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How to cure thinning hair for women over 40

The tips and tricks to treating thinning hair that has been brought on by the pandemic

Annabel Jones Lisa Armstrong
Annabel Jones (R) and Lisa Armstrong (L) Credit: Andrew Crowley

Ageless Beauty is a column by Lisa Armstrong and Annabel Jones, in which two experts discuss one beauty conundrum from cosmetic procedures to lipstick.  It is published every four weeks on Wednesday.

On the agenda this week...the recent news that Covid is linked to hair loss and what you can do about thinning hair now.

Lisa (LA): A few years ago I went on a vegan diet. I didn’t research it properly and was eating erratically – an occupational hazard during fashion months. Predictably, my hair suffered and boy do I know how distressing thinning hair can be. Long story short, I went to see the trichologist, Philip Kingsley.

Annabel (AJ): What did he recommend? I recently chatted to his daughter, Anabel Kingsley, who revealed that losing hair is extremely common and can be brought on by all sorts of reasons: crash dieting, medications, stress, menopause and iron deficiency – and now Covid apparently.

LA: Because hair is largely composed of keratin, a form of protein, Philip recommended eggs, salmon, fish nuts and seeds, not ideal on a vegan diet, but you can find alternatives. Getting my hormones sorted was a big help – you need to ensure your testosterone isn’t too high and that you have enough oestrogen and progesterone.

AJ: When my skin and hair begin to flag it always tracks back to my diet. The nutritionist Eve Kalinik recently told me you should check you’re getting enough iron and fibre. The latter nourishes the gut bacteria which helps hair growth.

LA: And getting enough sleep. I found there are lots of little things you can do externally too, like cutting your hair to suit your genes. A haircut that suited my hair type was a game changer.

AJ: Great point. I’m receding a little around my hairline. So I have my hair cut with longish layers around my face to give it some volume. I used to avoid cutting my hair at all costs, but having a trim regularly keeps it looking so much healthier. Long hair is old hair, it needs maintenance.

Hair tools (L-R): Color Wow’s brush, £16; rubber scalp brush by Kera Health, £10, and Joanna Czech’s Facial Massager, £178

LA: The right detangling brushes help too. I used to be scared to brush my hair as there was so much coming out, so I always use Color Wow’s brush, £16. I was recently sent a little rubber scalp brush, £10, that I use to massage my scalp at night to stimulate the roots. It also puffs up your hair up quite nicely.

AJ: That old myth of sitting at your dressing table brushing your hair 100 times will only damage hair that’s prone to breaking. I’ve recently been drawn to Joanna Czech’s Facial Massager, £178, that I also run over my scalp to release tension and simulate blood flow to the hair follicle.

LA: A little bit of dry shampoo goes a long way to thicken hair. I also find that good old rain water does the trick for me – it gives my hair a nice “tonged” texture.

AJ: Ha ha, I agree, every woman should own a dry shampoo. Sam McKnight’s Dry Shampoo, £19 is my desert island product – it smells like a country garden. But, you can’t beat Batiste, £2.99, for value.

Hair must-haves (L-R): Sam McKnight’s Dry Shampoo, £19; Batiste, £2.99; Fulvic Shampoo and Conditioner, £25 each

LA: There’s a slew of shampoos aimed at thinning hair. It’s difficult to recommend a specific line, because you have to separate those results from the effects of your diet and so on, but I really like Fulvic Shampoo and Conditioner, £25 each. 

I hear good things of Centred, a tiny British brand by Laura and Kieran Tudor. She’s a vegan, he’s a hairdresser. The products certainly smell lovely, contain vitamins and amino acids to lessen hair stress and come in recycled packaging. I’ve been alternating their Vegan Hair Supplement, £30, which is rich in silica biotin, zinc and iron with Victoria Health’s Superior Hair, £28.50, or Ionicell, £20. My hair’s looking pretty good these days. Do you use any supplements?

Supplements to try (L-R): Centred Vegan Hair Supplement, £30, and LYMA supplements, £149

AJ: I’ve been taking LYMA supplements, £149, which have some hefty clinical trials on improving immunity, skin and hair. But since having more time at home, I’ve been using hair masks. I love Living Proof Weightless Hair Mask, £33, and Redken’s Extreme Lengths Split End Sealer, £20.78, which contains biotin for hair growth. Masks penetrate deeper than conditioners, which are essentially just detanglers.

Personally, I’d rather use shampoos and conditioners that work on hair condition rather than claim to make your hair grow – I’m yet to be convinced on that. I love Pureology Fullfyl Shampoo, £19.95, with thickening and strengthening amino acids, a vegan brand that’s silicone and sulphate free and really nourishes. They say the secret to good hair is to treat it like a cashmere jumper.

Annabel's hair essentials (L-R):  Living Proof Weightless Hair Mask, £33; Redken’s Extreme Lengths Split End Sealer, £20.78, Pureology Fullfyl Shampoo, £19.95, and Dyson's Supersonic hairdryer, £299.99

LA: Talking of fabrics, I use a silk pillowcase which helps to protect my hair – you can get inexpensive ones on amazon.co.uk.

AJ: Me too, But the best investment I’ve ever made is the Dyson Supersonic hairdryer, £299.99. It’s expensive but worth its weight in gold – my hair is much less damaged, mainly because it uses airflow rather than heat.

LA: I’m with you. If you’ve got weak hair, the Dyson’s a smart buy. I don’t wash my hair every day – it gives my hair a rest from drying and allows some judicious build up that creates a little extra thickness.     

Have you suffered from Covid related hair loss? What has worked for you? Tell us in the comments section below