Gray Hair Woes

Facts and Myths About Those Pesky Grays!

They are a fact of life for most and we grow up thinking the first time we see one on our heads means the end is near. What are we talking about? GRAY HAIR! The words sound so daunting, right?  Everyone’s opinions on the matter vary but for most, gray hair is disliked and unwanted.

There are many myths out there about what one can and can’t do to avoid those pesky gray strands, so we thought we would break them down for you and bring out the TRUTHS behind the gray hair mystery to help soothe those gray hair woes!

gray hair woes

The Facts

Graying of hair is a natural process. Of course it varies from person to person, but at a particular age the hair starts to gray. Gray hair occurs with normal aging because the hair cells on the scalp produce less melanin. A family history of early onset gray hair usually foreshadows its potential for development in offspring. Nonetheless, there is not enough research to say for certain which genes or on which side of the family gray hair is inherited from.

The first signs of gray can begin when you’re 30 – in rare cases earlier – and most people have at least a few strands of gray hair by 40. Caucasians tend to gray first, often as early as their mid-30s, followed by Asians and then Africans. About half of 50-year-olds are at least 50 percent gray. Basically, the age at which graying commences is greatly dependent upon hereditary factors as well as the climatic conditions in which you live.

Speaking of climatic conditions, studies show that smokers are FOUR TIMES more likely to have gray hair than nonsmokers. When a person smokes, the oxygen supply to the blood is reduced due to contracting of blood vessels. Blood supply is necessary for all body functions, therefore it is thought that the reduced supply of blood and oxygen to the scalp can be a cause of graying of hair. On top of the gray factor, smoking also increases your chances of premature hair loss.  No time better than the present to quit!

In some cases gray hair may be due to a vitamin B12 deficiency, according to Disabled World. People who are not getting enough folic acid or vitamin B9 may experience premature graying as well. Vitamin B12 is found in animal products (such as fish, meat, milk and eggs) but is also added to fortified cereals and multivitamin supplements.

In children, early graying tends to be inherited. A single strand of gray hair is of course most noticeable in people with darker hair and is usually not worrisome if the child’s general health is normal. However, there are some health conditions that can cause gray hair in children. One such condition is alopecia areata, which causes patches of hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body. As the hair grows back, it may be gray at first.  Abnormal thyroid hormone levels in the body (either too low or too high) can also cause gray hair. Your pediatrician may perform a blood test if one of these conditions is suspected.

The Myths

Contrary to popular belief, plucking your stray grays will NOT make more grow back in its place! Hair has color because cells in our hair follicles called melanocytes create pigment (color) in the hair. When these cells stop producing the pigment, the hair loses its color. Plucking out one gray hair will not affect the melanocytes in the other hair follicles, so other hairs will not turn gray as a result. Gray hair really occurs as a result of age or a medical condition. Truth be told, your “gray” hair is actually transparent! The hair appears gray due to the dead cells that make up the strand.

When one sees a new or additional gray strand appear, we tend to blame stress whether it’s a high pressure job, unruly children, a tough class or you are simply a worry wart! There have been a number of scientific studies conducted over the years trying to link gray hair with stress, yet none have been able to conclusively, without-a-doubt link the two evils together.  It is definitely “thought” that the two are linked and there will likely be conclusive findings in the near future, but even if scientists find connection between stress and graying, it is still ultimately genetic factors that determine who is ultimately susceptible.

In conclusion, the amount of gray hair you have does NOT put you any closer to death than the next person! Love life and embrace the gray!