The pandemic has forced many to proudly embrace their gray hair. On the flip side, others view graying as a subtle reminder that their youth is slowly slipping away. Scientists have been on the case trying to figure out how to keep silver hairs at bay and so far, well…
What’s the real deal with gray hair anyway?
- What makes hair turn gray? Gray hairs pop up as specialized cells in hair follicles called melanocytes that lose their ability to produce pigment (melanin) over time. It’s not that hair actually turns gray, but that new hair with less melanin grows in, resulting in a range of colors from gray, to silver, to white.
- Does everyone gray in the same way?
Hair-graying onset varies with race, with the average age for Caucasians being mid-thirties, that for Asians being late thirties, and that for Africans being mid-forties. Caucasians and Asians typically experience damage to the distal hair shaft, while African-Americans see damage occurring closer to the hair root.
- Are there stats for middle-agers? About half of 50-year-olds are at least 50 percent gray.
- Can a 60-plus-year-old not have gray hair? Nearly one in 10 people over 60 years of age is “naturally blessed” to have not a single gray hair on their head, says a new research conducted in more than 20 countries. Researchers at cosmetics giant L’Oreal analyzed the natural hair color of more than 4,000 men and women of different ages and ethnic backgrounds from more than 20 countries, including Britain.
- Does having gray hair mean that you’re aging faster? Silvery strands are one of the more conspicuous signs of aging. That said, getting gray hair doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re closer to the end of your life span than anyone else your age.
- Does stress really play a role in gray hair? Well, there are some experts who believe that stress can hasten its arrival but the jury is still out. “We do not have any good research that stress directly causes gray hair but we think there is some connection,” says Angela Lamb, M.D., is the Director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice and an Associate Professor of Dermatology at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Stress can also, however, cause temporary hair loss so dial back your load!”
- Can smoking cause gray? Smoking has consistently been linked to premature graying. In a study in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal of more than 200 people, smokers were 2.5 times more likely to experience premature graying (before age 30) than nonsmokers.
- Can illness bring on gray hair? There are certain medical conditions that have been linked with an increased risk for premature graying like thyroid disorders, HIV, chronic protein deficiencies, anemia, and obesity.
- Are there any nutritional supplements that can put the brakes on graying? NO! Most medical experts agree thus far that there are NO nutritional supplements,herbs, vitamins, or other products that will stop, reverse, or decrease the rate of graying.
- What about bodily gray hair? Body and facial hair can also turn gray, but this happens later than scalp hair. Armpit, chest, and pubic hair may gray less or not at all.
- Is genetics to blame? If your parents or grandparents went gray and did so early, then chances are you will too.
- Will excessive dyeing cause more grays? Dyeing your hair will not make more grays sprout, this is just an old wives tale.
- Why is gray hair so uncooperative when it comes to color? The texture of gray hair can be coarse, stubborn, and unruly, making it resistant to color. “If this is true for you, consider dropping down a color level or using something darker on your roots to deliver even more coverage,” says the online hair color experts at Madison Reed.
- Can silver hair be reversed? Despite the claims made online and by product marketers, it’s not possible to reverse white hair if the cause is genetic. Once your hair follicles lose melanin, they can’t produce it on their own. As melanin production slows, your hair turns gray when melanin production has completely stopped.
- Is plucking gray hair a bad thing? Plucking your grays causes more harm than good. Plucking can traumatize the hair follicle, and you can damage the follicle to the point where it will no longer grow any hair. Repeated ‘plucking trauma’ can even cause infection, scar formation, and bald patches. Ultimately, this will create the appearance of hair loss and thinner hair.
- Any research being done on how to end grays? Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have recently discovered exactly how hair turns gray while studying tumors in mice. The researchers are working on creating a “topical compound” that can deliver the genes needed to correct gray hair.