Gray hair is an inevitable change as we age, but when those first hairs appear varies dramatically. Some people start seeing silver strands in their 20s, while others don’t notice these stray hairs until they are middle-aged. Several factors and conditions affect when hair grays, making this aging experience different for every person. Whether you want to eliminate your gray hair or age gracefully, you have plenty of options.
Generally, aging causes gray hair. Your hair color is determined by two pigments: eumelanin, the dark pigment, and pheomelanin, the light pigment. Together, these pigments determine your natural hair color. As you age, production of these pigments slows down, which explains the gradual shift to gray and then white hair. Another explanation for this hair change is the buildup of naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide, which slowly bleaches the hair, stripping it of color.
Researchers continue to study why pigment production decreases with age and, further, why the age at which hair starts to turn gray varies so dramatically. Graying has a genetic link, so family members often start graying around the same age. Your ethnicity plays a role in this process as well—Caucasians tend to go gray earlier than Asians and African-Americans.
Premature graying, defined as gray hair by age 20 for Caucasians and before age 30 for African-Americans, has several causes. Certain conditions, such as vitiligo, Werner syndrome, and alopecia areata, are associated with gray hair. A Vitamin B-12 deficiency and issues with the pituitary and thyroid glands can also lead to silver hair, but treating the cause can reverse the process in these cases.
Coloring Gray Hair
Many people, particularly those who go gray prematurely, turn to color treatments to eliminate this sign of aging. Your hair doesn’t change colors overnight, so you have many options when it comes to coloring your hair. If you have just some stray gray hairs, you can touch up your hair without a trip to the salon. Color pens come in many shades, from blonde to black and everything in between, allowing you to cover those stray gray hairs. You can choose a color pen that matches your current hair color, or you can add some depth to your hair by creating some highlights or lowlights in place of the gray.
Choose a shade that blends well with your current hair color and masks the gray hair.
You can eliminate subtle touches of gray in your hair with salon-created highlights or lowlights. Complement your hair color with lighter or darker shades, which cover up the gray while adding some depth and texture to your hair. Choose a shade that blends well with your current hair color and masks the gray hair.
All-over color is another way to eliminate silver locks. If the majority of your hair is turning gray, all-over color is the best solution. Choose a color that complements your skin tone and blends in with whatever natural color you have left. A semi-permanent or permanent color will last the longest, requiring fewer touch-ups as gray continues to grow. In between colorings, you can use a color pen that matches your current color. Apply it to your roots to camouflage new strands of silver. Gray hairs are more resistant to hair color, so work with your stylist to find a color that is effective in covering non-pigmented strands.
Maintaining Grey Hair
Not everyone wants to eliminate grey hair; some people embrace the new shade. A rich shade of grey can be quite striking and can brighten your face. However, grey hair can also take on a brassy yellow shade, caused by environmental factors and chemicals, such as chlorine. You can reduce the brassiness by using a clarifying shampoo and conditioner specifically for grey hair, which counteract the yellow with bluish tints. Use these products a couple of times a week, and mix them with regular shampoos and conditioners to avoid changing that yellow tint in your hair to a blue one.
Keep your silver locks healthy with regular deep conditioning treatments, which you can perform at home or in a salon. Many over-the-counter deep conditioners allow you to rehydrate your hair at home. Grey hair tends to be coarser and drier, so regular conditioning is a must. In addition, you can enhance your rich silver shade with highlights or lowlights in a complementary shade of grey.
Grey hair happens to everyone eventually. No matter when those first silver strands appear, you have many options when it comes to coloring and treating your hair. Whether you want to say goodbye to grey or embrace your new shade, you can create healthy, vibrant hair.