8 Shocking Facts About Gray Hair
Why Do We Go Gray?
Hair follicles within the hair shaft contain pigment cells that contain melanin. This pigment gives your hair, skin, and eyes their color. When these pigment-producing cells in the hair shaft start to die, hair begins to gray. New hair that grows from the hair shaft may turn gray or silver before eventually turning completely white. Once the pigment-producing cells in the hair shaft are gone, you will no longer grow colored strands of hair.
Health Problems Associated with Gray Hair
What health problems are linked to gray hair? Several conditions may be associated with an increased risk of gray hair. Autoimmune conditions are health issues where the immune system attacks part of the body. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and destroys cells in the scalp that make pigment. This results in graying hair. Lack of vitamin B12, thyroid disorders, and rare tumor conditions may cause gray hair. Alopecia areata is a condition that produces patchy hair loss. It may mimic sudden graying because the hair that often remains is often gray or white. Hair that regrows may come back in white, gray, or your natural color.
When Does Hair Turn Gray?
Why and when do we go gray? Hair grays when melanin-producing cells in the hair shaft die. The hair shaft can then no longer produce colored strands of hair. Genetics largely determine when you will go gray. Look at your parents and grandparents for an indication of how early and how quickly you may go gray. Premature graying seems to be especially genetic. If one or both of your parents went completely gray in their 30s, there is a high probability that you will go prematurely gray, too.
Race Is a Factor
Hair turns gray largely due to genetic factors. Race also plays a role. People of Caucasian descent typically start to go gray in their mid-30s. Those of Asian descent begin to gray, on average, in their late-30s. African Americans typically begin to go gray in their mid-40s. You may be early, average, or a little late in going gray depending on when your parents’ hair changed color. Gray hair typically, but not always, starts around the temples.
Smoking Is a Problem
Smoking is not good for any part of your body and that includes your hair. In one study, smokers were 2 1/2 times more likely to go gray before the age of 30 years old than nonsmokers. And for those people who already have silver hair — the silver foxes — it can make silver gray look yellowish. If you smoke cigarettes or use tobacco, stop. If you need help, talk to your doctor. There are prescription medications and quit smoking programs that can help you kick the habit for good.
Premature Graying—What Is It?
Premature gray hair is defined as hair that goes gray at least 10 or more years earlier than it should. The age cutoff for defining premature gray hair differs according to a person’s ethnicity. Caucasian people who go gray at age 20 are said to have premature graying. An Asian person whose hair turns gray at age 25 is said to suffer from premature graying. African Americans are said to go prematurely gray if their hair turns gray at the age of 30 or younger.
A Normal Part of Aging
Graying hair is a normal part of aging, but why does hair turn gray? Hair goes gray when the hair shaft no longer produces melanin, the pigment that gives hair its color. Your risk of going gray increases 10% to 20% percent every decade after the age of 30. Once you go gray, now what? Will you cover your grays or dye them away? Luckily, women (and men) have more options today than ever before. Whether you choose to go all natural or color your hair, you can look and feel your best at any age and no matter what your hair color.
Can Stress Cause Gray Hair?
Stress cannot directly cause gray hair, but it is associated with increased hair loss. Stress is a common trigger for telogen effluvium, which is a condition associated with rapid hair loss. People who have telogen effluvium experience hair loss that is three times faster than normal. Chronic stress affects hair growth negatively and can lead to persistent hair loss. Stress seems to change hair follicles and push them into the so-called resting stage. After undergoing a period of hair loss, it is possible that the hair that grows back may come in gray. This is especially true if you are middle-aged or older.