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In the natural aging process, hair gradually loses its pigmentation, resulting in grey and white hairs scattered throughout your head of hair. But why does it do this? Why does people's hair turn white as they age? Let's find out!
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How long does it take?
Most people's hair begins to turn grey or white after age 30—though there are a few notable exceptions. For example, actress Kim Cattrall was 55 when she got her first silver strands. And genetics plays a role in determining when and how quickly your hair will turn color. According to Greatist, if both your parents have grey hair by age 50, you're five times more likely to get it by 25 than someone whose parents don't have it until they're 85! So... unfortunately, there isn't much you can do about your genes.
What are the factors?
As people get older, two main factors affect how fast their hair changes color. The first is natural loss over time (duh). Like your teeth, hair follicles produce new cells at a rate that slows down as you age. According to one study published in Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, as many as 50% of your hair follicles are in the resting phase by middle age (40 to 60 years old). And once those follicles stop producing pigment, they turn white. The second factor is oxidation. Free radicals—which form when specific molecules interact with oxygen or air—can damage DNA and attack healthy tissues, including those of our scalp.
How does it happen?
Most of us don't know it, but a small protein called melanin is responsible for keeping our hair dark. Although we're all born with melanin, older people produce less and less as time goes on—and less melanin means lighter locks. Scientists have proposed a few explanations for why that happens: Some suggest it may be because melanocytes (the cells that make melanin) die off or that it could be because those same cells are damaged through environmental exposure or age-related health issues like diabetes and heart disease.
Who gets grey hair first?
What's the gene responsible for hair graying? MC1R has a standard variant among East Asians. What's clear is that men and women go grey at different rates. (In fact, it's so common in Japan that researchers have developed an indicator for when and how quickly their hair will turn grey.) But do you need to worry about going grey prematurely? Probably not.
It may be tempting to blame your parents or grandparents if you see grey hairs early on, but scientists say genetics are only part of what makes us age. Stress, sun exposure, smoking, and other factors can play a role too—and these can affect people differently depending on their genetic makeup. So don't be too hard on yourself if you notice your first grey hairs earlier than expected; there could be many reasons why they popped up early besides genes alone.
Can grey be prevented?
You can't prevent grey hair, but you can manage it. There are thousands of products on the market to help conceal and tame your grey locks. You don't have to color your hair thoroughly; maintaining a regular scalp care routine will do wonders for keeping your color fresh. You should also ensure that you're taking care of yourself outside your hair routine; stress and illnesses like anemia (iron deficiency) contribute to greying hair, so take time out, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly.
Do Blondes Have More Fun?
Melanin is responsible for your hair color, which comes from pigments called melanocytes. Once you reach middle age, these cells begin to die off, causing your hair to become increasingly less pigmented until it eventually turns completely white. Scientists have a good grasp on why that happens—but there's still some speculation as to why so many people start turning grey as early as their twenties. Genetics and environment are thought to play a significant role; for example, those who live in colder climates age faster than those who live in warmer temperatures. In any case, we won't be growing back our blonde locks any time soon: Melanocytes don't return once they begin dying off.
Should We Be Concerned?
Aging is associated with changes in many systems and tissues in our bodies. One of these is hair. With age, your hair can turn from its original color to white or grey (or some other color), making many people worry about what's happening to their hair and why it's changing. Learn more about why people's hair turns white as they age, along with tips for keeping your hair looking its best no matter how old you are. It may save you some time worrying that you're suddenly becoming an older adult!
Most people's hair turns grey or white as they age. Two main factors affect how fast their hair changes color. The first is natural loss over time; the second is oxidation, which can damage DNA and attack healthy tissues, including our scalp. Scientists say genetics are only part of what makes us age. Stress, sun exposure, smoking, and other factors can play a role too.
There are thousands of products on the market to help conceal and tame your grey locks. Maintaining a regular scalp care routine will do wonders for keeping your color fresh. Aging is associated with changes in many systems and tissues in our bodies. Your hair can turn from its original color to white or grey with age. Learn more about why people's hair turns white as they age and some for keeping your hair looking good.