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‘Hair Longevity’ Products Go to Great Lengths To Keep Hair Healthy as You Age

Fun fact: The skin on your scalp ages faster than the skin anywhere else on your body—and the effects are written all over your strands. While multi-step skin-care routines prioritize longevity by smoothing, brightening, and tightening, such a focus hasn’t extended to the hair on our head. Come 2024, though, prepare to rethink your hair-care routine with longevity in mind, thanks to the help of a slew of new product launches that aim to keep hair as healthy as possible—for as long as possible. 

The last three years of hair innovations have focused on nourishing our scalps with skin-care-infused formulas and regrowing our strands in the wake of pandemic-induced hair loss. But all of these solutions target your current hair needs instead of looking to the future. That’s about to change. “We’ve seen a lot of women going through hair thinning, especially after COVID, and just accepting it because we’re all so programmed to think that having fine or brittle hair is just a part of aging,” says Sofia Baig, a hair-care expert and the lead trichologist for Monpure, a brand that launched in 2020 and focuses on scalp health. “There are so many treatments out there [to stave off the effects of visible skin aging], but what about hair care?” 

“While you can’t stop your hair from aging, you can take certain measures to help keep it as healthy as possible.”

Debby Vellozzi, head of product development, Virtue Labs

To understand the importance of hair wellness in the context of longevity, it’s key to first understand what happens to the hair as we age and why. “The scalp ages more quickly than the skin on your body, because we’re applying products and using heat and chemicals on the hair,” says Baig. She says other factors, including genetics, diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits—essentially anything connected to causing inflammation—can also impact how your hair ages. Additionally, research has shown that oxidative stress—which happens as a result of free radical damage from things like pollution, sun exposure, and hard water and keeps your cells from functioning properly—can significantly speed up the hair aging process by compromising your hair strands before they even break the surface of your scalp. 

I believe consumers these days are more interested in what is happening [to their hair] and how they fix it. Rather than just looking for something to cover up an imperfection, they want a solution.

Debby Vellozzi

All of these factors translate into tangible changes to your hair. “As we age, our hair follicles go through a process called miniaturization, in which their size decreases over time,” says Baig. “And when that happens, your hair’s not as dense, you’re losing hair as you go…and hair can become dry, brittle, and prone to breakage.” And there’s also graying due to pigment loss. None of these outcomes are bad, wrong, or problematic in any way—but for folks who want to stave off or minimize these changes, a new class of options are welcome. 

“I believe consumers these days are more interested in what is happening [to their hair] and how they fix it. Rather than just looking for something to cover up an imperfection, they want a solution,” says Debby Vellozzi, head of product development at hair- and scalp-care brand Virtue Labs. The brand’s products use a patented protein, Alpha Keratin 60ku, which repairs hair damage from chronological aging, environmental factors, heat styling, and chemical processing. Its newest launch, a gray-friendly ColorKick Mask that hit the market earlier this year, provides hydration and shine to keep aging hair from looking dry and dull.   

Vellozzi says the trend she’s been seeing in preventative skin care over the last few years (hello, SPF and antioxidants) has begun to make its way into the hair-care arena. Many “people start using skin treatments at the first sign of wrinkles,” says Vellozzi, pointing to these visible changes as signposts for skin aging. By comparison, the first signs of hair aging may be dryness, frizzing, or thinning. “If we start using products that can actually make a difference in our hair and scalp health, we maintain the beauty of our hair longer,” she adds.

Photo: Stocksy / Anna Tabakova

A big ethos of the preventative hair-care movement is going skin (well, scalp) deep. Hairstylists often “recommend treatments that last four to six weeks or products that last until you wash the hair again, says Jay Small, co-founder of Arey, one of the brands leading the charge in hair longevity. “But for us [at Arey], it was about looking below the surface of the scalp and figuring out what the hair follicle needed to grow a softer hair strand, or have more color, or be thicker and fuller.” 

This line of thinking led to the brand’s first-of-its-kind “Not Today, Grey” supplement in 2020, which contains targeted vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants to help maintain pigment in the strands. That scalp-first focus has influenced all of Arey’s subsequent additions to the “Not Today, Grey” line, which include a shampoo and conditioner, a dry shampoo, and a styling cream. Small also hints at plans to move into the professional hair-care space in the upcoming year. But, this focus on the scalp to prevent signs of hair aging is at the forefront of many of 2024’s upcoming formulations. 

“Consumers are learning about how to keep their hair healthy and understand that they need to do more to protect their hair on a daily basis to keep it looking healthy for the long-term,” says Lavinia Popescu, chief scientist for hair-care brand Olaplex, which made bond-building technology mainstream with its launch in 2016 (more on that below). And next year, companies are moving in to meet these needs.

Staving off oxidative stress to the scalp is one of the most important factors in keeping hair healthy as you age, and next year we’ll have plenty of different ways to do exactly that. First up? High-tech shower heads that filter out the damaging effects of hard water. When minerals in hard water are absorbed into your hair, it causes oxidative stress that leads to breakage and other signs of hair aging—which is exactly what these new shower heads are designed to combat. Though these types of filters have been around for some time, they’ve only recently shifted from the plumbing world into the beauty space. This year saw showerhead launches from beauty brands Jolie, AquaBliss, Hello Klean, and next year, Kitsch is set to introduce its own filtered showerhead. But the innovation doesn’t stop there: Just this week, Living Proof launched a Clarifying Detox Shampoo that uses a magnetic polymer to remove the heavy metals hard water leaves in your hair; later this month, L’Oréal Paris will introduce its EverPure Clarify Shampoo & Restore Conditioner, which is specifically designed to detoxify hair that’s been exposed to hard water; and come February, Act+Acre will be launching a showerhead filter, with a larger hard water-specific scalp collection coming later in the year.

Equally as critical as caring for the scalp in the long-term is caring for the strands. Over time, exposure to heat and environmental factors can exacerbate dryness, thinning, and breakage, which is where bond-building products come in. “Maintaining the hair bonds by helping to repair damage leads to stronger and healthier looking hair while protecting it against the five types of damage including damage from chemical services, heat styling, mechanical friction, environment, and pollution,” says Popescu. “Taking the daily steps to repair and maintain hair on an ongoing basis helps keep hair healthier looking as you age.” 

Photo: Stocksy / Mattia

Bond-building tech restores damaged hair by repairing broken polypeptide chains within the strand. This tech has primarily existed in the luxury hair-care spaces, but next year, bond-building products will enter the drugstore, increasing hair longevity access. Unilever (the beauty behemoth behind many drugstore brands) plans to unveil bond repair lines from Dove, Nexxus, and Shea Moisture, the last of which focuses on natural textures with the inclusion of ultra-hydrating ingredients like amala oil and will make reparative hair treatments available to all hair types. You can expect innovation in the luxury space, too, with an upcoming collection from Kenra Professionals that replenishes the hair’s amino acids to repair existing damage while protecting against external stressors to prevent future breakage. 

As Vellozzi puts it, “While you can’t stop your hair from aging, you can take certain measures to help keep it as healthy as possible.” And in 2024, those preventative measures will be easier to come by than ever before.

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