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Dear LovelySkin: Why Does Hair Turn Gray?

Dear LovelySkin: Why Does Hair Turn Gray?

Graying hair is an unavoidable part of the natural aging process. It varies by individual and may depend upon a number of different factors. Read on to learn more about why hair turns gray, plus discover some long-term solutions for avoiding premature graying.

Hair takes its natural color from a pigment called melanin, the same pigment responsible for skin color. Each hair follicle contains a certain amount of melanin, which gives the hair shaft its color. As we age, the production of melanin naturally slows or stops altogether. When there is less pigment in the hair follicle, the shaft or strand of hair grows 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.

Genetics plays a large role in the process of going gray. Some may find that they first begin going gray in their teens or early twenties while others don’t spot their first gray hair till they have reached 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 is the number one factor when it comes to graying hair, there are several other factors that can expedite the process. Hormonal imbalance, genetic disorders and abnormal melanin distribution throughout the body may cause graying.

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.

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 and protecting the hair with a sun protection product for hair such as Rene Furterer SUN CARE Protective Summer Fluid KPF 90 can keep hair strong and healthy.

For hair that has already turned gray, you can use permanent dye or temporary powders and gels to cover it or simply go natural. Plucking individual gray hairs is not recommended since this can permanently damage the follicle and cause the hair to stop growing.

Do you have a question about graying hair? Let us know in the comments.

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About the Author

Stepha is a copywriter at LovelySkin. She loves poetry, baking and experimenting with new makeup.

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