Graying hair is an unavoidable part of the natural aging process. It varies by individual and depends on a number of factors. While graying cannot be prevented, understanding why hair turns gray will help you prevent premature graying.
How Does Melanin Affect Hair Color?
Hair takes its natural color from a pigment called melanin, the same pigment responsible for skin color. As we age, the production of melanin naturally slows or stops altogether. When there is less pigment in the hair follicle, hair becomes more translucent, taking on a gray, white or silvery appearance. Since each individual hair is on its own growth cycle, this often happens gradually, over the course of years or even decades.
Is Gray Hair Genetic?
Genetics plays a large role in the process of going gray. Some find they first begin going gray in their teens or early twenties while others don’t spot the first signs until they reach their thirties or forties.
Most people will begin to experience graying around the same time their parents did. Race can also impact the process. Caucasians experience initial graying around age 30 or 35 while Asians and African Americans are more likely to first experience gray hair in their 40s and 50s.
While the natural aging process and genetics are the main causes for graying, several other factors expedite the process. Hormonal imbalance, genetic disorders and abnormal melanin distribution throughout the body may cause graying.
Does Stress Cause Gray Hair?
Results are inconclusive as to whether stress expedites the graying process. Stress can have a negative impact on the immune system, and this can in turn affect skin and hair. Still, doctors feel that stress is not a direct cause. There are, however, other external factors that may contribute. Climate changes and exposure to chemicals, toxins and pollutants, for example, may cause hair to gray prematurely in rare circumstances.
How to Prevent Gray Hair
Gray hair may be inevitable, but premature graying may be avoided by eating a healthy, balanced diet and taking oral supplements such as vitamin B12. Quitting unhealthy habits that cause premature aging, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, may impact graying in the long-term as well. Avoiding sun exposure also keeps hair strong and healthy.
Let us know what other hair care questions you have for Dr. Schlessinger and the LovelySkin experts by commenting below!