It’s normal to closely associate your appearance with that mane of hair on your head. So what happens when they gorgeous color that has been so closely tied to your image of yourself begins to fade, as hair turns white or silvery gray? If you’re wondering why your hair is going gray and wonder if its normal graying, or are looking for ways to halt this graying in its tracks, read on what causes gray hair and how to prevent it.
Hair is naturally colored due to melanocytes, the melanin forming cells that also give your skin their color. As you age, the hair shaft and your hair follicles begin to wear down and age. Over time, the melanocytes in the follicle also cease to function as effectively as before – and that’s when you begin to see signs of “graying”. The loss of melanin can be due to a decline in volume of melanin and a fall in population of melanocytes and affects both the bulb of your hair as well as the outer sheath of the root of the hair.1 On an average, you’ll see African-Americans graying later, Asians graying in their late 30s, and white skinned people showing signs of graying as early as in their mid 30s. Anything earlier than that can be seen as premature.
Premature Graying And Its Causes
You could also see your hair turning gray earlier than normal due to various reasons including:
- Genetic conditions like Dyskeratosis congenita, an inherited syndrome that causes premature aging and affects hair besides bringing on osteoporosis and dental loss
- Smoking can make you age faster, making hair go gray earlier and causing skin to wrinkle
- Nutritional deficiencies of vitamin B12, vitamin D3, copper or iron.
- Chronic protein loss due to celiac disease or kwashiorkor
- Autoimmune disorder Vitiligo
- Endocrine problems due to Hashimoto’s disease, Werner’s syndrome, or Grave’s disease.
- Exposure to radiation can result in free radical damage in the body, causing skin to gray as the melanocyte population is depleted. Oxymelanin is an oxidative photo degradation product generated due to sunlight exposure which causes stress to your hair strands and shaft.
- Oxidative stress due to inflammation or psychoemotional stress resulting in problems with melanocyte growth
Can You Prevent Graying?
Normal age-related graying is to be expected, and you can’t really ward it off, though some lifestyle changes can help prevent it from going gray sooner than normal. Certain foods like antioxidant-rich foods can also help slow the pace of natural aging of hair. What you could prevent, however, are triggers for early graying that are avoidable, or other causes that can be brought under control by treating underlying disorders. Some of these are given below.
1. Prevent Nutritional Deficiencies
Feed your hair the nutrients it needs and you may be able to slow down the graying of hair.
- Get in adequate vitamin B12 by ensuring your diet contains eggs, shellfish, organ meat, poultry, and milk.
- To increase Vitamin D levels, besides getting enough exposure to sunlight to help your body produce the vitamin, you can consume fatty fish like mackerel, tuna, or salmon, or eat beef liver, egg yolks, or cheese.
- Minerals like copper can be consumed through dark leafy greens, potatoes, cocoa, yeast, black pepper, dried fruits, whole grains, shellfish, nuts, beans, and organ meat.
- Up iron intake by having more green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, dried beans, eggs, lean red meat, liver, salmon, tuna, oysters, and whole grains.
Top up your intake with fortified foods like cereals containing the vitamins or minerals you need to get more of. Milk may also be fortified with vitamin D.
2. Get In Anti (Hair) Aging Foods
Besides avoiding the deficiency of certain nutrients, you can slow aging of hair by giving it the “food” it needs to really thrive. Vitamins A, C, and E in particular are known to help intervene with aging hair and keep it from going dry, brittle, and gray before its time.
- Vitamin A needed for oily sebum production, a natural conditioner for your hair that keeps it from going dry and brittle, can be found in cod liver oil, eggs, orange/yellow fruit and vegetables like carrots, as well as dark leafy vegetables and broccoli.
- Vitamin C which helps with collagen production needed for healthy hair growth is easily available in a variety of foods including citrus fruits, berries, brocolli, caulfilower, red/green peppers,spinach, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and more.
- Vitamin E protects hair from sun damage from the inside out and can be found in nuts, vegetable oils, seeds, and green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli.
3. Protect Hair From Radiation
If you are in a workplace where you may be exposed to radiation, use the provided protection or request it if it is not available, so that your body is not exposed to too much radiation. If your hair is suffering due to simple sunlight exposure and UV radiation-related damage, then a hat or scarf to cover up your hair so it does not get exposed directly can be a simple fix.
4. Consume Anti-inflammatory And Antioxidant Foods
You can also fight free radical damage that causes hair to gray, by consuming antioxidant-rich foods like onion, garlic, turmeric, pomegranate, blueberries, spinach, broccoli, and legumes. Age related graying may also be slowed a bit by consuming these foods.
5. Stop Smoking
While smoking can increase your risk of going gray early, you can reverse some of the damage before it is too late. As researchers discovered, smokers who stopped smoking were able to halt the increased pace of aging over time and bring it back to normal. This will impact graying as well, but must be done before it’s too late because hair that’s turned gray will stay that way.
6. Treat Endocrine Problems Naturally
Ayurveda has a range of remedies for treating hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroids. By addressing this endocrine problem, you could also help you bring back the balance of T3 and T4, the thyroid hormones that, among other things, modulate hair pigmentation.
Of the remedies available, the most popular ones include Ashwagandha, Varunadi Kasaya,Kanchanar Guggulu, and Trifala. Ginger and turmeric consumption too may help improve endocrine function.