The effects of aging on
hair and nails

Hair and nails are made of a protein called keratin. They have no nerves, and the parts that are visible are dead cells. Hair as well as nails, become thinner, grow slower, and become weaker with age.

The most noticeable change in our hair is that it lightens (grays) and eventually turns white. It can begin as early as the late teens or as late as in the 50's, but most people have some gray by the time they reach 40. The first signs of gray usually appear at the temples and then at the top of the head. Body and facial hair turn gray later and hair in the armpits and pubic area very often does not turn gray. Graying hair is genetically determined.

Other changes due to aging include:

  • Facial and body hair loss increases
  • Hair grows slower
  • Each hair strand becomes thinner
  • Coarse facial hair may develop
  • Hair can lose density all over the head and the scalp may become visible: female-pattern baldness

Nails also change as we age. They grow slower and can become dry and brittle. Other changes include:

  • Nails may become opaque or turn yellow
  • Toenails may become very hard and thick
  • Horizontal ridges often appear on fingernails and toenails
  • Ingrown toenails become more common

You should be aware that some changes can be symptoms of an illness or infection unrelated to aging. See your doctor if you suspect a problem.

Genetics determines what type of hair and the nails you will have, but environment and health can change or alter their condition. Find out how to protect them:

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