Aging is inevitable. No three-hour daily skin product regimen can prevent wrinkles entirely, and no sip from the Fountain of Youth can obliterate the onset of menopause. As we grow, our bodies change — our skin becomes looser, our veins more visible, and we start to sprout gray hair. As much as we may want to avoid it, there’s no escaping each passing birthday, each new fold in our skin and each unwanted silvery strand.
Gray hair is the result of dying pigment cells in our hair follicles. The pigment cells contain melanin, which gives our hair its natural color. As the cells die, our strands become transparent, or gray, because of their melanin deficiency.
And while our gray hair growth is imminent, everyone exhibits signs of aging at different times in their lives. Statistically, men begin to grow gray hair at the age of 30, while women typically start to go gray at 35. When we notice our first grays, we can either embrace them or cover them up. Because there are higher beauty standards for women than men, women usually opt to dye their hair to hide the grays, while men oftentimes sport their gray hair unfazed. Regardless of how we choose to handle our impending older age, each decade after our 30s we are 10–20 percent more likely to develop gray hair — a process that takes nearly 10 years to dominate our scalps.
But even with these generalizations, the rate at which we go gray is largely genetic. If your parents and grandparents started graying at a younger age, you are likely to do the same. If you’re Caucasian, you have a greater chance of beginning your graying process earlier in life than if you’re Asian or African American. Also, if you’re low in vitamin B12, if you have vitiligo or if you’re anemic, you may experience gray hair at a younger age. And if you have thyroid or pituitary gland malfunctions, premature graying may affect you, too.
So, there may be no preventing the silvery takeover, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle can prolong the onset of the process. Perhaps most important is to refrain from smoking cigarettes. Smoking reduces the melanin in hair, so smokers are at an increased risk of early graying. You may also want to avoid consuming a ton of junk food. An unhealthy diet can accelerate aging, too.
Since it’s unavoidable, here are some more facts you should know about going gray.
- Dying your hair when you’re young won’t speed up the graying process. Your roots will grow back their natural color.
- A strand of hair can’t turn gray. Hair grows in cycles, so once a pigmented strand falls out, a gray one can grow in its place.
- Don’t worry — you won’t actually grow two more grays if you pull one out.
- Gray hair is often more coarse than blond, brown, red and black hair.
- Redheads maintain their natural color for a lot longer than other hair colors. As redheads age, their pigment fades to shades of copper, blond and, eventually, white.