Gray Hair

While there are some people who proudly welcome a silver mane, there are others who face the arrival of gray hair with terror. If you happen to fall into the latter category, scientists are researching ways to prevent these tiny gray hairs. So what exactly are they discovering? Here are nine things to know about gray hair.

9. Normal Aging Is the Culprit

Aging

This one is no surprise. Dermatologists call this the 50-50-50 rule. “Fifty percent of the population has about 50 percent gray hair at age 50,” said Dr. Anthony Oro, professor of dermatology at Stanford University. And skin and hair change in texture with age, said Dr. Heather Woolery Lloyd, director of ethnic skin care at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

8. Ethnicity Matters

Ethnicity

Caucasians tend to show gray hair earlier, and redheads show the earliest of all. Asians show gray hair a little later, and African-Americans usually show gray hair the latest.

7. Stress Plays a Role

Stress

“Stress won’t cause you to go gray directly,” said Dr. Roopal Kundu, associate professor in dermatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “But stress is implicated in a lot of skin and hair issues.” For instance, during an illness, people can quickly shed hair. And it’s worth knowing that after losing hair due to a stressful event, it might grow back in a different color.

6. Your Lifestyle Makes a Difference

Lifestyle

Smoking can stress your skin and hair. “Low vitamin B12 levels are notorious for causing loss of hair pigment,” said Dr. Karthik Krishnamurthy, director of Dermatology Center’s Cosmetic Clinic at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. Eat foods such as liver and carrots, advises Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, a senior dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Foods that are filled with certain vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants can help protect cells against toxins and prevent heart disease, cancer, and perhaps gray hair.

5. Hair and Color Are Separate

Hair Color Related: Top 10 Natural Treatments for Thinning Hair

Hair stem cells make hair, and pigment-forming stem cells make pigment. Commonly, these two work together, but either can wear out prematurely. Researchers are trying to uncover if medicine, or something you could put in your scalp, could slow the graying process.

4. Hair Bleaches Itself

Bleach

You might be familiar with hydrogen peroxide as a way to change your locks and go blonde, but it just so happens it is also a way to go gray. According to a 2009 study published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, hydrogen peroxide naturally appears in our hair follicles as we age. This, in turn, blocks the production of melanin, better known as our hair’s pigment.

Related: 18 Great Uses for Hydrogen Peroxide You Didn’t Know About

3. New Hair Grows Gray

New Hair

A single hair grows for one to three years, then it sheds and grows a new one. As you begin to age, new hair is more likely to become white. “Every time the hair regenerates, you have to re-form these pigment-forming cells, and they wear out,” said Oro.

2. Gray Hair Can Be Color Resistant

Color Resistant

If you decide to dye your hair, you might find it is more difficult to dye it than before you started going gray. “Some gray can be resistant to hair color,” said the experts at Madison Reed. “If this is true for you, consider dropping down a color level or using something darker on your roots to deliver even more coverage.”

1. Gray Hair Isn’t More Coarse

Coarse Related: What Gray Hair Says About Your Health

Gray hair is much finer than regular hair, but it might seem drier because our scalps produce less oil as we age. Another reason why it seems rougher? “Your hair may also ‘feel’ coarser if you pull out your first few grey hairs,” said Philip Kingsley, trichologist at Glenn Lyons. “This is because constant pulling out of hair can distort your follicles, resulting in more crinkly hair.”

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