Why does hair turn gray?
I never gave much thought to when I’d start to go gray until recently. Nearing my mid-30s and with two little kids in tow, I’m certain its arrival is imminent. Not to mention the added stress of the past two years as the entire world struggled simultaneously together and alone through a pandemic. It got me thinking… Can stress really cause gray hair? If your mom started graying in her 30s, can you expect the same? And more importantly, can it be reversed?
As you may have guessed, going gray begins in the follicle. The pigment of your hair is determined by your DNA and is made up of two pigments called melanin: Eumelanin and Pheomelanin. Eumelanin is in charge of the darkness of your hair and Pheomelanin determines the warmth. Someone with raven hair has Eumelanin while someone with red hair has Pheomelanin; but you can have any combo in between. Melanocytes are stem cells that produce melanin, but along with the rest of your body, their function deteriorates over time. When this happens, less melanin is produced and thus silver, and then white, hair emerges. About 50% of people will go gray by age 50 and while genetics play the biggest role in when you’ll go gray, other external factors can be to blame.
Ah, stress. Helpful in small doses, but running rampant in this day and age; stress can cause, and speed up, the process of going gray. Oxidative stress, due to things like pollution and the use of toxic chemicals, causes damage to the hair follicle, speeding up its deterioration. Stress can also lead to Telogen Effluvium (increased shedding of hair) which essentially speeds up your natural timeline of going gray. Stress can also accelerate the death of melanocytes and send your body into the “fight or flight” response; taking away energy usually reserved for hair growth function in order to focus on the survival of vital organs.
Also due to oxidative stress, smoking is linked to premature graying. As if you needed another reason to quit, you can expect to go gray quicker than your peers if you smoke.
Premature graying can be caused in part by vitamin deficiencies; especially iron, zinc, selenium, copper, calcium, D3 and B-12.
Auto-immune diseases such as Vitiligo (absence of pigment in hair and skin, often in symmetrical patterns), Alopecia (loss of hair, generally in coin-sized patches) and Hypothyroidism (decreased thyroid hormones) can contribute to, or increase graying of hair. Speak to your medical professional if you feel you may be affected by an underlying medical condition or vitamin deficiency. Gray hair and loss of hair due to these conditions may be reversible if treated.
While going gray is nothing to be ashamed of, and is most likely a matter of “when” not “if’, there are things you can do to keep your locks healthy and prevent premature graying. If your hair is already graying but you believe it could be caused by increased stress, the good news is with a little self-care, it may be reversible.
Eating a balanced diet, chock-full of antioxidants, healthy fats and lean protein will undoubtedly help keep your hair healthy as well as the rest of your body. Focus on foods containing iron, vitamin C and protein to improve overall hair health.
Boost your nutrition with a multivitamin tailored to your needs as well as a hair-specific supplement. Our Keratin+Collagen Complex is carefully crafted with your hair in mind; containing hair-healthy vitamins and collagen for growth support. If you suspect you may be vitamin-deficient, ask your doctor about getting a blood panel done to help get to the root of the problem quickly.
Clean up your act
Avoid products laden with harmful chemicals, parabens and sulfates. Toxic products can cause irreversible damage to your cells, and overall health, over time leading to chronic illness or even cancer.
Whether you choose to cover your gray completely, adopt the “grombre” look or get a healthy ‘chop’ saying goodbye to dye forever; do what makes you feel best and remember that loving and taking care of yourself inside and out looks good on everyone, regardless of hair color.