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Gray Hair - Why It Happens and How to Deal!
Gray hair seems to be every woman's nightmare. But it is a completely natural and normal process. Most women start finding gray hair in their 30s and 40s but some of us (cough, me included) can start graying in our mid-to-late 20s.
What is it?
As we now know, our hair goes through three main phases of growth. We begin with an active growing phase for 2-5 years. Our hair rests for 100 days and sheds. Then, the process begins all over again.
During the active growth phase, tiny cells within our hair follicles, called melanocytes, are producing the pigment that gives our hair its natural color. As we grow older, the activity of our melanocytes starts to decline until they stop making pigment all together. Hair that retains some its pigment becomes gray or silver and hair that has lost all of its pigment turns white.
Characteristics of Gray Hair
Gray hair has a tightly compacted cuticle, which makes it hard for it to accept color and can make the hair feel wiry or coarse. In addition, unlike naturally pigmented hair, which already contains some degree of each primary color, grey hair is like a blank sheet of paper. This distorts the effects of normal coloring procedures and is the reason why I would suggest seeking out an experienced hair colorist to help blend or cover grays.
Lastly, it is important to remember that because gray hair lacks melanin, which helps protect against sun damage, women with grey hair should try to keep their hair covered when outdoors or, at least, opt for products with a higher SPF.
Genetics - If your parents went gray early, chances are you will start to see a few gray strands at an early age as well.
Nutrition - A diet low in vitamin B-12, mostly found in meat, eggs and milk, can cause a vitamin B-12 deficiency, which reduces the production of melanin.
Stress - There is no direct link between stress and gray hair but scientists are beginning the gather clues that stress accelerates the graying process.
Smoking - Smoking cigarettes has been linked to premature graying. Smokers are 4 times more likely to have gray hair than non-smokers.
Illness - Diabetes, pernicious anemia and thyroid problems can cause premature graying.
Tips for Gray Hair
1) Try to incorporate more meat, eggs and dairy into your diet to ensure the hair follicles are provided with the nutrients they need. Supplement your diet with a daily B-12 vitamin.
2) Seek out a stylist for color. Unless you are experienced with home hair coloring, I would really recommend trying to find an experienced colorist to cover your gray hair. A colorist can really help you achieve the look you are going for. Semi-permanents can be used to blend gray hair and permanent color can be used to cover gray completely. A lot of women have also had success with Henna treatments.
3) Talk to your Doctor. If gray hair does not run in your family, check to make sure there are no medical conditions causing you to gray prematurely.
4) Embrace it! I have a few long strands of gray hair that people love to point out. But, for me, they remind me, not that I am aging, but that I am living my life and growing wiser. Gray or salt and pepper hair is also slowly becoming embraced as a mark of sophistication and beauty. Instead of coloring, experiment with highlights or hairstyles that showcase your newest asset.
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