Grey hair

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Grey hair is a natural phenomenon and all human beings get it at some point of time or the other in their lives. The first strand of grey can make its appearance in the late 20s to mid 30s and for some lucky ones it can happen in the 40s also. Most people are unable to accept the first strands of grey with ageing graciously. From the time the process of greying starts, it might take 10 years or so for the entire pate to go grey.

Grey hair is more noticeable in people with darker hair because it stands out, but people with naturally lighter hair are just as likely to go grey. From the time a person notices a few grey hairs, it may take more than 10 years for the entire pate to turn grey.

Why should I be aware of this?

All of us get grey hair sooner or later. There are a few facts all of us need to know about grey hair and premature greying. We all need to be aware of the cause of grey hair, how to cover grey hair and natural remedies for grey hair. Normally genes determine when a person's hair will turn grey. However, there are some conditions that can accelerate the greying process or make the hair turn grey earlier than normal.

Unlocking the secret of grey hair

In feb 2009, a team of European researchers, who had been studying a genetic defect called vitiligo, which resulted in patches of skin that have no pigment found that people with vitiligo have low activity of catalase, an enzyme that breaks down hydrogen peroxide, resulting in elevated levels of hydrogen peroxide in the skin.

Given that graying hair results from an absence of pigment, it occurred to the scientists that hydrogen peroxide and catalase might play a critical role in the process. Every hair cell makes a little hydrogen peroxide, but over time the amount builds up. The European team discovered that this buildup ended up blocking the normal synthesis of melanin, the natural pigment in hair.

Our hair, it turns out, bleaches itself from the inside out. And by identifying the chemicals involved, researchers may be closer to understanding if the graying is influenced by stress.


Factors that can accelerate greying

Using hair colour, especially hair colour with high ammonium content can accelerate the greying proces.

All about grey hair

Each hair is made up of two parts:

  1. Shaft - The shaft is the coloured part of the hair which can be seen growing on the scalp.
  2. The root - The root is the lower part of the hair that keeps the hair anchored under the scalp.

The root is surrounded by a pigment rich tissue called the hair follicle. The pigment cells in this tissue continuously produce melanin. It is the melanin which lends colour to the hair. The colour of the hair can be black, brown, blonde, or red, and anything in between. In fact it is the quantity of melanin present in the hair follicle that determines how dark or light a person's hair is.

Why does hair turn grey?

As we age, the pigment cells gradually die and become fewer in number. This leads to a reduction in the quantity of melanin. As a result, the hair becomes a more transparent color - like gray, silver, or white - as it grows. As people continue to get older, fewer pigment cells are around to produce melanin and, eventually, the hair becomes completely grey. For some the loss of melanin can happen earlier than normal. This is called premature greying.

The most common areas on the scalp where the first grey hair appears is the area above the ears and/or at the temples. This first grey hair may spread around the sides and to the crown with time. Grey hair development in the beard and mustache may also start quite early, while grey hair on the chest and pubic region generally only occurs some years after onset of grey hair on the scalp.

Alternative therapies and grey hair

There is no scientific evidence that any diet, herb, supplement, or natural product can prevent or reverse grey hair. However, several alternative sytems of medicine and therapy, offer some solutions.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

According to TCM, hair depends on the quality of blood and the strength of the kidneys. To restore the natural colour of the hair, kidneys and blood need to be strengthened.

Foods that restore natural hair colour according to TCM

  • Hijiki seaweed
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Nettles
  • Wheat grass
  • Chlorophyll

TCM practioners caution against consuming excessive amounts of these foods as these might result in some other health probem. For example, excessive amounts of iodine (from seaweed) may increase the risk of developing thyroid problems, which itself is a cause of premature grey hair.

Foods to avoid according to TCM

  • Excessive meat
  • Excessive dairy products,
  • High salt intake

Ayurveda

In ayurveda, hair is associated with an imbalance in the pitta constitutional type.

