"Prevention works so much better than correction. Everybody's got to remember that," says Dr. Ciraldo, who is also the founder of an eponymous skincare line. Hair loss and thinning aren't easy to reverse. "Even if you go to the dermatologist, we may be able to stop the progression, but you cannot always get back to the more ideal state that you had in your twenties. It's very important to really start to develop good habits when you're young."
Dr. Ciraldo has been practicing dermatology for 41 years, so she's seen her fair share of scalp and hair issues. And a good head of hair can keep you looking more youthful, says Dr. Ciraldo. Before other cosmetic procedures, she recommends her patients address its health and appearance.
Tips from a dermatologist to keep your hair healthy as you age
1. If you feel scalp irritation when you get your hair colored, don't do it too often
"Many women chalk up having less hair to aging," says Dr. Ciraldo. "There is some correlation. As we get older, we may have a little less hair count. But I've found in my career that oftentimes I've asked women to decrease how frequently they're coloring their roots." Once they do that, she says, overall hair loss often decreases.
If you regularly color your hair and don't feel any sort of irritation the day of or in the days after coloring, Dr. Ciraldo gives you the green light to keep up with your regular dye jobs. But if you color your roots often and you do experience irritation, cut down on your salon visits. Say you get your color done every four weeks—stretch that out to six, she says. If touching up your roots is a concern between salon visits, Dr. Ciraldo recommends L'Oreal Magic Root ($10) to all of her patients—and even uses it herself—to conceal grays.
2. Shampoo your hair less frequently
Even if you've got an oily scalp or regularly work up a sweat, Dr. Ciraldo says it's healthier not to wash your hair every single day.
"Especially, let's say, by the time you're in your thirties, it's nicer to cut back on washing your hair," says Dr. Ciraldo. "I try to convince women: 'Well, instead of washing it every day, can you try to go to every other day? Can you try to just cut back a little?' Every time that you wash it, you have that net effect of drying your hair more."
If you work out often and want to wash your hair after the gym, try rinsing your scalp without using shampoo. Dr. Ciraldo also says if you feel like your hair gets a bit dull between wash days, you can add a bit of conditioner to dry hair to add some luster. If you frequently wash your hair to get rid of dry flakes, she says to try Neutrogena T/Sal ($11). "The Sal stands for 3 percent salicylic acid. This is really good at getting rid of scalp dryness and really makes the scalp healthier."
3. Use sulfate and fragrance-free hair products
"I tell a lot of women now to use sulfate-free shampoo because sulfates, like hair dye, can give you a lot of inflammation, and that can lead to hair loss," says Dr. Ciraldo. The same goes for fragrance. "The root of the hair is within the scalp. If you do anything that's going to inflame the scalp and the root, that's where you're going to have a problem. You're going to start to get the hair itself looking less lustrous. You run the risk of thinning hair or excessive hair loss."
This is what your scalp looks like under a microscope:
4. Treat reoccurring scalp itches
Many of Dr. Ciraldo's patients are dealing with an itchy scalp. With the onset of the pandemic she's it even more, as an itchy scalp can the result of stress, she says. If an itch persists, rub 1 percent hydrocortisone cream ($8) onto your scalp at bedtime.
"The itch is because the scalp is inflamed," she says. "Inflammation makes for less hair growth, and definitely scratching and rubbing really can make the hair fall out faster."
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