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Gray hair: Everything you need to know

by Tina Sendin September 11, 2019

Gray hair: Everything you need to know

The other day I was casually pulling my hair up into a tight bun when I noticed a strand of gray hair. I was about to get the ultimate satisfaction of plucking it out when, trying to get to the root of it all (pun intended), I saw 10 other strands of gray hair in that same spot!

Panic took over. So I did what most millennials would do in times of peril – I went to Google.

I looked into the real deal about gray hair. And here are a few things I’ve found.

 

Gray hair: why they exist 

Each of our hair strands has pigmentation, thanks to melanin. 

Melanin is a “skin pigment,” which gives both humans and animals their hair, skin and eye color. [1] The more the melanin, the darker they get.

Over time, pigment cells producing melanin start to die. This causes the new hair strands to get lighter in color – hence the gray, silver and white hair.

And once this starts to happen, follicles won’t grow darker, colored hair again. 

 

Before you panic, listen up – 

The graying out process does NOT happen until you’re older. You probably know this already, right?

So the next question is…

 

When does gray hair start to come out? 

Before we answer this question, you need to know one thing:

It has to do with age.

Dermatologists have this 50-50-50 rule which says “50 percent of the population has about 50 percent gray hair at age 50.” That’s according to Dr. Anthony Oro, professor of dermatology at Stanford University. [2]

And it's genetic.

So if your parents started to get a gray ball of hair in their 40s, then you should enjoy your colored locks until then. But this isn’t to say that gray hair won’t start to come out in the 20s. Because it's possible for some teenagers to grow strands of white hair. [2]

Ethnicity has a role to play too.

According to WebMD:

“On average, white people start to gray in their mid-30s. Asians start in their late 30s. And African-Americans usually don’t see color changes until their mid-40s.” Some people even go gray a decade or earlier. [3]

  

Is gray hair coarser than colored tresses?

Color isn’t the only one that changes in your hair when you age. Texture too. [2]

Many people think that gray hair is coarser compared to when they’re younger.

But it's the contrary.

Gray hair is fine. It only seems coarse because hair gets dry as we age, with our scalp producing less oil over time.

Also, according to Glenn Lyons, a Philip Kingsly trichologist, “hair may also ‘feel’ coarser if you pull out your first few grey hairs… because constant pulling out of hair can distort your follicles, resulting in more crinkly hair.” [2]

 

What causes gray hair? 

There are other factors that make your tresses go gray. Here are just some of them:

 

Health problems

Gray hair may be an indication of an underlying medical condition. According to Jeffrey Benabio, a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, California, certain autoimmune and genetic conditions may be the cause for premature graying.

In fact, a 2008 research established the link between hair abnormalities and thyroid dysfunction. [4]

If gray hair appears way too early (a decade or so than when it's supposed to), then check for a thyroid disorder, vitiligo (which causes certain parts of the skin and hair to turn white), or anemia. [5]

White hair can also be a result of alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin condition that leads to hair loss. Under this condition, when hair grows back, melanin deficiency causes hair to grow gray. [6]

 

Smoking 

A 2013 study published in the Italian Dermatology Online Journal found that smokers are likely to start growing gray hair earlier than non-smokers. Results showed that those who light up experienced graying 2.5 times more likely compared to those who don’t – even before hitting 30. [7

Similarly, a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology associated premature greying in young men with smoking. [8]

 

Poor diet 

Vitamin B12 deficiency is a prime suspect for gray hair. This is according to Dr. Karthik Krishnamurthy, Director of the Dermatology Center’s Cosmetic Clinic at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. [2]

So why not add foods rich in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants in your diet? Eat the likes of liver and carrots that fight toxin and keep you away from heart disease, cancer and yes – gray hair.

  

Stress

The jury’s still out on this one but stress may cause you to turn your tresses into Storm's.

 

While some dermatologists say stress doesn’t directly cause gray hair, it could either be a cause or an effect of something. 

It could come from serious illness and treatment, like chemotherapy, or it could also be the cause of smoking and poor diet. [2]

  

How can you delay gray hair?

We can’t avoid the inevitable. All of us will sooner or later encounter gray hair. But there are ways to hack it.

Here are three simple tips you can try doing today:

 

Fill the gap in your diet.

Because lack of antioxidants and vitamin B12 causes your crowning glory to go all gray, the best antidote is to eat more foods that are rich in them. Consume antioxidant-rich foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil. Pack your diet with vitamin B-12 and D by eating lots of seafood, eggs, meats, milk, salmon, and cheese.

 

You could always supplement your diet

If you feel like you’re not getting enough to address the deficiencies, you could always go for supplements and multivitamins. VALI Hair Strong has the right combination of necessary minerals that work together to increase hair growth, volume, and natural shine. 

 

Quit smoking.

Easier said than done, but the best time to quit your cigarettes is now. If less gray hair is motivation enough, ditch that pack and go for a healthier lifestyle!

  

Manage your stress. 

Stress doesn’t just cause gray hair, it also leads to hair loss!

If you’re not sure if you’re just having one of those days or already have too much on your plate, then here are signs that you’re going through a lot of stress.

And when you feel like stress is too much to handle, try these simple hacks:

  • Enjoy the outdoors. A lack of exposure to the sun can literally make you feel dull and lethargic. Just basking in the sunshine (and Vitamin D) can naturally reinvigorate you. Plus, a little movement from even a few meters of walking can lift up your mood.
  • Eat healthily. You may have heard this before, but junk food doesn’t help your case at all. Lean more towards energy snacks packed with vitamins and nutrients like nuts, protein bars/smoothies, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Take the powerful duo of caffeine and L-theanine. Caffeine and L-Theanine work together to help you concentrate and stay focused without the jitters, crashes, and anxiety that can come from caffeine alone.

 

And remember...

You can always embrace the gray look! So don't panic, never stress, and eat right. You'll be fine!

 

 

Sources

[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-increase-melanin

[2] https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/hair/tips/a20712/gray-hair-facts/

[3] https://www.webmd.com/beauty/ss/slideshow-beauty-gray-hair-facts

[4] https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/93/11/4381/2627273

[5] https://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/08/23/gray-hair-at-25-yes-heres-what-you-can-do

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25244170

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673399/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25484268

 




Tina Sendin
Tina Sendin

Author




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