There are those folks who welcome gray strands as a sign that they’ve earned their stripes and sport their crown of whites proudly. On the flip side, others view graying as a subtle reminder that their youth is slowly slipping away and old age is inescapable. Scientists are on the case trying to figure out how to keep grays 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? According to the Journal of Dermatology, Caucasians tend to gray first, followed by Asians and then Blacks.
  • Are there stats for middle-agers? About half of 50-year-olds are at least 50 percent gray.
  • 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. The leeching of color is a gradual process. That said, it’s possible stress has some influence. “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., a dermatologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Stress can, 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 nutritional supplements, vitamins, or other products that will not stop 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.
  • 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.

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