Premature Gray Hair: Causes and Solutions (Medically Researched)

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Premature Gray Hair - Causes and Solutions
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As we age and grow older, we all expect that certain changes occur in our bodies and outward appearance. One of these changes is that, sooner or later, most of us will experience is gray hair. While it is usual for people in their senior years to have gray hair, many women, and some men, find it worrying to discover premature gray hairs appearing.

In fact, some men and women experience this in their late 20s. Scientists generally agree that after we reach our 30s the chances of gray hair appearing increase about 10-20% every 10 years.

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So, what causes hair to turn gray prematurely? If you have premature gray hair, is there anything that you can do to ‘cure’ it?

Why Hair Turns Gray?

Our hair is made up of a protein called keratin and the reason our hair has color is thanks to a pigment called melanin. There are two basic types of melanin – dark and light, and they blend together to give our hair its color.

Sometimes we notice that during adolescence years and into our early 20s our hair changes color, usually darker. This is because the body starts producing different amounts of melanin.

So, as long as the body continues to produce enough melanin, we keep our hair color. However, as we age the production of melanin slows down until the hair turns gray then white.

So, the big question is, why does the body stop producing enough melanin? Scientists now think they have found the answer.

Gray Hair Linked to a Gene

For years, scientists have been trying to find why our hair turns gray and now they have found a gene which is linked to gray hair.

A study published in Nature Communications was able, for the first time, to pinpoint a gene which is responsible for gray hair1. The research investigated around 6,000 people from Latin America who had mixed ancestry. It was found that the gene in question is connected to blonde hair in Europe.

Professor Kaustubh Adhikari, who led the study, said that the gene they identified regulates and produces melanin and that melanin production in the body is determined by genetics2.

The study concluded that this gene was the reason for about 30% of participants developing gray hair. The other 70% was due to other factors.

Gray Hair Linked to Age

Research has also shown that there is a definite connection to age and gray hair.

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Dr. Desmond Tobin, a professor of cell biology who also took part in the research that discovered the gene link to gray hair, published his own research on how age affects the pigmentation of hair. As we get older age and genetics regulate the decline in pigmentation of each hair follicle. He called this a “melanogentic clock”3.

Now that scientists have established the reasons behind gray hair, it will be possible to conduct further research on solutions to both gray hair in seniors and premature gray hair.

Dr. Tobin concluded that “the future looks bright and colorful for hair pigmentation research.”

Other Factors that Cause Premature Gray Hair

The study into the gray hair gene link showed that it caused gray hair in only about one-third of participants. What are the other factors that cause gray hair to appear? This is what research has shown:

Family history

Genetics play a role in gray hair. This means that if there is a family history of premature gray hair, then it is most likely that this will be passed on. Dr. Desmond Tobin, mentioned earlier, discovered this in his research about age and hair pigmentation. He stated that: “entire extended families can experience marked early graying or conversely unusually late graying3.”

Smoking

There is a proven link between smoking and premature gray hair. The British Medical Journal carried out research into this link because smokers tend to have facial changes similar to those seen in premature aging, including gray hair. According to the observational study the researchers carried out, they were able to establish a link between smoking and gray hair in both men and women4.

Other research into the effects that smoking has on premature gray hair backs up these claims5.

If you are a smoker, there are five natural ways to quit smoking which are scientifically proven.

Oxidative Stress

There is more than just anecdotal evidence that oxidative stress and premature gray hair is linked. Oxidative stress happens when there are more free radicals than antioxidants at work in the body.

According to research published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (the FASEB), oxidative stress is related to premature graying. Those people in the study with premature graying showed signs of lower antioxidant levels brought on by factors like poor diet and high levels of stress6.

Here are a few ideas on how to prevent oxidative stress:

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Nutritional deficiencies

Vitamins and minerals are responsible for healthy hair, and deficiency of these vitamins and minerals affects hair color and can also cause hair loss.

Research has shown that premature graying of hair has been connected to a vitamin B12 deficiency, as well as low levels of iron, calcium and vitamin D3.7

There is also a reported case where a person, who had gray hair, was treated for vitamin B12 deficiency. During the treatment his skin and hair pigmentation returned to normal8.

Other deficiencies that have been linked to gray hair include vitamin C and E as well as low levels of zinc and copper.

Further reading: Warning Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency, iron deficiency and zinc deficiency.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is known as a bleaching agent for hair and has many other uses. However, our hair also naturally produces hydrogen peroxide. A study carried out by the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom showed that oxidative stress causes more hydrogen peroxide to build up in the hair follicles which bleaches the hair color9.

It seems from the various studies that have been carried out that a combination of factors can affect when and how fast a person develops gray hair.

