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Does My Hair Look Old?

Skin isn't the only body part to show your age. As anti-agers segue into hair care, we investigate whether they can rewind the clock for your locks.

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Now that you’ve doused it with chlorine and salty seawater all summer, your hair might be looking a little tired, worn and, yes, older.

“Hair ages in a number of ways. There’s a gradual decrease in sebum production, so hair gets drier and more prone to breakage,” says Manhattan dermatologist Francesca Fusco. “And the hair follicle actually gets smaller in size, it’s called miniaturization, so the diameter of the hair fiber shrinks.” This means your hair, quite literally, isn’t as thick. With fewer active follicles over time, you can also end up with fewer strands overall.

These fun facts are examples of intrinsic aging, the kind that’s going on under the surface—and unbeknownst to you—until you see it in the mirror, or on your comb. The extrinsic (outward) aging that comes along with too much surfing or styling adds fuel to the fire.

“The heat from blow dryers and the curling irons that create beachy waves are hotter than ever and I’m seeing patients come in with more damage than ever before,” says Fusco. “The hair starts to splinter mid-shaft. Under a microscope it looks like two paintbrushes colliding.”

The good news: Peptides, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids have earned serious cred in the skincare arena and they can also help you maintain younger hair. Just as these types of nutrients benefit you if taken internally, in this case, they feed the scalp, says Fusco. “Antioxidants help neutralize oxidizing free radicals, peptides are made up of amino acids—the building blocks of protein—which hair is made up of, and EFAs become part of the cell membrane and ultimately help nourish the scalp for healthier hair.”

Fusco’s tips for younger hair, inside and out: Eat enough protein, don’t yoyo diet, take a “hair holiday” by skipping heat styling once or twice a week, and work some anti-aging products into your routine. Here, a few to try: