Gray hair is a natural part of aging. In fact, half of the population has 50% gray hair by the age of 50. But what if you’re younger than 50? While genes are the biggest factor in premature gray hair, lifestyle and nutritional factors also can play a role. Keep reading to find out what causes gray hair and how to cope with it.
What Causes Gray Hair?
Hair gets its color from a pigment called melanin, which is released by cells called melanocytes. Hair goes gray when these melanocytes wear out with age. As the melanocytes cease to produce melanin, hair loses its color.
This graying process starts with a few white hairs mixed in here and there, which creates salt and pepper hair. As more hairs lose their color, hair turns silver. Eventually, all hair loses its color and the head of hair appears white.
Causes of Premature Gray Hair
In 90% of cases, prematurely gray hair is caused by genetics. According to a study published in Nature Communications, variations in the IRF4 gene are responsible for premature graying. Thus, if your parents went gray prematurely, you’re more likely to have premature gray hair as well.
Ethnicity can also play a role, as Caucasians tend to start going gray in their mid-30s. This generally is earlier than people of other backgrounds.
Low levels of certain minerals in the diet, like vitamin B12, vitamin D3, copper and iron, can cause loss of pigment in the hair.
To prevent premature graying, eat a well-rounded diet with plenty of whole, protein-rich foods like eggs, fish and milk.
Smoking doesn’t just age your skin – it also ages your hair. Scientists hypothesize that smoking causes premature graying through oxidative stress on the hair follicles.
Quitting smoking will help to prevent more of your hair from turning prematurely gray, but it can’t restore color to the hair that’s already lost its pigment.
Emotional and physical stress can also produce free radicals that can contribute to prematurely gray hair. Some health problems like diabetes, anemia and celiac disease can also contribute to going prematurely gray.
Reduce the stress that induces gray hair through lifestyle changes like exercising, getting more sleep and meditation. Not only will reducing stress help prevent gray hair, but it will help minimize stress as a cause of thinning and hair loss.
How to Style Gray Hair
Of course, if you want, you can dye your hair. We recommend using Toppik Hair Building Fibers in your original natural hair shade to disguise roots in between at-home hair dyeing or trips to the colorist.
However, many men — and some women — choose to embrace the gray look. If that’s you, here are some tips for styling your gray hair.
- Use a toning shampoo. Since white hair has a tendency to turn yellow or brassy, maintain your silver hair by using a shampoo designed to maintain the color tone of gray hair.
- Layer Hair Building Fibers. If you use Hair Building Fibers, you’ll want to adjust your shade choices with your changing hair color. Men with salt and pepper hair can layer Toppik Hair Building Fibers by first applying Fibers in their darker, natural color. Then, sprinkle gray Fibers on top. Men with silver hair can use Fibers in gray, while men with white hair can use Fibers in white.
- Use matte styling products. Oil-based pomades and other shine-inducing products can make gray hair look yellow. Use matte styling products like clay-based pomades that add hold and texture without extra shine.
Going gray is a natural part of the aging process and is nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re a man or woman with prematurely gray hair, we say embrace it!