Why are the hair gray?

Gray hair is considered a symbol of aging, because at the latest from the 50th Age of hair is interspersed by gray strands in most people's hair. But why are our hair actually graying?

The reason that the hair appears gray is a lack of melanin in the hair. Melanin production naturally declines in old age but may be affected by certain diseases or medications. Then, under certain circumstances, even young people get gray hair.

Unfortunately, the process of graying can not be stopped or reversed. Disturb the gray hair visually, a tint or coloration can hide the gray hair color.

Melanin deficiency as a cause

The visible part of the hair consists of several layers of horny cells. At the root of the hair are next to sebaceous glands and small blood vessels pigment-forming cells (melanocytes). These produce the pigment melanin, which is incorporated into the horny layers of the hair shaft and thus gives the hair its color.

As part of the natural process of aging, the activity of melanocytes diminishes after a certain age: they initially produce less melanin and eventually die. In the regrowing hair, the missing melanin is replaced by air bubbles: the hair then appears white. Since this process does not occur at the same time for all hair, results in a mixture of white and colored hair. This gives the impression of a gray hair color, which means that, strictly speaking, a "gray hair" does not exist.

Gray hair at 20

When melanin production subsides is genetically determined. While some people discover their first gray hair in their early 20s, some 50-year-olds still have their original hair color. If people get gray hair before the age of 20, doctors speak of premature graying (Canities praecox). On average, however, the first gray hairs show up between the 30th and 50th year of age. Often, the hair in the area of ​​the temple first gray, in men, however, are often the whiskers first affected.

Gray hair as a symptom of a disease

Gray hair can also occur in the context of some diseases (Canities symptomatica). These include:

  • pernicious anemia (anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency)
  • cancers
  • severe hormonal disorders
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • acute febrile infections

In addition, a temporary graying of the hair may occur as a side effect when taking a drug with the active ingredient hydroxychloroquine. This drug is used against malaria and autoimmune diseases. After discontinuation of the drug, the original hair color returns but usually back.

Myth "gray overnight"

The rumor that you can get gray hair overnight with severe grief, persists stubbornly. In fact, however, it is not possible to turn gray in such a short time. Because the pigments in the hair can not just disappear.

However, oxidative stress develops in the body in extreme emotional stress situations. This forms so-called free radicals, which are suspected of damaging the pigment-forming cells. In this way, harmful effects such as cigarette smoke, UV light and some chemicals and cosmetics also seem to contribute to premature graying. However, it has not yet been scientifically proven that people with a caring life really turn gray earlier than others.

Nevertheless, there are reports of isolated cases in which people suddenly wake up in the morning with gray hair. This very rare phenomenon can occur with circular hair loss (alopecia areata). In the early stages of this disease, some patients will initially lose their pigmented hair, while their already-gray hairs will be more resistant. If this happens in a very short time, a patient may literally have "gray hair" overnight.

Dyeing gray hair?

When the first streaks turn gray, women in particular usually ask themselves whether they should cover the gray hair. About 70 percent of women then opt for a tint or coloration. But gray hair has become fashionable lately: More and more women are deliberately refraining from coloring their gray hair.

Shinyly maintained, a silver-gray hair color can look very elegant. Meanwhile, there are even special hair care series that are tailored to gray hair and emphasize the hair color. If you prefer to cover your gray hair, you can choose between different options:

  • Intensive tinting: An intensive tint is suitable for gray hair coverage if the proportion of gray hair does not exceed 50 percent. In contrast to a simple tint, an intensive tint contains hydrogen peroxide as well as chemical substances that open the cuticle of the hair and allow the pigments to penetrate. Only then can gray hair take on the color. An intense tint lasts about six to eight weeks and can produce color results that are up to two shades darker than natural hair color.
  • Coloration: In a coloration, the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is higher than in an intense tint. So also a high proportion of gray hair can be covered. In addition, the hair can be brightened and darkened to any number of shades. A coloration is durable and does not wash out.
  • Repigmentation: Products for repigmentation form natural dyes in the hair with the help of oxygen. This should be recovered in a few applications, the original hair color in a gentle and natural way. The repigmentation is durable, but the principle does not work with light blonde or reddish natural hair color.
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