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What causes grey hair?

 grey hair

Going grey is an unavoidable part of the ageing process. It's a change embraced warmly by some - but not so much by others. Whichever camp you fall into, you've likely pondered what causes grey hair, and it's a pretty fascinating topic when you get down to the science of it all...  

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1.When do people go grey?

There are so many factors that contribute to what age people go grey - genetics, race, health - that there's (obviously) no way you'll be able to mark the exact date it'll happen in your calendar. However, studies have shown that, in general, white people start going grey, at the earliest, in their mid-30s, with Asian people trailing behind in their late 30s and African-American people in their mid-40s. Experts also believe that most people will have significant grey coverage by their 50s.

Different hair colours can appear to go grey at very different rates, though it's likely that the process is highlighted more strongly in darker, highly pigmented hair and doesn't necessarily mean dark-haired people lose their colour the fastest. Now, we also all know that one person who miraculously still has natural chestnut hues in their 70s, but these people really are anomalies. Going grey is one of the most common indicators of ageing, and it takes no prisoners! Some people go through the process prematurely, too - usually males. This is largely genetic (so blame your parents) but can also be due to vitamin B12 deficiencies and issues with the thyroid or pituitary gland. Luckily, these symptoms can be reversed when properly medicated. 

2. Why does hair go grey?

Hair follicles contain colour-producing pigment cells which contain melanin (the chemical which determines your hair colour). When the pigment cells start dying off, the depleted chemical results in a non-pigmented, transparent hair aka 'grey'. Did you also know that hydrogen peroxide is deep within your hair cells and can build up to the extent which it bleaches your hair - and not exactly that platinum shade you wanted?

3. Can you slow the greying process down?

You can't play god with genetics, however, you can adapt your lifestyle and diet to hold onto your youthful glow for just a bit longer. One of the biggest health issues known to speed up signs of ageing and subsequently going grey is a vitamin B deficiency. You can top up your levels with supplements, of course, or you can eat a diet rich in necessary nutrients. For example B2, B6 and B12 can be found in leafy greens, eggs and meat, so ensure lots of those are in your shopping trolley. Another anti-ageing nutrient is selenium, found in shellfish, corn and walnuts. The mineral iodine, found in bananas, carrots and fish, helps the body produce a thyroid hormone which in turn aids metabolism and growth, making it another anti-wrinkle wonder. Do your research on copper, too, as it's a key component in collagen production and can surprisingly be found in foods such as mushrooms, turnips and lentils! Also, make sure you're getting enough protein, as it aids the production of melanin. Protein is pretty easy to incorporate into your diet via foods such as chicken, soy and whole grains.  


4. Who is more susceptible?

four mature women with grey hair

Going grey is genetically determined, so look to your parents to glean some knowledge (or lay the blame...) However, certain health disorders can also cause premature greying. If you suffer from a conditions like diabetes, pernicious anemia and thyroid problems, you might find yourself sporting some silver earlier than most, but if you're taking the correct medication these effects may be halted. If in doubt, speak to your GP.

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5. Can you stop your hair going grey? 

There is no magic wand to wish away the greys, but you can get clever with your supplements and delay the offset a tad. A great place to start would be by stocking up on vitamin H (biotin) as it prompts the production of keratin, the protein which keeps the hair strong and healthy. Vitamin C and E are super antioxidants which protect against free radicals (the baddies which damage cells), therefore, if taken in recommended doses, they can slow down the rate your greys come through. Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin which, when taken in continuous supply, helps tissues grow and cells function properly, in turn, slowing down signs of ageing.

6. Your lifestyle has a huge impact

The popular belief that stress causes people's hair to go white isn't true! But while thes no scientific evidence to back it up, but there is proof that other lifestyle factors affect the rate at which you age. If you smoke, drink alcohol or caffeine or avoid exercise you're likely to age a lot faster than those who don't. So if you're not quite ready to open the floodgates and transition to greythen you need to overhaul your lifestyle pronto and make sure take care of your physical and mental health. Getting enough exercise could help stave off those greys as the circulation guides nutrients around the blood and to your scalp. You can even boost the circulation at your roots by massaging your scalp with an anti inflammatory blend of coconut oil and lemon.


7. Old wives' tales

Contrary to popular belief, pulling one grey hair out will, under no circumstances, cause three to suddenly appear in its place. If you are seeing more greys, you're simply seeing more greys, so take the time to discover the best products for mature hair and treat it accordingly - no pulling at rogue strands! Many people are also under the illusion that onion juice can reverse greying by removing hydrogen peroxide (the naturally-occurring bleach), however, we advise against trying this at home...unless you don't mind smelling like a rubbish bin!

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