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Premature Graying, What Is It and What Causes It?

White people usually start getting gray hair in their mid-thirties Asians in their late thirties, and African-Americans in their mid-forties, therefore graying is considered premature when it starts in the twenties for the white people, and before thirties in African-Americans.

 In general, by the age of 50, the amount of gray hair is significant in 50% of people. Men have more gray hair than women, Asians and Africans have less gray hair than Caucasian people.

 What Determines Hair Color? And What Causes Graying?

Hair color is produced by cells known as melanocytes that migrate to the hair follicle during the development of follicles in the uterus, hair color depends on the presence and ratio of two groups of melanin pigment: the first is (eumelanins) responsible for brown and black pigments, and the second is (pheomelanins) responsible for red and yellow pigments, the difference in their ration may result in a significant number of colors, however, siblings often have similar hair color. 

Hair turns gray when the color producing cells stop producing pigment, graying itself doesn’t mean that you have a medical problem, except in some rare cases. Unlike the common belief, there's no evidence that stresses, diet and lifestyle have anything to do with graying at all. Scientists didn't identify the cause of premature graying, but genes certainly play a big role in that, as identical twins get gray hair at the same time as well. 

What are the Medical Conditions that Cause Graying?

Some autoimmune diseases like vitiligo and ringworm cause damage to melanin pigment and cause gray hair. However, those cases are not very common and they only explain a small proportion of graying. In addition, vitamin B12 deficiency and thyroid gland problems may cause premature graying, however the symptoms in the last case are reversible and the problem can be solved. 

Since calcium plays a role in melanin pigment production, calcium and vitamin D3 levels and their link to graying were studied, and the results concluded that calcium and vitamin D3 levels were way lower than they are in patients with gray hair. Some researchers have previously suggested a connection between premature graying and lower bone density, but a study was done in California in 2007 on 1200 women and men, and it has shown that there is no such connection. Bone density is linked to activity level, weight and height, and it has nothing to do with hair or controlling its color.

Hiding Gray Hair:

There are many options to hide gray hair, including:

  • Semi-permanent color: It lasts for several weeks and it's a good option for people who have just started seeing gray hair.
  • Highlight: It helps blending gray color with hair color, and the outcome is a consistent nice appearance.
  • Permanent color: It is recommended when gray hair covers 45-50% of the hair.
  • If you don't want to dye your hair but you still want to hide gray hair, you can use a spray product that can be removed easily with shampoo.