Just as our skin undergoes changes as we age, it is normal to notice differences in hair color, texture, and density with time. Although gray hair is commonly associated with aging, it can appear at any point in your life.
Some people develop gray hair in their 20s and early 30s, while others may notice gray strands appearing even in their teens. The hair “turning” gray is in fact a misplaced concept.
Once a hair grows out of your scalp, it will not change its color unless you use a dye to color it. What happens is that the hair follicles start producing lesser color with time, as a result of which new hair starts growing out gray from the roots.
You are bound to encounter gray hair at some point in your life, so it is best to equip yourself with the right knowledge and resources for taking care of them. This is what we will cover in the following sections. We will explore the causes behind premature graying of hair and also look at some excellent ways of transitioning to gray hair. Let’s begin.
There are millions of follicles present in the lining of our skin. These are responsible for generating both hair and color. When we say color, we mean that the follicles produce pigment cells containing melanin.
With time, the hair follicles start losing pigment cells, as a result of which gray hair starts appearing. While sometimes the pigment cells lose their support systems, at other times they become damaged and wear out.
Genes can also be responsible for reduced melanin production, which causes premature graying of hair.
To sum up, gray hair is essentially hair that has lesser melanin. When they turn silver (or white), it means that the melanin has been completely removed.
Gray Hair – Causes
As we stated before, gray hair can appear at any age and not necessarily when you are older. It is commonly more noticeable in people with darker hair.
If you are experiencing premature graying, here are some of the possible reasons that could be causing it.
1. Genetic Makeup
Genetics plays a very important role when it comes to developing premature gray hair. If you notice gray or silver strands of hair at an early age, chances are that someone in your family had the problem of premature graying of hair. It is difficult to combat genetic issues, so there is no real way to prevent premature graying of hair. However, coloring your hair to cover the whites is always an option.
We have all experienced stressful situations at some point or the other. However, chronic and persistent stress which results in anxiety, sleep issues, high BP, etc., can affect your hair too. According to a 2013 study conducted on mice, it was found that there was a direct correlation between stem cell depletion and stress. If you are experiencing premature graying, stress can be a possible culprit.
3. Autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune diseases can also be the reason behind your gray hair. An autoimmune disease is one in which the immune system starts attacking the body’s own cells. In some autoimmune diseases like vitiligo and alopecia, the immune system starts attacking the hair cells, which can lead to loss of pigment, thereby causing graying of hair.
4. Thyroid disease
Thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism often lead to hormonal changes. These hormonal changes can also affect your hair pigment, causing premature graying of hair. The thyroid gland, which is located at the base of the neck, helps in controlling many bodily functions like metabolism. If there is any disorder found with the thyroid, it can affect your body’s melanin-producing capacity.
5. Vitamin B-12 deficiency
Premature graying can also be an indication of the deficiency of the essential vitamin B-12. Besides providing your body with energy, this vitamin also contributes to healthy hair and color.
When the body is not able to absorb adequate amounts of this vitamin, it can result in a condition known as pernicious anemia. When there is a deficiency of vitamin B-12 for the healthy RBCs, their oxygen-carrying capacity to the hair cells decreases. The weakened hair cells are not able to produce enough melanin. Besides this, deficiency of biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin D, and vitamin R can also cause premature graying of hair.
We are all familiar with the harmful effects of smoking. However, not many people know that besides the long-term effects of heart disease and lung cancer, smoking can also affect hair adversely.
According to astudy, it was found that there is a connection between premature graying of hair and smoking. This can be explained in a simple way. Since smoking constricts the blood vessels, it reduces blood flow to the hair follicles. This results in hair loss. Besides this, the toxins released by smoking can cause damage to your hair follicles, resulting in premature white hair.
7. Harsh hair products and chemical dyes
If you are in the habit of using harsh hair products and chemical dyes, they can also lead to premature graying of hair. The harmful chemicals in these products can reduce melanin.
Gray Hair – Characteristics
Gray hair tends to have a different texture, as the loss of pigment makes the strand coarser and wirier. However, gray hair is not physically coarse or frizzy. It actually has a finer texture but feels coarse because of its nature.
As we age, the oil glands which lubricate the hair and skin produce less sebum. This results in the hair follicles becoming dry over time. The same biological process that affects the hair pigment also affects the hair structure. Although coarser hair texture sounds like a challenge at first, it is actually easier to style. When you have gray hair, your dry time will reduce significantly and the hair will also feel much thicker. The key to maintaining the health of gray hair is moisturization. With adequate hydration, even the gray hair would feel shiny and soft.
