Like wrinkles, gray hairs are a visible sign of aging - and let's be clear, there is nothing wrong with that. It's a part of life - and a beautiful part at that. But if you've ever wondered just what actually causes hair to change color over time, you're not alone. In this article, I'll explain what triggers gray hair, whether it can be delayed and what hair care you need for gray hair. Intrigued? Continue reading to learn everything you should know about gray hair.
What is Gray Hair?
Gray hair is the same as pigmented hair except for one key exception: Gray hair lacks pigment. Pigment is what gives hair its natural color, whether that’s blonde, black, red, or somewhere in between. Without pigment, hair appears gray, silver, or white.
Grays are most noticeable on women with naturally dark hair since there is more contrast between the gray hairs and the dark hairs. All hair colors turn gray, but on redheads and blondes the grays tend to blend with the pigmented hairs (think blonde hair with gray highlights), creating the illusion that the overall shade is getting lighter over time.
What Causes Gray Hair?
Hair goes gray thanks to melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment called melanin. As we age, those melanocytes wear out and stop producing melanin. Without that steady supply of melanin, hair loses its color and turns gray, silver, or white.
This graying process starts with a few white hairs mixed in here and there, which creates salt and pepper hair. As more hairs lose their color, hair turns silver gray. Eventually, all of the hair loses its color and hair appears white.
Does Gray Hair Feel Different?
Contrary to popular belief, gray is hair not coarser or more wiry than pigmented strands. In fact, gray hair is typically finer. However, as we age, our scalps produce less oil. This means that gray hair is more prone to drying out, which can make it feel coarser than pigmented hair. With the right kind of moisturizing treatments, gray hair can feel just as soft as pigmented hair (but more on that later).
Can Gray Hair Become Pigmented Again?
Alas, once those melanocytes wear out and stop producing melanin, that’s pretty much it for your natural hair color. Despite what some sources claim, there is no way for hair to become pigmented again once it’s turned gray (besides coloring it).
The only exception is if your hair has gone gray or white due to a medical condition, but those cases are rare.
When Do Most Women Go Gray?
According to the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, hair first starts to turn gray between the ages of 34 and 44. But many women start to go gray before they are 34 and that’s okay! Going gray before the age of 34 doesn’t mean that you’re unhealthy or something is wrong.
A healthy diet and life style are important and can have an impact on hair pigmentation.
Does Everyone Get Gray Hair?
Everybody’s hair goes gray after a while. It’s a natural part of the aging process. However, it does seem like some people retain their natural hair color way into their sixties, while other women notice their first grays in high school. So what gives?
Exactly when your hair starts going gray is primarily linked to genetics. So if someone in your family had grays at an early age, you’re more likely to as well.
Ethnicity can also play a role in hair graying. People of Caucasian origin tend to start going gray earlier than people of other backgrounds.
Is It Possible to Slow the Rate of Graying Hair?
If you’re looking for a way to prevent gray hair, we regret to inform you that there is no such thing. However, there are some factors that are thought to make hair go gray more quickly. Following these tips will help you eliminate those factors and may slow the rate of graying hair:
1. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Studies suggest that low levels of certain minerals in the diet, like vitamin B12, vitamin D3, copper and iron, can cause loss of pigment in the hair. To prevent premature graying, eat a well-rounded diet with plenty of whole, protein-rich foods like eggs, fish and milk.
2. Take Your Vitamins
Of course, eating a healthy diet is often easier said than done! That’s where hair vitamins come in. These hair supplements are formulated with hair-healthy nutrients like vitamin B12 and biotin. They come in gummy and tablets formulas, but both provide essential nutrients for your hair follicles. Noteworthy is the content of copper, which contributes to normal hair pigmentation. By keeping your hair and scalp healthy with proper nutrition, you may be able to stave off grays.
3. Quit Smoking
Smoking doesn’t just age your skin – it also ages your hair. Scientists hypothesise that smoking may prematurely gray hair through oxidative stress on the hair follicles.
4. Reduce Stress
It’s thought that emotional and physical stress can make the hair follicles more susceptible to free radicals, resulting in prematurely gray hair. Prevent gray hair by reducing the stress levels in your life through lifestyle changes like exercising, getting more sleep and meditation.
Should You Color Your Gray Hair?
Many women opt to color their grays, but we actually recommend going au naturale. Silver gray hair is universally flattering and no one can deny that the silver fox look is in right now.
But besides silver gray hair being on-trend, embracing your grays demonstrates a certain self-confidence, which we love. Plus, coloring your hair causes damage, which can leave locks looking dull, lifeless, and brittle. Growing out your grays and rocking your natural hair color is the best way to keep your hair looking healthy and shiny.
