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Why Hair Goes Gray

Some people are born with a patch of gray hair as a sort of birthmark; other people go gray in their teens or early twenties, and some people never go gray until extremely late in life. Regardless of when it happens, almost everyone who still has hair when they reach an advanced age will go gray at some point. And with all of these differing time frames and roads that lead to a silver mane, what could possibly cause hair to go gray in the first place?

About Melanin

Melanin the same pigmentation agent that determines your skin color and helps you get darker with further exposure to sunlight— and it also exists in your hair. In fact, the color of your hair depends on the amount and type of melanin that exists in your hair shafts, and is produced by melanocyte cells in your hair follicles. The melanocyte cells in your hair follicles endure a large amount of damage over the years, with shampooing, brushing, combing, pulling, sun damage, wind damage, chlorine from swimming, and thousands of other environmental factors affecting their ability to produce melanin. Once the damage has become too great, these cells are no longer able to produce the melanin that once darkened your hair. Some studies say that DNA damage or hydrogen peroxide build up are responsible for this sudden loss in melanin production, which would explain why earlier hair graying seems to be genetic and many people who start dying or bleaching their hair at an early age go gray sooner.

Other Factors

Stress can also be a significant cause of melanocyte failure, just as it can be a factor in hair loss for both men and women. If you look at pictures of previous United States presidents before they took office and towards the end of their term, you’ll notice that they all go gray very, very rapidly. When graying starts is usually determined by genetics, however, so the best way to gauge when you yourself might begin graying is by finding out when your parents started going gray.

Other causes of melanocyte failure and graying hair include smoking and vitamin deficiencies. B12 in particular is important to keeping melanocytes healthy, as well as your hair follicles in general. Between stress, smoking, and vitamin deficiencies, perhaps the best way to combat or delay having your hair go gray is to simply take care of your body and mind, and the rest will follow.

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