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Why Does Hair Turn Gray? We Asked An Expert

Why hair turns gray

Life is full of mysteries but we’re here to ensure that your hair is not one of them. Whether you’re looking for the best shampoo for your ash blonde hair or a hairstyle that will impress your bae and his mom, we’ve got you covered.

Some hair mysteries, however, are a bit more difficult to solve—like why does hair turn gray? To get to the bottom of one of the internet’s most pressing questions, we reached out to Dr. Michelle Green, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist, to find out everything there is to know about why your hair turns gray.

Why does hair turn gray?

Before you understand why hair turns gray, you need to know what gives your hair color: melanin. Yes, the same thing that gives your skin its color is responsible for your gorgeous dark brown hair. While the actual science behind how melanin determines your hair color is a little more complicated, much like skin, more melanin present means a darker hair color

As for what turns your hair gray, Dr. Green says as that you age your hair follicles begin to produce less melanin. Less melanin equals less color, which eventually transforms into gray hair.

“As hair ages, the hair follicle produces less melanin ‘color.’ Therefore hair grows gray as it regenerates through the growth cycle,” she explains.

While the lack of melanin is the main reason hair turns gray, Dr. Green says it’s not the only factor.

“Hair also turns gray due to a buildup of hydrogen peroxide within the hair shaft,” she says. “As we age, our body produces less catalase—an enzyme produced by the body which contributes to the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. As a result, hair cells are unable to break down hydrogen peroxide efficiently which results in a buildup. This buildup causes the hair to lose its color and turns gray.”

The doctor says most people begin to see their hair turning gray around the age of 35, but that age can vary depending on a myriad of things including genetics and diet.

Why does some hair turn gray before others?

If you’re dreading the day your hair begins to turn gray, you’ll be happy to know the change doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, the graying process often takes several years—sometimes decades—before going completely gray. So why do some of your strands turn gray before others? It’s simple: Each strand of hair has its own growth cycle.

“Hair grows in cycles and some hair can show signs of gray before others depending on its stage within the cycle,” Dr. Green explains.

Can you prevent hair from turning gray?

There is no way to prevent your hair from turning gray—it’s just apart of the aging process. However, there are a few things you can do to potentially minimize the chances of your hair from turning gray prematurely.

The doctor says deficiency in B vitamins and thyroid disorders can sometimes cause hair to turn gray prematurely. Luckily, she says once the issue is corrected the hair will typically return to its normal color. If you think you are dealing with a B vitamin deficiency or thyroid issue, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Can you turn hair gray faster?

A decade ago, the thought of going gray was enough to send just about any woman into a downward spiral. These days, however, gray hair is one of the most coveted hair colors around. If you were hoping to speed up the graying process in hopes of achieving the trendy color the natural way, we’re sorry to say you’re out of luck. Your hair will turn gray on its own time, so make an appointment with your colorist to slay the gray hair color of your dreams if patience is not a virtue you possess.

Interested in more personalized advice about how to care for your gray strands? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.

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