It’s said a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. Sooner or later, that crown will start to gray. You now face a decision. Banish gray hair with dye, or rock a silver mane? Whichever you pick, know the facts about your gray strands to keep your hair looking and feeling its best.
Your hair follicles have pigment cells that make melanin, a chemical that gives your hair its color. As you age, these cells start to die. Without pigment, new hair strands grow in lighter and take on various shades of gray, silver, and eventually white. Once a follicle stops making melanin, it won’t make colored strands again.
When and Why It Happens
You might blame your stressful job or your unruly teens for your grays. But it’s mostly your genes that dictate how early and how quickly it happens. So if either of your parents had a full head of gray hair in their 30s, there’s a good chance you will, too.
How Race Plays a Role
On average, white people start to gray in their mid-30s. Asians start in their late 30s. And African Americans usually don’t see color changes until their mid-40s.
What’s Premature Gray?
Some people go gray 10 or more years earlier than the average person does. It’s premature if you’re gray before:
20 if you’re white
25 if you’re Asian
30 if you’re African American
Do Health Problems Turn Hair Gray?
They could. These conditions include:
- Lack of vitamin B12
- Certain rare, inherited tumor conditions
- Thyroid disease
- Vitiligo, a condition that destroys pigment-making cells in the scalp
- Alopecia areata causes patches of hair (usually ones with color) to fall out. This can look like sudden graying because the hair that’s left is gray or white. When your hair regrows, it could be gray, white, or your normal color.
Does Stress Make You Go Gray?
Not directly. But it can cause a condition that causes your hair to shed about 3 times faster than normal. It’s possible that when your hair grows back, it’s gray instead of your original color.
What about smoking?
Lighting up affects your body from head to toe. That includes the hair on your head. One study showed that smokers are 2 1/2 times more likely to gray before age 30 than nonsmokers. It also can make silver gray look yellow.
To Pluck or Not to Pluck …
There’s an old wives’ tale that says if you pluck a gray, three will grow back. That doesn’t happen. Still, don’t pluck. You’re just delaying the inevitable — another gray strand will replace it. Besides, pulling hair out can damage follicles so much, they no longer grow hair. This can make your mane look thin over time.
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