Some people accept their grey hair. Others do their best to hide it. But lost amid all the hair dyes and painful plucks remains a question that begs answering: Why do we go grey in the first place?
Well, in truth, it might not be such a simple question at all. The Library of Congress explains that while “the how” of grey hair is well understood, “the why” remains something of a mystery.
Hair gets its color from melanin, a type of pigment. Whether a person is blonde, brunette, or a redhead depends upon “the distribution, type and amount of melanin in the middle layer of the hair shaft or cortex.” As a person gets older, the amount melanin decreases, and a person’s hair turns gray. Or, to put it another way, WebMD writes that “hair turns gray as a result of a chemical chain reaction that causes hair to bleach itself from the inside out.”
Ah, but why do some people go grey at 28, while others stay their natural color to a ripe old age? Genes. Sorry for the boring answer, but according to MSN, it’s the truth. If your parents went grey at age 40, odds are you’re going to, as well.
Still, there are other factors that can cause hair to lose its color. For example, some illnesses can lead a person to lose their hair color. Thyroid disease and a deficiency of vitamin B12 can both bring on grey hair. It’s also commonly believed that stress can make a person’s hair color head for the hills. Near as I can tell, this is mostly a myth. According to MSN: “Stress doesn’t actually turn hair gray—the color can’t change once produced by hair follicles, so hair cannot suddenly turn gray if you are under a great deal of stress. If a single strand of hair starts out brown (or red or black or blond), it’s never going to turn gray.”
The Library of Congress mentioned a lot of other factoids about hair. For example, the average scalp has between 100,000-150,000 hairs on it, whether they’re grey or not. And, according to the Straight Dope, scientists have never found a correlation between grey hair and balding. So, if you do go grey, at least you have a fair chance of keeping what you got. I take some comfort in that.
Thanks for reading,
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