How Hair, Skin & Voice Change with Age

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  • 0:01 Changes
  • 0:49 Hair
  • 2:34 Skin
  • 4:11 Voice
  • 5:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

In this lesson, we will explore the obvious changes to our body as we age: hair, skin and voice. We will examine common causes as well as what to expect around certain ages.

Changes

I don't consider myself too prideful on my looks. But it was shocking and a little unsettling to find white and gray hairs at the age of 24 in my beard and hair. I guess you, or I, can't stop the progress of the body into old age. In a couple of years, I will probably have huge swaths of gray and white hair.

As we age, there are noticeable changes to our body that make us feel and look older. I am talking about the changes to our hair, skin and voice. When these start to change, that is when we know we're getting old. That, and when your favorite music is on the oldies station, and your favorite show ended almost a decade ago.

Hair

Hair is the biological structure found in mammals, made of keratin, melanin and various other materials. It grows all over the body except in a few, small places, like your hands and the bottom of your feet.

Hair color is determined by the amount of melanin in the hair follicle. Around the age of 30, most people begin seeing a graying or whitening in the hair as a result of the reduction in the amount of melanin in the hair. This usually begins in the temples and then extends to other parts of the scalp. In addition, the hair can begin to thin as the hair itself grows more finely and thinner than it used to.

Body hair is more resistant to graying. It tends to take years for body hair, including arm, chest and leg hair, to turn gray or white. In some people, the changes never occur, and they keep their original body hair color their whole life. Other hair can grow coarser and longer, such as in the ears and nose.

Hair graying is primarily determined by genes. However, I have always heard that you received all your hair genes from your mother, which just isn't true. You are a conglomeration of both of your parents' genes. Hair graying is also modified by vitamins, nutrients and, of course, hair products. European people are noted as going grayer sooner than those of Asian descent.

Lest we forget, male pattern baldness can begin around 30, with many men bald by the time they're 60. This is linked to testosterone in men. Women can also undergo female pattern baldness at the same time, in which the hair becomes thinner and finer. This can result in a visible scalp.

Skin

Everyone knows what happens to your skin as you get older. The skin is a layered organ of cells with melanin to protect you. Melanin is a dark protein that gives hair, skin and the iris their color, as well as absorbing some radiation. This means that the greatest risk to damaging your skin is by exposing it to things that injure it. This makes sense, since the best way to hurt your liver is to expose it to toxins.

However, toxins for your skin include sun damage and chemical irritants (such as makeup, cleaning products and others). The most damaging is the sun exposure. Additional things that affect how your skin ages includes nutrition, level of melanin and genetics.

The chemical in your skin that gives it that bounce and allows it to stretch is elastin. As we age, the cells of our skin do not produce as much elastin, resulting in less bounce. This is also the main cause of wrinkles. If the skin is pulled, like old rubber, it doesn't return back to its original shape.

Furthermore, subcutaneous, or under the skin, fat layers begin to thin out. This is most prominent in the face, particularly in the cheekbones and cheeks. The thinning in this area gives older people an almost gaunt appearance, with sharp cheekbones jutting out and hollowed cheeks.

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