Salt and pepper, silver, pewter, charcoal. Whatever you call it, grey hair happens to all of us at some point. But why do some people go grey in their 20s, while others don’t see the first sign of silver until age 50? And if you’re going grey early, what should you do about it?
Hair goes grey when color-producing cells stop producing pigment, says Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. Naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide can also build up in the hair, bleaching the color.
Typically, white people start going grey in their mid-30s, Asians in their late 30s, and black people in their mid-40s. Half of all people have a significant amount of grey hair by the time they turn 50.
A white person is considered to be prematurely grey if his or her hair turns grey by age 20; grey before 30 is early for black people.
A Medical Problem?
Contrary to popular belief, stress has not been definitively shown to cause grey hair. Scientists don’t know exactly why some people go grey early, but it’s largely determined by genetics.
Some autoimmune and genetic conditions are associated with premature greying, including vitiligo, Werner syndrome and alopecia areata – which causes only the coloured hairs to fall out and look like the hair turned white overnight.
A vitamin B-12 deficiency or problems with the pituitary or thyroid gland can cause premature greying that’s reversible if the problem is corrected.
Some research has suggested a connection between premature greying and lower bone density later in life. However, a 2007 study of about 1,200 men and women in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., showed this not to be the case.
“Your level of bone density is all related to activity level, your weight, your height, your ethnicity. It’s not really related to your hair or the things controlling the color of your hair,” says researcher Deborah J. Morton, PhD, an epidemiologist at University of California, San Diego.
Hiding the Grey
First, ask yourself….why would I want to?
There are lots of choices for concealing grey,
1. Semi-permanent or demi-permanent color: Lasts a few weeks and is a good option for people just starting to see grey.
2. Highlights: Scattered strands are lightened to blend the grey with the rest of your hair.
3. Once you have 45% to 50% grey, try using a permanent color. Some people leave some grey around their face to make a statement.
4. Hair products: If you don’t want to dye but still want to conceal the grey, there are colouring tools such as spray-on airbrush hair makeup, which washes out with a shampoo.
Embracing the Grey
More people are opting to “go grey”
According to Diana Jewell, a former marketing director at Vogue Magazine and author of the book Going Grey, Looking Great.
“The myth that grey hair makes you old is just that — a myth. If you were young, vibrant, active, healthy pre-grey, you’re still going to be that way. It’s all in the attitude you bring to it,” Jewell says. “If you think of it as merely another color choice, you won’t be afraid of grey.”
Journalist Anne Kreamer went grey at 25 and spent an estimated $65,000 on salon color treatments over the next 20 years. She chronicled her journey back to grey at age 49 in the book Going Grey: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Matters.
“If you look at an Anderson Cooper or a Steve Martin or men who have historically gone grey early, I think they look terrific and it becomes almost an iconic differentiation for them,” Kreamer says. “The same is true for women, but … we’ve been brainwashed into believing grey is unattractive and undesirable.”
These simple tips can help you go grey with style:
1. If you’ve been dyeing, consider going “cold turkey” with a chic, short haircut.
2. Work with a colorist to weave in highlights and use toners to minimize the transition line between your natural hair color and your former hair dye, Kreamer says.
3. Get a modern haircut. King recommends a style with sharper edges, such as “a graduated bob of some type, some really smooth bangs, a really nice fringe.”
4. Take care of your hair. Shampoos with a blue base can help prevent grey hair from developing a yellowish cast, says Jewell, who offers a list of products at goinggreylookinggreat.com. Using a conditioning mask once a month keeps hair well-moisturized.
5. Enjoy your life. “Beauty is not determined by the color of hair,” says Cindy Joseph, a silver-haired model for Ford Models Inc. and CEO of Boom!
With thanks to Web MD for the original content