Gray Hair: An Explanation of What Causes Gray Hair

gray hairSome people say that gray hair makes you look distinguished. Other people say it’s simply a sign that you’re getting older. Regardless of how you feel about gray hair, it’s nearly a guarantee as you get older. For some people, graying occurs at a surprisingly young age, and for others it occurs much later.

Be Thankful for Your Gray Hair

If you’ve read my article on female hair loss, you know that it’s a blessing to even have a full head of hair as you get older – but I digress. Do you know why the hair turns gray as you get older?

What Causes Gray Hair?

Over the years, scientists have performed quite a bit of research to understand exactly why the hair grays.

Gray hair, which is commonly referred to “salt and pepper” when it’s combined with black hair, is not a product of gray or white pigmentation. There is a natural pigment called melanin (specifically eumelanin and pheomelanin) that gives the hair its color.

Melanin is produced in the hair follicles by melanocyte cells. Over time, the melanocyte cells are damaged and they are unable to continue producing melanin. Most scientific studies say that this is due to DNA damage and the potential accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicles.

There is a theory called the DNA damage theory of aging that supports this argument. Without melanin, your new hair growth will not have any pigmentation, making the hair appear to be gray or white.

How soon the graying process begins is generally determined by the genetics of each individual. This essentially means that if your parents started graying early, there is a good possibility that you could gray early also.

Other than age, there are also certain medical conditions that can cause gray hair including a thyroid deficiency, low levels of Vitamin B12 or Waardenburg syndrome.


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