If you already color your hair and want to embrace your grays, the key is to have your colorist help you make a gradual transition to silver gray instead of quitting hair color cold turkey. Your colorist can add highlights to help blur the line between your natural color and your dyed color, which will help to minimise the high contrast of that awkward growing out stage. Another option is to have your stylist give you blonde hair with gray highlights, which will grow out to gray more gracefully.
After that, you’ll just have to be patient and wait for your grays to grow in. But it will definitely be worth it. Just think how much money you’ll save by not needing to visit the hairdresser every few weeks!
Does Silver Gray Hair Need to Be Looked After Differently Than Other Shades?
Yes, silver gray hair requires a different haircare routine than pigmented hair. But if you’ve only just started noticing grays, you don’t need to worry about it for a while. Until your hair reaches about 30% gray, you can follow the same haircare routine you’ve always used. Once you get past the 30% point, follow these tips to keep your silver gray hair healthy and shiny:
Use Purple-Toned Shampoo & Conditioner
First things first, you’ll want to use a purple-toned shampoo and conditioner like Enriched Blonde™ Duo to keep your silver gray tone beautiful. Silver gray hair and blonde hair with gray highlights have a tendency to turn yellow or brassy. Purple-toned cleansing products neutralise that brassiness, maintaining your silvery locks.
When hair is turning gray, the light color in the hair will often change and take on a warm (and yellowish) undertone that requires proper treatment, like a purple shampoo, to be kept at bay.
As we mentioned before, gray hair has a tendency towards dryness. Keep your grays shiny and moisturized with treatments like Enriched Blonde™ Silver Hair Mask, which is formulated with natural ingredients like aloe vera, lavender oil and hydrolyzed rice protein to imbue gray hair with moisture and strengthening proteins. Similar to the silver shampoo and conditioner it also contains purple color pigment to keep your grays cool-toned.
Try also Split Fix™ Leave-in Conditioner as a leave-in treatment to keep hair moisturized all day.
Avoid Heat & Direct Sun
Both heat and direct sunlight can make grays turn a shade of yellow, which is not what you want! Since gray hair lacks pigment, it’s more prone to sun damage. Make sure to always use a heat protectant spray before styling your hair with heat. My recommendation is silicone-free Thermal Shield™ Heat Protectant. If you plan to be outdoors in the sun, opt for a hat or invest in a hair sunscreen. Sun Defense Hair Mist also offers some UV protection for silver gray hair and blonde hair with gray highlights!
5 Ways to Rock Silver Gray Hair
Ready to give silver hair a go? Here’s how to make the most of your new look:
1. Learn the Best Hairstyles
Grays are more fine and prone to dryness than pigmented hair, so if you’re embracing silver gray hair, you might find that the same hairstyles no longer work for you.
Ask your hairstylist to cut your hair in a way that works with your new hair texture instead of against it. The right haircut will not only flatter your new shade but it will also make styling easier for you. And less heat styling means less damage to your hair!
Find inspiration for the perfect silver gray hair look:
2. Consider Highlights
Depending on how your hair is graying, you can also explore adding some highlights. Face-framing white streaks can really make your grays pop and are very flattering whether you have silver gray hair or blonde hair with gray highlights.
3. Use the Right Products
Since grays are finer than pigmented hair, it takes a little extra effort to get volume and body into your locks. Using a root volumizer can work wonders for gray hair, giving it life and movement. I use the Grow Perfect™ Thickening Spray from Hairlust, and I love it.
Gray hair’s tendency towards dryness can also leave you with unmanageable, frizzy areas, especially towards the ends. Use a smoothing hair oil like Split Fix™ Hair Oil to calm frizz and make hair more manageable.
4. Protect It from Dryness
As we mentioned before, gray hair has a tendency to become dry. To keep your hair soft, shiny, and moisturized, use Split Fix™ Hair Mask once per week. Then use a hair oil to add leave-in moisture as needed.
5. Wear Gray-Flattering Clothing and Makeup
The color of your hair has a big influence on which shades are most flattering on you. If you’re going gray, you might find that your go-to colors are no longer flattering.
For starters, having gray hair can wash out your complexion, so opting for blush in a warm peach, pink, or gold shade can give you back your glow. Similarly, opting for a pigmented lip gloss or lipstick in a warm shade can also brighten up your complexion.
What about clothing? Jewel tones tend to be universally flattering with silver gray hair and blonde hair with gray highlights. Think rich shades like purple, fuchsia, emerald green, and royal blue. Neutrals also look wonderful with silver gray hair, while pastels can work well with blonde hair with gray highlights.
But the bottom line is that you can wear whatever you want. Experiment and find out what looks best on you!
With the right care and styling techniques, silver gray hair is beautiful. We hope that this article encouraged you to embrace your grays! To keep your gray tone beautiful, my best tip remains: A purple-toned shampoo and conditioner like Enriched Blonde™ Duo.