Grey hair. It’s all the rage with young people dying their hair silver, but it remains an unwelcome badge of ageing for those whose greying hair is due to chronology, not chemistry. Sooner or later, it comes to us all:

“50% of all people have a significant amount of grey hair

by the time they turn 50.” – WebMD

According to scientists, however, there may be a way to prevent hair from going grey, and the answer might be closer than you think. In this article, Costhetics looks at the reasons we go grey and what solutions are on the horizon to slow, stop, or even reverse greying.

Costhetics Explains Why We Go Grey

There are several reasons your hair goes grey. Intrinsic (internal) factors include:

  • Genetic defects (glandular problems of the thyroid or pituitary)
  • Hormone levels

Extrinsic (external) factors that contribute to greying hair are:

  • Chemical exposure
  • Toxins
  • Pollutants
  • Climate

The most common cause for greying hair, however, is this:

  • Colour-producing cells (melanocytes) stop producing pigment as we age.

Although parents point to their teenagers as the cause of their grey hair, there is no solid evidence that stress causes hair to lose its colour.

Costhetics Says Your Grey Hair Clock Is Ticking

According to Dr Desmond Tobin, a professor of cell biology at the University of Bradford in England, hair follicles have a “melanogenic clock” which slows down or stops melanocyte activity, thus decreasing the pigment our hair receives, so the roots always look pale. This process occurs at a different rate for different follicles, and some people’s hair loses colour rapidly while others have salt and pepper hair for years before going completely silver.

Age and genetics are key factors, with genetics dictating what Torin calls the “pigmentary potential” of each individual follicle.

“In a February 2005 Science article, Harvard scientists proposed that a failure of melanocyte stem cells (MSC) to maintain the production of melanocytes could cause the graying of hair. This failure of MSC maintenance may result in the breakdown of signals that produce hair colour.”U.S. Library of Congress

A Pill to Prevent Grey Hair

A ground-breaking British study, published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, exposes the mechanism that governs loss of hair pigment. The study has led to some exciting possibilities for preventing grey hair. Researchers found that

“…accumulated oxidative stress leads to the overproduction of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicles. In other words, the hair begins to bleach itself from the inside out. The build-up of hydrogen peroxide begins to block the production of melanin, the pigment that gives hair its blonde, red or brown color.”Forbes Magazine

The enzyme catalase breaks up the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen so the body can eliminate it. As we age, however, catalase levels drop, allowing hydrogen peroxide to accumulate. A supplement aimed at boosting levels of catalase and other grey-fighting enzymes – MSR A and B, and Tyrosinase – is already in development by L’Oreal.

For those already dealing with the appearance of coarse grey strands, however, the pill won’t help. According to L’Oreal, you will have to take the supplement every day for at least 10 years before hair starts turning grey. Once begun, it will have to be taken for life just like medications that arrest or reverse balding. Given the time, expense, and energy of hiding colour-challenged hair under a wig or colouring it, many say a pill a day doesn’t sound like such a difficult regimen.

What do YOU think?

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