As a beauty and fashion director for over 30 years, Lois Joy Johnson has interviewed every stylist under the sun and sampled every product under the moon. As the author of Vibrant Nation’s hair guide, she spent the last year putting all the top tricks together in one place. This week, we gave her your top FOF hair gripes, and she gave us a genius hair-apy session:
My hair is so dry since I went through menopause…what can I do?
Dry, brittle, dehydrated hair is a big issue for women in their 50s and 60s. Our generation was told that oil-free makeup and products were a good thing — however, after menopause we need all the moisture we can get. Use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners, hair repair masques and alternate using dry shampoo and regular shampoo. (Read my product recommendations below).
Help! My hair is thinning. What do I do?
Every single women over fifty experiences some degree of thinning hair. Usually women say, “I have half the hair I had at 30.” When thinning becomes excessive or you’re experiencing dramatic hair loss, you need a doctor to identify the source — either an endocrinologist (a hormone specialist) or a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss. In a lot of cases, hair loss has to do with hormones and a shift in estrogen but, it could also be a thyroid issue, iron deficiency, genetic or a compilation of causes.
What are some solutions for hair loss?
It would be great to say one product solves it all, but your doctor’s diagnosis is really going to affect that treatment. Hereditary loss usually requires a hair transplant and there are certain surgeons who specialize in hair restoration. I think Dr. Gary Perrault in Beverly Hills and Dr. Catherine Orentreich in New York are the best in the business. Rogaine is the only over-the-counter topical treatment approved by the FDA for hair loss and regrowth. It increases the blood supply to the scalp and jump-starts growth at the hair follicles. It can work for some women, for some it doesn’t work at all, for others it may start working then stop. You have to use it every day, for life. It works best for women who have thinning at the crown and early hair loss. Some dermatologists prescribe Propecia, a pill that inhibits DHT production (DHT is what kills the hair follicle). It’s only approved by the FDA for men because it can cause birth defects, but many doctors will prescribe it to women past menopause.
Are there any supplements I can take to help with thinning hair?
I’ve always taken biotin supplements, which a lot of doctors and dermatologists recommend for thinning hair. I also take Viviscal, a supplement made with marine extracts such as shark, cod and biotin. Doctors and dermatologists have mixed opinions about the benefits of hair supplements. Some dermatologists say ‘it’s hocus pocus,’ some dermatologists say ‘I don’t know why — but it works.’ I think they do.
Long or short after fifty?
The stereotypes about hair for women over fifty don’t exist anymore. Some women with short hair look modern and chic such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Ellen DeGeneres or Annette Bening. Then, others have long hair and look fabulous too such as Maria Schriver, Christie Brinkley or Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s hard to generalize but a cant miss length is mid-length from the chin to the collar bone. It seems to work for a lot of women and you can add choppy layers or bangs for texture.
Should I go gray or color it?
Few women have that Rolls Royce silvery, gray hair that’s gorgeous. Think about Judi Dench, the model Carmen or Helen Mirren. Gray like that is usually enhanced with highlights to make it more dimensional and and luster. I think that even a small shift in color as your hair transitions helps brighten the skin, soften lines and shadows on the face and counteract pigmentation changes in the skin. Hair color can also create a fuller, thicker look when thinning becomes an issue. It coats the hair shaft making it feel thicker. Optically, tone-on-tone color or highlights helps create the illusion of movement, depth and texture. So, should you color? It’s an individual choice and an option that should be considered carefully. I’ll never give up my colorist Brad Johns and my super-blonde locks!
I’m going gray and want to dye my hair dark. What should I be wary of?
Light roots on dark hair can make your part seem wider and create the illusion of thinning hair — exactly what you don’t want. You really have to be vigilant about your roots between color fixes. There’s no reason not to since Clairol and L’Oreal have excellent touch-up products that take only a few minutes to use.
I’m going gray and want to dye my hair blond. What should I be wary of?
If you are going for a dramatic color change — go to a pro. Boosting light brown hair that is graying with at-home color a shade or two warmer or brighter is fine. However, if you are a brunette with gray that wants to go blond, use a colorist for best results. Be sure your skin tone contrasts with your hair color enough so that you don’t appear washed out. The right blonde for women over fifty is broken up with warmer and lighter tones, not one uniform color which tends to look wiggy and retro.
I’m going gray and want to dye my hair red. What should I be wary of?
Red hair is the hardest to pull off at any age. If you weren’t a redhead in your youth, you better think a thousand times if you want to be a redhead after fifty. It’s difficult getting the right shade so it doesn’t look phony.
I think I’m just going to let my hair go gray… what should I keep in mind?
Many women think, ‘Whoopee! I decided not to dye my hair so now I don’t have to do anything.’ This isn’t true. Gray hair takes work because it comes in more wiry in texture and sometimes is more dry. You need to work with a stylist to find the right cut and condition it like crazy.
So, you’re saying that FOFs can pull off color or gray, long or short hair…is there anything they can’t pull off?
Barrettes. I was at the opera and there was a chic, elegantly-dressed woman who had little glittery barrettes in her hair. I thought ‘No more cutesy hair accessories! Save them for your granddaughter.’ Headbands have to be very selectively used. They can work sometimes but keep it simple — a thin, leather or tortoise shell headband in neutral colors.
1. You can freshen your hair without having to shampoo it every five seconds. FOF hair is already dry and washing too often can dry it out more. Try Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo.
2. A deep penetrating conditioner or hair mask is important for women over fifty — it helps nourish your hair. I like Davines NOUNOU Nourishing Repair Mask because it has olive butter in it.
3. I hear women, especially women over fifty, complain all the time that their dryer is too heavy. I use a T3 travel hair dryer because it’s lighter but has just as much power as a full-size one. It’s expensive but worth every penny.
4. I alternate between this amazing Italian product Terax Conditioner and the Fekkai glossing conditioner. Terax is more expensive than drugstore products, but I like to splurge on my haircare.
5. I think women really misuse styling products. If you have fine hair, you don’t want to pile a lot of stuff on. I just use a teeny bit of John Frieda Hair Serum to give it a smooth, finished look. I think this serum is the best.
6. Use dry hair conditioners — ones with olive oil and shea butter are particularly nourishing. Try Fekkai Glossing Conditioner
7. I’m pretty loyal to John Frieda products, because they just work. When I use shampoo, I use John Frieda’s Sheer Blonde.
[Read the entire interview with Lois here]