BY WHITNEY COY
Every
woman knows the day will come, and every woman dreads it. You look in the
mirror, and there it is — your first gray hair. What’s up with that?
Not
that it’s going to make you feel any better at the moment, but gray hair is
very common. One 2012 study found that about 74 percent of people between the
ages of 45 and 65 have at least some gray hair. At least you’re not alone in
your misery, right? It’s time to figure out what’s going on with that graying
hair. I spoke with some experts to find out what’s happening when your hair
goes gray — and if you can stop it.
Why hair goes gray

Your
hair hasn’t always been the same color that it is now. According to Miami
dermatologist Dr. Jill Waibel, our hair is white while we are in utero, and
when melanocytes begin to form, our hair takes on its natural color. Whether
that color is black, brown, blonde, red, or some combination of those depends
on the distribution, type, and amount of melanin in the middle layer of the
hair shaft, which works to pigment your tresses.
“Melanocytes
continue to introduce melanin into the hair’s keratin giving us the hair color
we are born with. As years progress, the enzyme called telomerase slows down
the production of melanin and this causes the hair to become lighter and
lighter,” she said.
When will it happen?
All
you 30-somethings out there are probably screaming that you’re not old enough for
gray hair, but it does often start to happen in your 30s. That doesn’t mean it
has to start then, though. Dr. Alan Bauman, board-certified hair restoration
physician and hair science expert, says when your hair starts to gray is
determined more by genetics than age alone.
“Similar
to hair loss, gray hair is primarily the result of genetics. You can look to
your parents or grandparents for a glimpse of what the future may hold for your
locks,” he said. Basically, ask your parents when they got their first
gray hairs, and you may just be getting a glimpse into your future.
Where will it happen first?
Of
course you’re not going to wake up one day and be totally gray. It’s a process,
and that process typically follows a pattern. Gray hairs will first appear
around your temples, and slowly fill in and move up and around your
scalp. While it’s not lucky that they tend to show up first right up
front, at least you can take comfort in the fact that if your temples aren’t
gray, there probably aren’t any in the back of your head you don’t know about,
either.
Your ethnicity plays a role
Your
ethnicity also has a lot do do with when you start to see gray hair. “It
is normal for Caucasians to begin to get grey hair in their mid 30s, Asians in
their late 30s, and African Americans in their mid 40s,” explained
dermatologist Dr. Jill Waibel. Other studies have confirmed that fact, stating
that those of Asian and African descent usually have far less gray when
compared with Caucasians of the same age.
Plucking it won’t double your trouble
We’ve
all heard that old wive’s tale about plucking your gray hairs, right? Pull one,
and two more grow back in its place. You’ll be happy to hear that’s not even a
little bit true. Cosmetic scientist Randy Schueller told Today that when you
pluck a hair, that follicle stays in place, and will eventually grow another
hair. In fact, you might get lucky and the hair that takes it place might not
even be gray.
Still,
reaching for those tweezers might be a risky move. Schueller says too much
plucking can actually damage the follicle, meaning no hair would grow back at
all. Gray hair has got to be better than no hair, wouldn’t you say?
Ladies aren’t first
I
think we can all agree that “ladies first” isn’t always a good thing
— especially when it comes to gray hair. A 2012 study found that when comparing
men and women of similar ages, men had a lot more gray hair than women. It’s a
good thing some women like their men with a little bit of salt and pepper going
on, right?
You can stress yourself gray
We
like to throw around the thought that all of the stress in our lives is giving
us gray hair, but can it really? Dr. Alan Bauman says it can, sometimes.
“Stress, like many others lifestyle factors, can have a significant impact
on the health of our hair. Stress alone isn’t going to turn your hair gray
overnight, though at times is may feel like that, but it can speed up the
process in those who are genetically predisposed to go gray earlier,” he
said.
Gray hairs don’t mean you’re old
Gray
hair may make you look older, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are older.
One major study looked for a link between heart disease (something we’re more
at risk for as we age) and physical signs of aging like graying hair or
wrinkles, and found no correlation. That reinforces the saying that you’re as
old as you feel — good news, right?
There are other risk factors
Age
and genetics aren’t the only things that dictate when you start going gray.
There are other factors in your life — both in and out of your control — that
can cause it to happen faster. “For example, many things that
detrimentally affect your health are also thought to accelerate the appearance,
and onset, or gray hair,” said Dr. Alan Bauman. “Diet, stress, poor
sleep, medications, smoking, etc. can all impact the onset of the appearance of
gray hair.”
Dr.
Jill Waibel, a dermatologist, says certain medical conditions can cause it,
too. “Premature graying of hair can be caused by certain syndromes such as
Hutchinson’s progeria, or Werner syndrome (where every aspect of aging is
accelerated), pernicious anemia, autoimmune thyroid disease, or Down
syndrome.” She said other health-related issues can cause your hair to
gray early, including a vitamin B12 deficiency and abnormalities in the
pituitary gland.
What about your “other” hair?

You
know you’re thinking it. If the hair on your head is starting to gray, what
about the hair everywhere else? This time, my friends, I have good news for
you. Just because one turns gray doesn’t mean the other is about to follow
suit. Hairs on the rest of your body, like arms, legs and pubic hair, may grow
gray much later than the hair on your head — or maybe not all. Thank goodness
for small wonders.
You might be able to reverse your gray hair

Believe
it or not, it may be possible to stop, reverse, or at least slow down the
graying of your hair. “Some of the best ingredients to counteract the
signs of aging hair include caffeine and niacinamide, which are known for their
anti-aging properties in the skin. The Chinese herb Fo-Ti is purported to have
a positive effect on reversing gray hair but has never been proven
scientifically,” said Dr. Alan Bauman. “Gray hair is tricky. We
don’t have a complete understanding of why hair goes gray, so there hasn’t been
much progress in the way of preventing it.”
Dr
Bauman continued, “The best advice I have for men and women looking to
reduce the signs of aging on your hair is to focus on building better hair. You
can do this by eliminating risk factors like poor diet or other health issues,
stress management, add hair vitamins to your regimen, or you can also give your
hair a boost with low level laser therapy, topical prescription minoxidil, or
platelet rich plasma treatments.”
It’s
time to face the facts, ladies. You may be able to slow it down, but gray hair
is going to happen to you eventually. You might choose to rock your new shade,
or you may head straight to the pharmacy for a box of dye — whatever works for
you is fine. At least now, you’ll understand more about why it’s happening.
SOURCE: THELIST
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.