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Understanding gray hair

Published on April 30, 2024 at 14:59 / Updated on May 16, 2024 at 15:47

Growing old brings its share of changes—and the appearance of gray hair is one of them. For both men and women, graying hair is part of aging.

What is gray hair?

Like your skin, melanin causes colour pigmentation in your hair. As your hair ages, the cells responsible for melanin production (melanocytes) lose effectiveness and cease functioning. As a result, hair starts to grow white and without any pigmentation. Once your hair is white, it will always grow back white.

The hair is either coloured or white. Gray hair, per se, is just a figure of speech because it's an optical illusion. Gray hair is simply a blend of white and pigmented hair.

Is white hair dead?

As mentioned earlier, white hair is hair without any pigmentation. It's alive and well. It simply doesn’t have any hue. White hair is not a sign of damaged hair.

What causes hair whitening?

Aging is one of the main factors in the appearance of white hair. The number of cells responsible for melanin production diminishes with age. This decline is progressive and irreversible.

Unfortunately for some, heredity probably plays a role in the appearance of gray hair. No two people of the same age will have the same hair. Genetics contributes to whether or not your hair will start to turn gray and white.

Ethnicity also seems to have an impact on the appearance of gray hair. Caucasians get white hair earlier than people of colour.

Aging, heredity and ethnicity are all factors that cannot be influenced.  Are there factors you can influence to reduce the likelihood that you’ll get gray hair? Fortunately, yes! Stress can promote the appearance of gray hair. Good stress management is, therefore, essential. The same applies to adopting a healthy diet and quitting smoking. Although the link between smoking and gray hair is unclear, smoking does make hair duller and more brittle. As a result, your hair is more likely to thin and fall out later.

Some people think the sun can have an influence. Although the sun can lighten hair, it does not bleach it. It has no impact on bleaching. However, protect your skin when you're out in the sun!

Have you noticed some gray hairs? Here’s what you can do.

As mentioned earlier, once melanocytes are inactive, your hair will grow white. There's no going back, at least for now.  There are several traditional remedies, such as molasses, seaweed or chlorophyll supplements, but they have yet to prove effective.

Now that you’ve noticed you’re going gray, you have two choices: accept it or dye your hair.  More and more people, men and women alike, are choosing to show off their graying hair with pride. However, if this isn't an option for you, there are many hair colouring options available. Talk to your hairdresser or cosmetician to make an informed choice based on the characteristics of each product and your needs.

Aging is part of life, and it's hard to ignore the fact you are going gray. Gray hair is a symbol of maturity and wisdom acquired over time. Love it or hate it, gray hair is here to stay –unless you decide to camouflage it!

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