Developing gray hair is inevitable in everyone's life time. "The color of the hair changes when the pigment-producing cells stops the production of the pigment," says Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. The color may also be bleached by the build up of naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide. Graying of hair start normally occurs by the time an individual reaches 35-years-old.
There is a general belief that premature graying is caused by stress, but the actual reason behind this change of color is not known. According to experts, this is mostly due to genetics. Premature graying is associated with autoimmune and genetic conditions, such as vitiligo, Werner syndrome, and alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is a condition in which the colored hair falls out so that only white hair remains in the head. “Thyroid and pituitary disorders and vitamin B 12 deficiencies can also cause premature graying of hair," adds Benabio.
One of the earlier studies had pointed to an association between premature graying and lowering of bone density later in life. A study conducted in 2007 on 1,200 men and women in California gave contradictory results. According to researcher Deborah J. Morton, PhD, an epidemiologist at University of California, San Diego, bone density is related to a person’s level of activity, weight, height and ethnicity and is not related to hair or anything that regulates the color of hair.
Ways to hide gray hair include:
- Semi-permanent hair color, which lasts for a week. It is a good option for those who are slowly developing gray hair. If a person has a number of natural colors in the hair, some gray lines will blend with it.
- Highlights help to lighten the scattered strand to blend the gray lines with the rest of the hair.
- Permanent color can be opted for when 40 to 50% of the hair becomes gray.
- Hair products like spray-on airbrush hair make up can be used as a coloring tool to conceal the gray. This color washes away with shampoo.
According to Diana Jewell, a former marketing director at Vogue Magazine and author of the book Going Gray, Looking Great, many women including young mothers, professionals, and models have started to accept the natural gray look. The feeling that gray hair makes one look old is a myth, feels Jewell. It is the attitude of the person that matters and if one is young, vibrant, and active that is how one will look.
Tips to boost your confidence if you have gray hair:
- A chic, short haircut
- A colorist can help you to weave in highlights and use toners to minimize the transition between natural hair color and the hair dye
- A modern hair cut will add to the youthful, vibrant look
- Proper care of the hair is the most important way. “Using a shampoo with a blue base will help to prevent the hair from developing a yellowish tinge," says Jewell.
- Hair can be made look sleeker and shinier by using a flat iron. This also reduces the frizzy look of the hair when it becomes gray.
- “Most of all, embrace the look of hair as it grays, beauty is not gauged by the color of the hair," says Cindy Joseph, a silver-haired model for Ford Models Inc.