Okay, this is probably one of the most interesting topics to write about! I know this is one subject many people are quite interested in for so many reasons. Others like it, others are quite indifferent about it while some hate it with a passion and would do anything if they could to avoid having it. Gray hair is one thing almost every young adult knows they can’t get past and look forward to developing as they get older. But who says you can only develop gray hairs as you age or get old?
Well, shall we look at gray’s anatomy? Oh, I missed hair. (Pun intended)
ANATOMY OF GRAY HAIR
There are a few misconceptions that gray hair develops when you get to a certain age, specifically, as you approach your midlife. To clear this misconception, you should know that gray hair can develop at any point in a person’s life, whether in their twenties, thirties, or even their teens. Others are even born with some strands of hair already gray. Hence, gray hair is not necessarily a sign of old age.
Though there are some fortunate few who can maintain their hair color till 70 and above, your hair will eventually turn gray because it is a natural part of growing old, no matter how many times you dye it off as some people do.
Now, each strand of hair on your head is made up of two parts, thus: a shaft and a root. A shaft is a part of the hair that is colored, so whether it is black, brown, blonde, red, or any other natural hair color. A root is a region at the bottom that keeps the hair fixed to the scalp. So basically, your hair turns gray when this said shaft loses its pigment known as MELANIN.
Let’s delve more deeply now, shall we?
A tissue tube called a hair follicle surrounds the root of each strand of hair beneath the skin, and each hair follicle has a particular number of pigment cells with the function of continuously making the chemical called MELANIN which is responsible for giving our hairs their natural color. Therefore, the darker or lighter your hair color is, shows how much melanin you have. Fun fact: This same chemical is what is responsible for giving us our skin colors i.e. fair or dark.
As we grow older, the pigment in the hair follicles gradually die and as a result, as a strand of hair is growing, it won’t have enough pigment to produce the natural hair color anymore thereby producing a translucent color such as gray, silver, or white as it grows.
We have already established the fact that the appearance of gray hair is a natural part of growing old, however, there are some cases where the appearance of gray hair is considered premature and particular lifestyle choices such as smoking and even stress play a key role in that. Genetics, on the other hand, is a key indicator of how early your gray hair will appear. Gray hairs are different not just in terms of appearance but also in texture i.e. they are quite obviously more coarse, thin and brittle than pigmented hair strands.
Aside from a lifestyle choice like smoking and stress which can result in the early appearance of gray hair, some health conditions can lead to the appearance of gray hair. Let us take a look at some of them.
HEALTH CONDITIONS THAT CAUSE THE EARLY APPEARANCE OF GRAY HAIR
Although gray hair can serve as an indicator of old age, it also can reveal certain health conditions especially if they appear prematurely or at a very young age. Some of these health conditions are:
1. Vitamin B-6, B-12 Deficiency
2. Neurofibromatosis causes tumors to develop along nerves as well as cause abnormal development of skin and bones.
3. Tuberous sclerosis causes harmless tumors to grow in organs such as lungs, heart, skin, etc.
4. Thyroid disease
5. Vitiligo, is a disease that destroys the melanin cells
6. Alopecia areata, which is a disorder where there is a sudden loss of strands of hair especially pigmented hairs which may lead to ‘overnight’ gray hair appearance.
According to a 2013 report in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, Race and Ethnicity can be a factor in the appearance of gray hair prematurely. The outcome of the study was that in African-Americans, gray hair can appear as early as age 30, at age 25 among Asians, and age 20 among white people.
While everyone depending on race and ethnicity has a natural pigmented hair color, many people, especially young adults, by fashion and desired outlook, result to making use of chemical hair dyes, some particular hair products, and even shampoo which wind up causing premature gray hair because some of these products contain harmful substances or chemicals that are dangerous and destroy melanin.
One of such harmful chemicals present in some of these hair products and dyes is hydrogen peroxide. Excessive use of hair bleaches destroys melanin too.
WHAT IF GRAY HAIRS COULD BE PREVENTED OR REVERSED?
The answer to this question, I believe will be eagerly needed by the numerous people who opt for hiding their gray hair by the use of hair dyes, but probably to those who opt for wearing it proudly, not so much.
Either way, why don’t we find out?
Who can reverse a natural phenomenon like graying of hair that appears as a result of aging or genetics? No one.
However, it is possible to treat the loss of hair pigment that occurs as a result of a health condition. For instance, vitamins B-6 and 12 deficiencies are some health conditions that can lead to premature loss of hair pigment as I mentioned early on, therefore, a person whose premature graying of hair is as a result of any of these deficiencies can reverse or prevent it by treating the deficiencies.
Also, oxidative stress which is one thing responsible for the vitiligo condition can be treated to reverse graying of hair by maximum attention being given to diets rich in antioxidants such as fruits, vegetables, fish et al.
The appearance of gray hair neither makes you less of a human nor is it shameful. In an actual sense, it only shows that you are just a normal human being going through the various stages of life. Where it is necessary to treat a health condition, do so with the first goal being that of protecting your overall wellbeing and not just because you are ashamed to have gray hair. Wear whoever and however, you are proudly. All the best.
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