Gray Hair – Solutions
If you are transitioning to gray hair and looking for ways to take care of it, here are some things you should keep in mind –
1. The Right Haircut
The right haircut can make a huge difference to your hair, especially when it comes to gray hair. Whether you like to wear your hair short or long, it is important to get your hair trimmed frequently.
This will keep the hair healthy-looking and smooth. Besides, when gray hair is cut well, it can look quite sophisticated. Choose the right haircut that suits your face shape and hair type. You will know it’s the right cut for you when you can wear it without any kind of styling. You can also add long layers to your hair to encourage movement.
2. Use a good clarifying shampoo
If you want to keep your gray hair shiny, glossy, and healthy-looking, you should use a clarifying shampoo with gentle ingredients. Pollution, hard water, and styling can build up in your hair. A good clarifying shampoo will help in removing dirt, grime, and also the build-up of hair products.
3. Invest in toners
It is a well-known fact that gray or white hair gets discolored and yellow easily, largely because of environmental pollutants, water minerals, oils, etc. It is very important to be careful about the things you come in contact with, as the wrong hair products can reduce the natural shine of your grays.
Something that can help in keeping the hair bright is a toner. A toner is essentially a violet-colored product that works by neutralizing the yellow and brassy tones that can appear on hair sometimes. If you want your gray hair to truly glisten, you can buy a toning shampoo and conditioner. This can be used once a week to bring the shine back to your hair.
4. Provide it nourishment from inside
There are supplements you can take to keep your hair looking healthy, luscious, and thicker. While the right conditioning treatments will provide nourishment from the outside, it is also important to ensure your hair health from within. Although there are no supplements for reversing gray hair, there are many which can help in targeting issues right from the hair follicle.
5. Use Sun Protection
Sun protection is very important to keep your gray tresses looking healthy, as sun damage can actually cause yellowness in gray hair. It is important to take measures to protect your hair from the sun as much as you can. Wearing a hat or a scarf can be a great solution for protecting your hair from the sun.
6. Heat protection
Gray hair has a finer texture and high porosity which means that it can get damaged easily. If you are heat styling your hair, you need to make sure that you use good-quality tools. Besides this, it would a good idea to change your heat styling technique so that minimal damage is caused during the styling process.
Gray hair tends to be drier than normal, which means that the key to managing it is providing it with the necessary hydration. Look for shampoos, conditioners, and hair masks with hydrating properties that can help in taming the frizz and flyways.
Something you should be wary of is dimethicone in hair products. This ingredient can weigh down your gray hair, and you would not be able to achieve the volume you desire. Here are some of our recommendations for good products for gray hair –
Wow Skin Science Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo: This SLS and paraben-free shampoo is a great option for a clarifying cleanser for gray hair. It contains the goodness of Moroccan argan oil, aloe vera, and almond oil, which can help in providing nourishment to the hair strands while creating a protective barrier around them.
Wow Skin Science Coconut Milk Conditioner: This is a great conditioner for gray hair as it helps in locking in the moisture in the strands. The coconut milk extract helps in preventing dryness and frizz, while the hydrolyzed vegetable protein helps in repairing hair damage.
Wow Skin Science Coconut Milk Hair Mask: This natural and vegan hair mask can be great for bringing dry and brittle hair back to life. It contains a nourishing blend of plant actives, besides coconut milk shea butter, which can help in fighting frizz and providing the gray hair with the hydration it needs.
Gray Hair - Expert Tips
If the graying of hair is related to genetics and aging, there is not much that can be done to prevent graying. However, there are some ways premature graying of hair can be prevented.
Here are certain things you should keep in mind to prevent the graying from worsening –
1. Eat more antioxidant-rich foods:
Your diet can play an important role in preventing white hair. If you include antioxidant-rich foods like fish, green tea, fresh fruit, and olive oil in your diet, it can markedly reduce oxidative stress, which is a major cause of graying.
2. Address vitamin deficiencies:
As we already know, deficiency of vitamin B-12, D and E and Biotin is related to premature graying of hair. If you want to address the root cause of the problem, you should start consuming more foods loaded with these vitamins. You can also take vitamin supplements for this purpose.
3. Quit smoking:
Since studies have shown a correlation between smoking and gray hair, it would be wise to cut down the habit to prevent premature graying of hair.
If managed well, gray hair can look quite sophisticated and classy. With the information and tips provided in this article, you will be able to embrace your gray tresses and keep them looking healthy and luscious.