Medical/Health conditions

Obesity – A study published on 2015 found a link between obesity and premature gray hair.12

Thyroid gland – Problems with your pituitary or thyroid gland can cause premature graying. 13

Vitiligo – Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition in which the melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) are destroyed, and the result is patches of white hair and skin.

Cures for Premature Gray Hair

Now that scientists have been able to find out more about the reasons why hair turns gray and what causes premature graying of hair, it is possible to look for solutions to the problem.

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Researchers at New York University Langone Medical Center were able to isolate a protein called the Wnt protein. Among many of the functions of the Wnt protein is hair follicle development. The researchers blocked the Wnt protein in black mice. The result was that they eventually turned gray10.

It is thought that in time, this Wnt protein could be added to hair care products to keep pigmentation in our hair follicles for longer.

In another development in looking to “cure” premature gray hair, the FASEB Journal published findings that the hydrogen peroxide in hair follicles can be reversed using a compound called PC-KUS.  The compound is applied topically to hair and it blocks hydrogen peroxide from accumulating in the hair follicle. Results show that this can retain hair color and even in some cases restore the original hair color11.

Of course, for many people, having gray hair is not a problem. And, the latest fashion trends have seen more and more people embracing gray as a fashion statement.

If, however, you are looking for a solution to premature gray hair, hope is on the horizon. For the meanwhile, here are natural supplements that are believed to assist in treating premature gray hair:

The Best Natural Supplements for Treating Premature Gray Hair

Here are natural supplements that are taken orally and may help treat premature gray hair. Just remember to consult with your doctor before taking any supplement as to make sure it does not interfere with current medications you take.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are a defense system in our body that helps prevent free-radical damage to cells, which many researchers connect with the aging process. These include several enzymes as well as nutrients supplied through diet, including vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin C.

For many people, the greatest interest in antioxidants is its anti-aging potential, since the body’s production of its own antioxidants decreases in old age.

Of course choosing a diet rich in antioxidants is a smart choice (and you can read here how to incorporate more antioxidants in your daily nutrition).

Vitamin A, C and E are considered strong antioxidants, as well as other antioxidants. Vegetables and fruits are full of these vitamins. However if your diet is not balanced you might be better off taking antioxidant supplement (like this one) after consulting with your doctor.

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Melancor

Melancor produces a melanin-like pigment that may actually reverse gray hair color to give you a naturally non-gray look. If you suffer from premature gray hair, you have a genetically based tendency to produce less melanin as body pigments.

Melancor-NH (like this one) naturally triggers melanocytes which helps overcome this tendency by effectively increasing your body’s ability to produce melanin pigments.

Blackstrap Molases

When sugar cane syrup is boiled for sugar making, the third boiling creates blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses contains many trace minerals including copper, which is an essential trace mineral that is necessary for hair pigmentation.

Two teaspoons of blackstrap molasses contains approximately 14% of your daily recommended intake of copper and other trace minerals that work together with the copper to help restore your health.

It is recommended to take at least one tablespoon of blackstrap molases a day, and you will need to wait a few months to notice real changes.

The blackstrap molases won’t return an existing hair to its original color, but will cause the gray hair to fall out and be replaced by a new and more youthful hair. When you buy molasses make sure it doesn’t contain sulphur as a preservative (unsulphured molasses) and you can use it as a sugar substitute.

PABA

PABA (P-aminobenzoic Acid) is one of the components of folic acid vitamins and a popular sunscreen ingredient. In the body, PABA helps to formulate red blood cells that boost energy and works as an antioxidant. It also boosts hair growth, and is said to even prevent and reverse gray hair color in some heads.

He Shou Wu

He Shou Wu is also known as Fo-Ti. This herb is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for its blood and kidney strengthening abilities. TCM doctrine says that gray hair color is a result of imbalanced kidneys, so it claims that this herb can prevent and potentially reverse gray hair color.

Wheatgrass

Some people use wheatgrass for preventing gray hair. As mentioned above, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), hair pigmentation is influenced by the quality of blood and the strength of the kidneys.

If you are going gray, then you need to consume foods that strengthen your kidneys and blood. These foods include wheatgrass and any other food with high chlorophyll content.

You can consume it raw, as a juice, powder (like this one), or tablets. Check the label to make sure that you are consuming raw wheatgrass that has been heated during processing. You can add wheatgrass powder to water by the spoonful or to fresh juices and smoothies.

Related articles:

How To Make Your Hair Grow Faster: The Best Natural Ways
Why You Should Wash Your Hair With Apple Cider Vinegar
The Best Hair Growth Vitamins and Supplements to Fight Hair Loss

Resources:
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