Eventually, all of us will get gray hair. More friendly terms are silver, salt and pepper, or charcoal. We associate gray with aging or a phenomenon that occurs only in the elderly. That is not the case for all people, in fact some can gray as early as in their 20s. The reason that hair goes gray is because the color-producing cells stop making pigment. The color becomes naturally bleached and hydrogen peroxide actually builds up in the hair. The pigment in our hair is called melanin which is released by melanocytes. As we age, our hair follicles and hair shaft wear down. The melanocytes don’t work as efficiently. Almost half of all people have some amount of gray hair by age 50. However, Caucasians start to go gray in their mid-30s, African Americans in their late 40s, and Asians in their late 30s. If a Caucasian person goes gray before age 20 and an Asian or African American before age 30, then they are considered to have premature gray hair.
This is not classified as a medical problem, but rather more of a vanity concern. There is no scientific proof that stress causes gray hair. Although we have watched each of our president’s hair turn grey while in office, this wasn’t the result of their chronic stress. Genes play a major role. Problems with the thyroid or low vitamin B-12 levels can cause graying. Inadequate levels of vitamin C, D, and E can also cause graying. Sun damage and smoking have been linked to graying.
There are of course ways to cover the gray or rather, to just embrace it. Stars such as Steve Martin and Anderson Cooper wear their gray with pride. Unfortunately, you can’t really escape gray. Antioxidant rich foods can slow the process of aging. Great foods to consider are vitamin B-12 (eggs, fish, poultry, milk), vitamin A (eggs, carrots, dark leafy greens), vitamin C (citrus, berries, sweet potatoes), vitamin E (nuts, seeds, green vegetables), iron (leafy green and red meat), and antioxidants (berries, onion, garlic, and legumes). Hormonal problems should be treated. Stopping smoking will reduce the rate at which gray hair produces. You may just have the DNA for graying. You might just have the same gene that causes lighter hair in Europeans (IRF4).
Gray can be sophisticated so don’t always say you are getting old. Graying means you have experienced life. Just like your age, your number of grays is only part of your timeline. You are as young as feel. Most importantly, take care of your health and your body will take care of you. Just be glad if you still have hair gray or not.