, including its growth. Many women notice hair loss or a decrease in hair health as they go through menopause.
During menopause, your testosterone levels may go up. This is problematic because testosterone can attach to something called androgen receptors within the hair bulb, along with the dermal papilla, which helps control hair growth. Your hair follicles may also shrink as a result.
Additionally, this testosterone can also be turned into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can also cause hair loss.
When all of this occurs, it is called female pattern hair loss (or the more medical name of androgenetic alopecia). While this type of hair loss can occur at any age, it’s most likely to present in post-menopausal women. And while its exact cause is still unknown, researchers believe it can be a healthy combination of things like menopause, genetics and simply getting older.
Androgenetic alopecia or female pattern hair loss presents as overall thinning of the scalp hair, not bald patches.
If your hair growth has slowed down or you’re noticing hair loss, you may want to consider treatments that can encourage healthy hair growth. How you choose to do this will be based on why your hair isn’t growing. Scheduling an online consultation with a healthcare provider can help you figure out if it’s age that is impeding your hair growth (or something else).
From there, the medical professional can suggest treatment options. Some of the things that person may recommend are below!
Minoxidil works by sending a prompt to your blood vessels to open so that more nutrients and oxygen get to the hair, thereby improving its health. This medication also lengthens the growth period (or the anagen phase), so a higher number of follicles are created to replace hair you lose.
The acne drug spironolactone is sometimes prescribed to help reverse hair loss and thinning. It works by stopping testosterone from converting into DHT. Spironolactone can also slow down the production of androgens, elongating the growth phase (also known as the anagen phase). This can either stop or slow down post-menopause hair loss.
While spironolactone is approved by the FDA to treat conditions such as hyperaldosteronism, heart failure and fluid retention caused by things like kidney and liver disease, it is not approved by the FDA to help re-grow hair.
That means that, if a healthcare professional prescribes it to you, it will be for off-label use. There’s nothing wrong with that and there are plenty of medications out there that are prescribed to treat things other than what they were originally approved for.
Prevent further hair loss (and encourage growth!) by nipping bad habits in the bud and adopting healthy hair moves into your routine. Here, some tips that can go a long way in helping your strands:
Use conditioner after every shampoo to keep hair hydrated (dry hair is more likely to get brittle and break!). There’s also research that has shown that ingredients like saw palmetto can help fight DHT, so consider finding a formula that contains it.
Allow your hair to air dry whenever you can (and as often as you can!). Then, when you do use hair tools, keep them on the lowest heat setting. These moves can prevent additional damage.
Say bye-bye to tight ponytails and buns—they can cause breakage! Instead, embrace looser styles. Tight or heavy extensions can also lead to breakage, so avoid those.
Schedule more time between hair color touch-ups and don’t do multiple treatments at once. For example, if you relax and color your hair—space those things out by two weeks.
If you take away one thing from this article, let it be this: For the most part, your hair grows more and you lose less of it when you are younger and the opposite is true as you age.
When it comes to aging, gray hair isn’t the only thing that comes along with it. Menopause has a pretty big effect on your hair health. Women often notice more hair thinning or hair loss (known as female pattern hair loss) after they go through this life change.
To combat these things as your hair ages, you can try over the counter topical minoxidil or the prescription acne medication spironolactone. You can also keep your hair in good shape with healthy hair habits—like keeping it hydrated and not using hot tools. These things can encourage growth and thicker hair.
If you are noticing that your hair is falling out or not growing as often as you’d like it to, consider scheduling a consultation with a healthcare provider at Hers to figure out what course of treatment may be right for you.