Herbal remedies for grey hair according to ayurveda.[1]

  • Apply a paste made from 2-Tsp. henna powder, 1-tsp. curd, 1-tsp. fenugreek seed powder, 1 tbsp. coffee, 2-tbsp. mint juice and 2-tbsp. basil juice. Apply this paste to the hair for two hours. For a darker colour, leave this paste in for 3 to 4 hours. Wash hair with any natural shampoo.
  • Grate some fresh ginger. Mix with honey and place it in a jar. Eat 1 tea spoon everyday.

According to ayurveda excessive intakes of these foods increase pitta and lead to premature greying or acceleration of the greying process.

An imbalance in the vata constitutional type, aggravated by stress, is also associated with premature greying.

Yoga

Yoga suggests a few steps that can combat grey hair.

  • Rubbing the nails together -- According to yoga, nerve endings below the fingernails are directly connected to the roots of a person's hair. Rubbing the nails against one another improves the blood circulation in the scalp, which in turn reduces grey hair.
  • After getting up in the morning, a person should rub the area of the forehead closest to the hairline. This helps in removing any blocks in circulation in the scalp.
  • Yoga Asana, Kapalbhati is also said to help in arresting the greying process.

What can I do?

You can either colour your hair or go for alternative therapies.

Some dos and don'ts

  • Do not pluck grey hair. It can damage the hair follicles.
  • Choose a good quality hair colour preferably one without ammonia. Chemicals such as ammonium can damage the hair. Some of the chemicals that need to be avoided include
    • Para-phenylenediamine and tetrahydro-6-nitroquinoxaline
    • Coal tar
    • Formaldehyde
    • DMDM Hydantoin

Unlearn

  • It is said that if you pluck out one gray hair, two or three will sprout in its place. This is not true. Plucking out grey hair does not multiply grey hair. It does damage the roots, causing infection or leaving a scar.
  • Overexposure to the sun might also cause hair to gray early, but again there are two schools of thought on this. The theory is that ultraviolet rays cause pigment cells on the scalp to work overtime, just as they do on arms or legs when a person gets a tan. There is no concrete evidence of this. But some suggest wearing a hat or using hair care products that contain sunscreen.

CopperBytes

  • The chances of a person going grey increases 10-20% every decade after 30 years.
  • "Grey" hair is actually transparent, but appears grey due to the dead cells that make up the strand.
  • Smokers are four times more likely to have grey hair and premature hair loss.
  • Stress hormones like cortisol can mess with hair cells. As a result the cells have trouble surviving and/or producing the pigment that gives the hair its original color.
  • The average head has about 100-150,000 hair follicles.[1]
  • Grey hair can be harder to colour as it is more resistant to hair colour or hair dye due to a decreased amount of melanin.
  • Keratin is the protein that makes up our hair, skin, and nails.
  • Hair on the head grows more actively than body hair. So the head becomes grey while other hairy parts remain the normal color.
  • Going grey does not mean that the body’s aging process has speeded up and the person is suddenly going to lose function in other areas.
  • Blondes are most likely to develop a completely white head of hair in old age because their hair fiber has a very low density of pigment in it to start with.
  • Stress may cause premature graying, but scientists have yet to find irrefutable evidence to prove this claim.

References

  • Why does hair turn grey?
  • Natural Remedy to Reduce or Reverse Gray Hair?
  • Click nails to reduce grey hair
  • The Facts Behind Common Men's Hair Myths
  • Fact of the Day: Stress Does Cause Gray Hair
  • The main reason for our hair turning grey is heredity.
  • Premature Graying Can Be Genetic, Signal Health Problems
  • Premature gray hair
  • Unlocking the secrets of grey hair
  • Grey Hair Causes
  • Fact or Fiction?: Stress Causes Gray Hair

Additional Information

  • What is your Ayurvedic type?
  • Ayurvedic Foods for Your Type

Source