What causes hair to turn gray?

President Obama, then and now (L) President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, February 24, 2009, in the House of Representatives Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Chuck Kennedy/MCT) (R) SOTU 2016

President Obama, then and now
(L) President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, February 24, 2009, in the House of Representatives Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Chuck Kennedy/MCT)
(R) SOTU 2016

 Hair goes gray as cells called melanocytes at the base of each hair follicle get damaged by disease, environmental exposures or simply age.

Everyone has some gray hairs throughout life, but the balance tends to tip in the 40s or 50s, with the rate of change varying by genetics, gender and ethnicity, said Dr. James Kirkland, director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic. Blacks tend to go gray later than Caucasians, with Asians falling somewhere in between. Women generally gray later than men. The age you go gray is determined primarily by genetics, so if one or both parents went gray at an early age, you would be more likely to go gray at a younger age as well.

gray hair

  • Smoking can also accelerate color change and early graying color

could be a sign of autoimmune, thyroid or heart disease. “If you’ve got heart disease and your hair is gray, it’s a sign of worsening heart disease,” Dr. Kirkland said.

Some people held in concentration camps during World War II who were deprived of proper nutrition also went prematurely gray, said Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, who specializes in hair disorders. “Everything is determined by the health of the pigment-producing cell,” she said.

Dr. Bergfeld said she doesn’t know of anyone who has gone gray because of weight loss or exercise. Most activities that are damaging to the hair, like rapidly losing more than 20 pounds or getting chemotherapy treatment, will cause hair loss rather than a change of color, she said.

Unfortunately, there are no medications approved to restore hair color, though, in early testing of the anti-hair-loss drug minoxidil, Dr. Bergfeld said that she and other researchers noticed the drug sometimes also restored hair color, suggesting it was rejuvenating the melanocytes. http://www.healthhaircurecenter.com/mistakes-avoid-coloring-hair-home/http://www.healthhaircurecenter.com/5-nutrients-healthy-hair/

It’s not clear whether chronic stress turns hair gray. Although President Obama’s hair turned gray during his time in office, studies that have looked at stress and hair color have been inconclusive, Dr. Kirkland said. (He also aged from 47 to 55, a time when many people’s hair turns gray.) “The consensus is that stress possibly does it,” he said. “But that’s a gut feeling rather than convincing evidence.”

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