Gray Matters!

A new reality seems to set in when you look into the mirror and discover your first gray hairs on your head. Finding those gray hairs doesn’t mean that from one day to next your beautiful colorful tresses will turn to a head full of gray – it is a gradual process and occurs when new hairs grow without color from the follicle. Although gray might make you look older, it has no significance on your age.  You are as old as you feel!

Your enthnicity plays a role in determining when you will start to turn gray;  Caucasions seem to begin graying in their mid 30’s, Asians in their late 30’s and African Americans in their mid 40’s. Look at your family history as well.  Gray hair runs in the genes and if your parents or grandparents turned gray in their early 30’s, it is highly likely that you will too. Other factors that promote premature graying include smoking, poor diet, various medications and certain diseases such as autoimmune disease.

Hair stem cells create the hair and pigment known as melanin in the middle shaft of the hair, gives the hair its color.  Melanin has two different pigment shades, namely dark (eumelanin) and light (phaeomelanin) which blend together to make up the wide range of hair colors.  A single hair grows for two to seven years and then it falls out and is replaced by a new one.  As you age, the production of melanin decreases and your head is finally replaced with new gray and eventually white hair.

Your hair first starts to change color around the temples and the front of your head.  So if you do not see any signs of gray in front, rest assured that there probably isn’t any gray hairs hiding at the back of your head either. Many parents quip that having teenagers in the house have caused their hair to turn gray. This misconception that stress causes gray hairs has been replaced with a new theory that stress alone will not cause graying, rather it can speed up the process in those individuals who are genetically disposed to it.

A study undertaken in 2012 comparing men and women of similar ages, found that men seemed to sport more gray hair than women, which can be reassuring as men don’t run to cover their gray as quickly as women do. Reaching for the tweezers may not be the answer to getting rid of the gray.  Although there might be a chance that the new hair will grow back with your original color, continuous plucking could damage the hair follicle resulting in no new hair growth.  Gray hair is definitely a better option than no hair at all!

Becoming gray is inevitable, it is just a matter of when.  Taking care of your hair and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle may help in slowing down the aging and graying process.  Today, gray is sported as a new look by many, however, if you are not ready for this option, dying your hair can continue to keep you looking young.

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