Why does hair go grey?
A recent survey by John Frieda in the UK found 32 per cent of women surveyed started to go grey before they hit 30, up from 18 per cent surveyed 20 years ago. And as reported in our December 2011 issue, scientists at Duke University in North Carolina, US, recently discovered that stress can actually cause grey hair by triggering the release of a chemical that reduces the body’s supplies of a cell-protecting protein.
It all feeds back to the reason hair naturally greys as we age. Simply put, the bulb of each hair shaft contains colour-producing cells called melanocytes, which pump out pigment for 10 cellular cycles or, typically, around 40 years. The exact age this process starts to slow down or stop is primarily determined by genetics, but may be influenced by other things. Regular use of hydrogen peroxide (bleach to you) can be another culprit, say researchers at the University of Bradford in the UK, because it interferes with melanin and builds up in the hair, causing it to go grey.
“Nutrition can also be a factor. The most important minerals [for melanocytes] are iron and copper, as well as vitamin C and protein, particularly the amino acid tyrosine,” says David Salinger, director of the International Association of Trichologists.
“In fact, some trichologists give patients tyrosine [supplements] to see if it will help the pigment, and sometimes it does.”
But, he says, it only works if there is a nutritional deficit that needs correcting.Grey hair solutions
More commonly, when the silver fox pokes out, hitting the bottle can maintain coloured hair. Hair stylist Harry Josh, international creative consultant for John Frieda, says that the coarse, wiry texture is the biggest challenge, as it can make it difficult for the colour to penetrate.
“But this gives your hair a nice level of dimension,” he says. “If you have complete coverage, you get an inky, blotty effect, and then as the new hair grows in, it’s such a big jump. Just muting the greys down is my personal choice. You’ll have soft regrowth, without a skunk stripe.”
Sydney stylist George Giavis agrees, noting that an all-over lighter shade can camouflage grey hair.
“Use the grey like a metallic highlight,” he advises. “It gives a more natural, translucent look.”Because, (apologies to Gaga) you may have been born this way, but it’s what you do with what you’re given that really matters.