If gray hair appears, it is because physical and chemical processes have been unleashed by which hair loses its natural pigment. However, there are currently several investigations that could lead to reverse this process in the coming years.Graying is inevitable, at least for most human beings. It is a completely natural biological process and, for that very reason, we do not usually wonder why gray hair appears and if this is only due to age or there are other factors involved.
The subject has much more impact on aesthetics than on biology. For the same reason, many people are terrified when they see gray hair coming out and they look for any means to hide them. Others, on the other hand, paint their gray hair before they make their appearance.
It should be noted that the probability of graying increases between an additional 10 and 20% for each decade of life, from the age of 30. However, there are younger people who develop gray hair long before that age. What is behind all this? Let’s see.
The exit of the gray hair
Gray hair is white hair that usually appears progressively with age. However, it should be noted that before birth, at the beginning of life, we all have white hair. During the formation process, it acquires other tones thanks to a substance called melanin. There are two types of melanin: eumelanin, which gives dark hair its color; and pheomelanin, which gives light hair its color. Sometimes, both are combined and give rise to other hair tones such as brown, red, etc. Melanin is formed in cells called melanocytes, whose function is to produce pigment to give hair its color.
When gray hair appears, it means that the melanocytes are no longer producing pigment. This can happen at any age, but it is very rare for people under 20 years of age. If it occurs before the age of 30, it is called ‘premature caniosis’. If it occurs after the age of 30, it is referred to as ‘physiological caniosis’.
Why does white hair grow up?
Much is said about the reasons for gray hair. However, science has only managed to pin down two fully proven causes. These are:
- Genetics: although the genes responsible for this process have not been identified, it is known that genetics play a decisive role. Among other things, it determines the age at which gray hair appears. There are more cases of premature graying among Caucasians and Asians.
- Diseases: pathologies such as vitiligo cause the pigment that gives hair its color to be lost. The so-called ‘pernicious anemia’, lack of vitamin B12, hypothyroidism and Werner syndrome have a similar effect.
It has been suggested that there are other factors that promote or accelerate the graying process. It is not fully proven that this is the case, but there are indications of its influence. These are:
- Stress: the alteration of metabolism and hormones caused by stress, could have an impact on the production of melanin. People who go through difficult situations, repeatedly, tend to go gray more quickly.
- Unbalanced diet: low intake of antioxidants and mineral vitamins has been suggested to cause graying.
- Toxic: some think that smoking and the ingestion of alcohol and other drugs precipitate the appearance of gray hair. However, there is no solid evidence that this is so.
A group of German scientists carried out an investigation in which it was concluded that the low production of melanin is due to an excessive presence of hydrogen peroxide in the hair cells. The way to avoid this is by consuming foods rich in catalase, such as avocado, leek, onion, beef liver, etc. On the other hand, Professor from the University of Bradford (United Kingdom), concluded that there is a kind of ‘biological clock’ in the hair root follicle. This determines when the melanocytes stop making hair pigment. What is new is that there is evidence that this process can be reversed.
Meanwhile, a study conducted at the University of Cairo (Egypt), which was led by Professor Irini Samuel, pointed out that, in the case of men, there is a link between the graying process and coronary risk. A high level of gray hair, at an early age, would be a sign of this risk.