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Different races and ethnicities have different rates of hair aging



The intrinsic and extrinsic factors that contribute to hair aging differ depending on race and ethnicity.


While hair greying with age is universal, the average age at which it begins to occur varies depending on race. Among Caucasians, the average age at which they begin to gray is in their mid-thirties, while it is late in their thirties for Asians and late in their forties for Blacks.


There are also variations in the presentation of common hair concerns among different ethnic groups. A Caucasian patient seeking advice on how to treat damaged hair is more likely to suffer damage to the distal hair shaft than a patient of any other race. It is more likely that a Black patient with the same complaint will present with damage that is more localized to the hair root.


According to a review of studies published earlier this year in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, understanding these differences and why they occur can lead to more informed and culturally sensitive recommendations for treating and managing hair aging concerns.


Professor of dermatology at Boston University and Boston Medical Center and founder and director of the Boston University Center for Ethnic Skin, Dr. Neelam Vashi says conducting the review helped to qualify and quantify what she sees at the clinic when African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, and Caucasian patients come in for a consultation.


Her research shows that “there is very little published on hair aging in different ethnicities.” She said “I was really interested in getting a better understanding of the differences that we can see.”


Factors Contributing to Intrinsic Hair Aging


According to the authors, intrinsic hair aging is comprised of the natural physiological changes that occur over the course of time. According to Vashi, "intrinsic aging is something that we are born with." In addition to the genes that we inherit from our parents, it is also determined by our genetic makeup, which includes our ethnicity and background.


Hair graying is associated with aging and a decrease in melanocytes, which is thought to occur naturally as people grow older. It has happened to me that some of my patients have come in because they believe they are graying too soon,” she shares.


Not only is the average age at which graying begins to appear different among ethnic groups, but so is the definition of what constitutes premature graying. “Graying is considered premature if it occurs at a different time in different groups of people. Among Caucasians, it occurs around the age of 20, in Asians around the age of 25, and at the age of 30 in African Americans,” Vashi explains. ”A great deal of the variation can be attributed to pigmentation.”


When it comes to managing patient expectations and addressing their concerns, she believes that having this information is critical.


She explains that if someone is at an age when changes such as hair loss are premature, “we can be more aggressive in the medications we use and advise them to follow up with us,” she says.


In addition, there are structural differences in hair that can have an impact on how hair ages in different ethnic groups. Asian hair has an average diameter or thickness ranging from 80 to 120 microns, whereas Caucasian hair has an average diameter of 65 microns and Black hair has an average thickness of 55 microns. The average diameter of Hispanic/Latino hair tends to be in the middle of the range between Asian and Caucasian hair types.


In the study, Caucasians had the highest hair density of all the ethnic groups examined. Black people are the most disadvantaged. Asian people have hair density that is in the middle of the spectrum. The authors of the review lacked sufficient information on Hispanic hair density.


Black people have the slowest hair growth rate, but they have the highest eumelanin content of any ethnic group. Breakage is either increased or occurs more quickly in this hair type. In addition, the hair cuticles of this group are smaller than those of other ethnicities.


In addition, while the hair shaft shape in Caucasians is cylindrical, it is ellipsoid or flattened in Black people, circular in Asian people, and cylindrical and circular in Hispanic populations, among others.


Aspects of Extrinsic Hair Aging


Extrinsic hair aging factors include environmental exposures and physical stress caused by grooming practices, which are more manageable and controllable. The oxidative damage to the hair that can be caused by ultraviolet light and chemicals can alter the quality and quantity of our hair, according to Vashi, who also works in the beauty industry. The use of chemicals such as hair dye or hair straightening products can cause damage to the hair fiber. Smoking has been shown to accelerate the aging of hair.”


According to the review, studies have shown that the risk of hair graying is nearly twice as high in smokers as it is in nonsmokers, despite the fact that both groups smoke.


According to the researchers, there is an element of extrinsic aging associated with various cultural practices. According to her, “it is not only about how you were born and your genetics, but it is also about your culture and what you do.”


According to Vashi, the findings that Asian and Caucasian people present with more distal hair damage at the hair shaft and Black people present with damage closer to the hair root are due not only to the structure of the hair but also to extrinsic factors such as cultural hair care practices.


“I've had patients come to me who claim that their hair has simply stopped growing,” Vashi explains. “They believe they are suffering from a mental illness. There's nothing wrong with them at all! Even though the hair is growing, when a break occurs, it is in a different section of the hair. There is one hair that is growing and another that is falling out at the same time. In cases where hair breakage occurs more quickly, there is a visible perception that there is no hair growth.”


There are some things that patients cannot avoid as they grow older, such as graying and hair density reduction. However, there are some general and culturally specific changes and practices that can be implemented to prevent premature hair aging from occurring. According to the study's authors, appropriate grooming habits, careful hair styling, better choices for shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in products, better hair coloring choices, and medical therapies to treat underlying conditions are among the strategies that health care providers can recommend.


According to Vashi, if we can practice better hair styling regimens or if we can advise our patients to do so, the aspect of breakage may at the very least be reduced. In that case, the perception of hair would be that it is longer and growing at a faster rate.


A few examples of recommendations include advising Caucasian patients who have hair damage to avoid using hot straighteners on their hair. Aside from avoiding harsh chemicals in hair care products such as chemical relaxers, black people with hair damage should also try to practice healthier hair styling techniques.


“Unique hairstyles, such as cornrows, tight hair ties, braiding, and weaves, which are common in individuals with African hair, cause traction on the scalp, resulting in traction alopecia,” the authors wrote. “Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss that affects individuals with African hair. In addition, because African hair has tight coiling, everyday washing, combing, and grooming practices increase knot formation, resulting in a high prevalence of fractures along the length of the hair.


It is interesting to note that different hair types respond differently to different cosmetic products used to bleach, color, perm, or straighten their hair. For example, Asian hair is more resistant to straightening treatments than Caucasian and Black hair, which is a common occurrence. According to the review, Asian hair appears to contain higher concentrations of integral lipids, fatty acids, cholesterol, and wax esters than other hair types, making Asian hair less susceptible to UV damage.


In general, according to Vashi, hair dyes can cause allergies as well as damage to the hair.


“There are certain ingredients in hair dyes that can cause allergic reactions,” she explains. Rather than telling patients to stop coloring their hair, I advise them to use safe methods and avoid anything that causes pain, itching, or burning on the scalp. We are only given a certain number of hair follicles when we are born. Once a hair follicle scars down or disappears, that is the end of it.”


She says she offers patients patch testing to determine which hair dye ingredients are causing the reaction and then provides them with a recommendation for a different hair dye.


Hair dyes aren't the only thing that causes this. Some relaxers and hot hair styling treatments can cause burns to the scalp, which can cause permanent damage to the hair follicles over time.


In Vashi's opinion, "hair is such an important aspect of how people and patients perceive themselves." “There are certain aspects of the appearance of hair that are considered to be beautiful across cultural boundaries. We also have a population that is growing older, but who wishes to maintain a youthful, vibrant appearance as long as possible. What we can do is provide counseling, make hair-care recommendations, provide treatments, and set expectations in a culturally sensitive manner.”

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