Graying hair is a part of life — a natural process that unfolds differently for everyone. Some people might notice graying in their 30s, while others might not see gray hair until their 50s or so. However, gray hair happens to everyone sooner or later.
And while you may eventually plan to go gray, that doesn't mean you have to embrace your silver strands right now. Keep reading to understand the physiology of gray hair — plus, find out what you can do to to support hair wellness as your hair changes with age.
First, Why Does Hair Turn Gray?
Hair turns gray for a variety of reasons. Here's a rundown of each one.
Aging and Genetics
Aging and genetics are the biggest influences on when and how quickly your hair will go gray.
As we age, our follicles lose their ability to produce the melanins (pigments) needed to give hair its color. Genetics is thought to play a role in graying, too, though we don’t have a detailed understanding for how this relationship works.
Stress impacts our minds and bodies in so many ways, and of course, it has the potential to affect our scalp, follicles and hair.
So how can stress cause graying? Dr. Erum Ilyas, board-certified dermatologist and founder of AmberNoon, explained that “Stress likely induces oxidative damage on melanocytes, which are the pigment-producing cells in our follicles.” Oxidative stress directly impacts our follicles and is involved in age-related graying, too.
Another way that stress could induce gray hair is through the sympathetic nervous system. “It was recently discovered that signaling from the sympathetic nervous system plays a critical role in stress-induced graying,” said Dr. Ilyas.
Cigarette smoking is not only bad for your health, it also has been associated with the graying of hair and is believed to contribute to premature hair graying. However, more studies need to be done to make a final conclusion.
Also: Can Smoking Cause Hair Loss?
Some medical conditions could contribute to hair graying, too.
Tuberous sclerosis is a rare condition that causes noncancerous (benign) tumors. Sometimes, thickened areas of skin called fibrous plaques develop on the face and scalp where they can cause patches of white hair.
Vitiligo, a condition that affects the skin’s ability to produce pigment, has also been associated with premature graying. So has alopecia areata (AA), an autoimmune hair loss condition that causes round patches of hair loss that commonly grow back gray or white.
Thyroid problems might also cause hair to gray prematurely, but the connection is not yet well understood.
How Do I Prevent Gray Hair?
When it comes to preventing new gray hairs. you have options to manage, prevent and even reverse hair graying.
Start Prevention Early
The aging of hair follicles and their loss of function related to hair color is complex. However, because aging drives the appearance of gray hair, time is of the essence. To that end, VEGAMOUR has developed a proprietary new line of products that are clinically proven to slow the onset of gray and even reverse some of the graying that has already happened. Our revolutionary new GRO AGELESS Anti-Gray Hair Serum and supplements are truly unlike any other products out there.
If you’re interested in preventing graying, our brand-new GRO AGELESS Anti-Gray Hair Serum has been shown to increase melanocytes (the hair cells that produce pigment for our hair) by up to 280% after 12 weeks of treatment, while also boosting melanin production by up to 127%! Plus, subjects experienced up to 34% repigmentation of 79% of gray hairs in 16 weeks.
Focus on a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is a pillar of not just body-wide health and wellness but also hair wellness. Our follicles need a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients in order to function and build hair shafts, and nutritional deficiencies have been linked to hair loss.
But a healthy lifestyle and diet are important for preventing gray, too. “Ensure you have a balanced diet rich in the vitamins and minerals that play a role in melanogenesis: vitamin B-12, copper, iron, vitamin D, zinc, selenium and calcium,” said Dr. Kemunto Mokaya (aka Dr. Kemmy), a board-certified dermatologist based in Texas.
Pernicious anemia is a vitamin B-12 deficiency that has been linked to the graying process, as has iron anemia. Vegan sources for B-12 can be hard to come by, but nori (seaweed) and shitake mushrooms are good sources, while legumes, nuts and seeds are always a good bet for iron.
Copper is another mineral that’s needed for the production of melanin. Seeds and nuts also can be good vegan sources of copper, especially almonds, cashews and sesame seeds.
Another mineral that has been linked to hair color is calcium, which you can find in chickpeas, tofu and dark leafy greens. Dark leafy greens are also great sources of antioxidants which can be helpful in keeping that oxidative stress linked to hair aging in check — ditto for selenium.
Zinc is another mineral deficiency that has been linked to graying, so be sure to eat whole grains, chickpeas and nuts in order to cover your bases. Vitamin D3 deficiency plays a role as well. Plant-based milks are often fortified with vitamin D3.
Add Supplements to Your Routine
By now, you might be feeling like the vitamins and minerals you need to keep track of to prevent graying are one too many. The good news is that to round out our new GRO AGELESS line, we’ve also developed a proprietary blend of vitamins, nutrients and minerals that will support scalp and hair health while helping to maintain hair color.
Our GRO AGELESS Gray Delay™ Hair Supplement are a perfect companion to our serum, so you can support your natural hair color and health from the inside out. The supplements offer a powerful blend of B vitamins, antioxidants, selenium, calcium and copper, along with Fo-Ti and our proprietary ingredient Kerenat™ to support healthy hair growth.
Manage Stress Levels
Stress also increases cortisol levels, which impact the health of your follicles and severe stress can even cause a temporary form of hair loss called telogen effluvium. Managing stress might spare your hair from graying, too. However, more studies need to be done to confirm this connection.
While meditation and yoga are two science-backed ways to manage stress, you could keep it as simple as spending time outdoors or with a pet and having a good laugh.
But don’t forget sleep! Getting adequate sleep is really important to managing stress, and one study showed that folks who got more sleep had less perceived stress. In addition to all the other goodies we’ve covered, the new GRO AGELESS Gray Delay™ Supplement also contains Venetron®, an ingredient that supports healthy sleep, sleep maintenance and relaxation.
Protect Hair From Environmental Stressors
Stress comes at us from so many angles, and external stressors also can contribute to hair graying.
“Protect your hair from excessive UV radiation, quit smoking and/or avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, and avoid pollution as much as you can to reduce oxidative stress,” advised Dr. Kemmy. “Shampoos and other topical products with antioxidants like vitamin C and E may help, although more research needs to be done to prove the efficacy of these."
VEGAMOUR’s whole line of hair products is designed for hair wellness and formulated with the environmental stressors we all face in mind. Plus, our GRO+ Advanced line offers a great way to harness the potent antioxidant benefits of hemp-derived CBD.
Graying hair is a part of the natural aging process and will happen to most folks eventually. There are, however, some factors — like vitamin and mineral deficiencies, medical conditions and environmental stressors — that can cause your hair to gray more quickly. Managing these factors and being proactive about taking care of your general health can be a way to slow the progression of graying.
More From VEGAMOUR
- Shop: Best Products for Graying Hair
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- Have You Heard of Gray Blending?
- Does Stress Really Cause Gray Hair?
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