The Best Haircare Routine for Your 40s and Beyond

Hydration is a reoccurring theme.

The Best Haircare Routine for Your 40s
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Even with a crystal ball and a set of tarot cards, it's impossible to fully predict what your life will be like 10 years from now, but what is certain is that your hair will change as you get older.

While shedding, textural changes, and going gray are all natural parts of the aging process. Not to mention, they're also influenced by external factors, such as hormone shifts, and external ones, like regular chemical treatments. However, it is possible to maintain healthy, shiny, glossy hair at every age — with the right haircare routine.

Your hair starts to age as early as your 20s, but these changes are typically most prevalent in your 40s. This is due to the body preparing itself for menopause and changes in your scalp's natural oil production.

"Thinning, dryness, and graying are the main changes in hair with women in their 40s and 50s," says Dr. Gaby Longsworth, Ph.D. scientist, certified hair practitioner and owner/ founder of Absolutely Everything Curly. "With age and declining hormone levels (menopause), hair loses density, shine, and pigment, and the sebaceous glands in the scalp produce less sebum." She points out that sebum production decreases by 50 percent between the ages of 45 to 60 in the average woman.

As for gray hair, it's actually not gray at all. "Gray hair isn't white, but transparent like glass," Dr. Longsworth explains. "It generally has higher dye uptake (semi-permanent or permanent) during hair coloring treatments. This is potentially due to the higher level of porosity and surface roughness, which facilitates the penetration of chemicals."

Texture also comes into play. "The cuticles of gray hair are rougher and drier than pigmented hair," Dr. Longsworth adds. "And gray curly hair can be drier and coarser than pigmented curly hair."

With these main hair shifts in mind, we've compiled your go-to guide to picking the right products for your 40+ haircare routine, including tips from Dr. Longsworth and celebrity hairstylist Clariss Rubenstein.

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Pre-Shampoo Treatment

Over 40 Haircare Routine

Dr. Longsworth recommends incorporating a pre-shampoo treatment into your routine that's formulated with either jojoba or coconut oil. Leave Pattern's Jojoba Oil Hair Serum on overnight to condition dry hair before wash day.

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Sulfate-Free Moisturizing Shampoo

Over 40 Haircare Routine

"Avoid shampoos with sulfates as they can cause and worsen frizz, dryness, and yellowing of gray hair," says Dr. Longsworth. "Instead, use milder cleansing products such as a moisturizing shampoo, and conditioner."

Briogeo's Don't Despair, Repair! Shampoo checks off all the boxes. The formula is deeply nourishing, yet gentle on all hair types.

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Sulfate-Free Moisturizing Conditioner

Over 40 Haircare Routine

After cleansing hair, follow up with the corresponding Briogeo conditioner. Like the shampoo, the Don't Despair, Repair! Conditioner is infused with Argan oil, algae extract, and panthenol to hydrate, strengthen, and prevent moisture loss.

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Leave-In Conditioner for Straight to Wavy Hair

Over 40 Haircare Routine

A post-shower hydrating treatment can be beneficial for aging hair, which tends to be dry and brittle. "Using a weekly moisturizing deep conditioner, leave-in, and cream can add that much-needed moisture," Dr. Longsworth says.

This Crown Affair leave-in has a silky serum-like texture that offers deep hydration but isn't too heavy for finer hair types.

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Leave-In Conditioner for Curly and Coily Hair

Over 40 Haircare Routine

This Carol's Daughter leave-in is formulated with a cocktail of ingredients that curly and coily hair types love, including aloe, shea butter, sweet almond oil, soy protein, and vitamin B5. What's more, it boosts shine.

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Hair Mask

Over 40 Haircare Routine

A hair mask is an example of a weekly treatment you can add to your routine to combat dryness. "I recommend implementing hair masks every three to four shampoos to stop hair from getting dried out," says Rubenstein. "Obliphica makes an incredible mask with sea buckthorn oil."

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Hair Oil

Over 40 Haircare Routine

"I love a lightweight oil — and Unite luxury oil is one of my favorites," says Rubenstein. "It nourishes hair post-shower and doesn't weigh it down. I would use it in the finest or the coarsest hair."

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Scalp Massager

Over 40 Haircare Routine

A scalp massage while shampooing your hair or treating it with oil is a winning combo for over-40 hair. "Stimulate blood flow and get rid of the dead skin on the scalp with a soft rubber or silicone scalp massager," suggests Dr. Longsworth. "Massaging for about 10-15 minutes daily can also stimulate sebum production to combat dryness."

Ceremonia's Scalp Masajeador has semi-soft bristles that provide a deep clean and massage that's still gentle.

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Toning Shampoo for Blonde Hair

Over 40 Haircare Routine

A toning shampoo for your hair color will help cut the yellowness and brassiness of gray hair. For those with blonde hair that's going gray, opt for a purple shampoo. Dr. Longsworth recommends a sulfate-free formula as they tend to be less drying.

Enter: Olaplex's No.4 Blonde Enhancer Toning Shampoo, which also hydrates hair.

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Toning Shampoo for Brunette Hair

Over 40 Haircare Routine

Brunettes should look for a blue shampoo to neutralize the orange tones in their hair. The same sulfate-free rule applies here.

Eva NYC makes a brass-cutting blue shampoo formula that elevates dull brown hair and boosts softness and shine.

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Clarifying Shampoo for Gray Hair

Over 40 Haircare Routine

Anyone who's transitioning to full-on gray, or is already there, should opt for a clarifying shampoo that doesn't tone their hair. "Use a clarifying, non-sulfate shampoo if you want your grays as white as possible without depositing pigment on it," Dr. Longsworth suggests. "The pigmented shampoos do deposit some color on top of the hair shaft."

Ouai's Detox Shampoo is a standout among other clarifying formulas as it offers a deep clean without stripping the hair. Plus, it smells delightful.

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Hair Growth Serum

Over 40 Haircare Routine

If you're concerned about hair loss, book an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist or trichologist to find the best treatment plan for you.

Alternatively, if you want to prevent further hair fall, there are a plethora of at-home products on the market that aim to keep the scalp balanced for optimal growth conditions. Rubenstein says Vegamour is a popular option.

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Thickening Spray

Over 40 Haircare Routine

To address thinning hair in your styling routine, Rubenstein suggests drying and setting hair with hot or velcro rollers to boost volume.

Additionally, prepping hair with a thickening spray, like this one from Better Not Younger, can add more body to your styles.

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Root Touch Up Spray

Over 40 Hair Routine

Finally, you can create the illusion of thicker, fuller hair by spraying your roots with a touch-up spray that you'd typically use to cover grays. "If you have any thinning spots, try a mist of color spray at the scalp," Rubenstein says.

The stylist is a fan of Rita Hazan's spray, which comes in five shades. "They apply beautifully and the colors are the best."

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