What Causes Hair to Turn Gray?

Hair doesn’t go gray it grows gray.  Hair stem-cells (keratinocytes) make hair and pigment forming stem-cells (melanocytes) make pigment. Your hair color is determined by the presence and proportions of two groups of melanins: eumelanins (brown and black pigments) and pheomelanins (red and yellow pigments). When hair grows gray it means the pigment forming cells are worn out and not doing their job.

AGE
The most common reason for graying hair is age. As we age the store of melanocytes depletes so the new hair grows out gray.  Dermatologists often refer to a 50-50-50 rule.  50% of the population will have 50% gray hair by the time they are 50 years of age.

ETHNICITY
Your ethnicity also plays a big role.  Some of us are luckier than others.  Caucasians, especially redheads go gray the fastest, usually around their 30s but sometimes earlier.  Asians are next generally going gray in their 40s.  People of African heritage are the fortunate ones who go gray later in life.    

STRESS
It has not been scientifically proven that stress causes gray hair, but we do not stress plays a role in so many processes in the body including the condition of our skin.  While stress likely doesn’t cause gray hair, managing stress has a positive influence on our body.

LIFESTYLE
This is another one that comes under questions, but it has been shown that low vitamin levels, especially B12 does play a role in loss of hair pigment.  Junk food deprives the body, which includes the hair, of essential nutrients so this will impact your hair.  According to a study in the journal Science News, smokers are 4-times more likely to have gray hair than non-smokers. 

While we can’t influence factors like age and our ethnicity, we can influence our lifestyle, diet and stress.  So as for so many other things in our life, it is important to take care of ourselves.  Eat well, exercise, get adequate sleep and stay healthy.

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