Many of us dread going grey, while some enjoy the ‘distinguished’ salt and pepper look, but what’s going on behind those white hairs, and why do we get them?
The most decisive factor when it comes to grey hair is, of course, age. As a general rule, 50% of the population will be 50% grey by the time they’re 50, as the body slows production of melanin, which gives hair its pigmentation.
2. Family affair
Blame your parents – if they started going grey before they turned 30, the likelihood is you will too as greying appears to be hereditary.
Smoking is not just bad for your overall health, it negatively impacts the ageing process – recent research from Chicago found a direct link between smoking and going grey before the age of 30.
Many politicians – including President Obama – have gone grey ‘overnight’ during their first term in office, presumably because of stress. While it hasn’t been proven directly, there are numerous cases to support the theory that stress can lead to greying.
A 2011 study also showed that if people are constantly faced with stressful ‘fight or flight’ scenarios, their DNA can be damaged, causing premature ageing.
Race has some say in when you go grey: Caucasians usually go grey in their mid-30s, Asians in their late-30s and African Americans from their 40s.
Some illnesses, such as thyroid problems, can cause greying. It is also possible for hair to grow back a different shade after certain treatments that cause hair loss, like chemotherapy.
7. That old tale
It’s a commonly held myth that if you pluck one grey hair, three come to its funeral. Happily, this isn’t true. However, aggressive plucking can damage hair follicles and lead to bald patches.
8. Worn out
The cells in your hair follicles that produce melanin (pigmentation) can wear out over time – research is being carried out to discover whether there are creams that could be applied to keep them going for longer.
9. Vitamin D deficiency
Hair follicles are heavily reliant on vitamin D, so if you don’t get enough sunlight – and 20 minutes a day is recommended – you could be increasing your chances of going grey younger.