Is Gray Hair Bad?

Reviewed on 6/2/2021

gray hair
Gray hair is a normal part of the aging process

Your body has millions of hair follicles, or small sacs lining the skin where hair grows. These hair follicles contain a pigment called melanin that determines what hair color you have, which can vary based on ethnicity and genetics.

Over time, your hair begins to lose that pigment and starts to turn gray or white. So gray hair isn’t bad; it’s a normal part of the aging process. Typically, graying begins around the following ages:

  • Caucasians: mid 30s
  • Asians: late 30s
  • African Americans: mid 40s 

Some people, however, may experience graying even earlier:

  • Caucasians: 20
  • Asians: 25
  • African Americans: 30 

While the primary cause is usually genetic, premature graying may also be a sign of stress, nutritional deficiencies, disorders of the scalp, hormonal disorders or another disease that should be addressed.

What causes premature graying hair?

Melanin is what gives hair its color, and is continuously released from melanocytes that live at the hair follicle opening. With aging, melanocyte activity slows down or stops completely. Once the hair shaft stops receiving pigment, it starts to lose its color and turn gray.

Factors that can cause premature graying of hair include:

How can premature graying be treated?

Treatment of gray hair largely depends on what is causing it. Ways you may be able to reverse, slow down or prevent further graying include:

  • Medical treatment: Premature graying caused by medical conditions can be managed by treating the underlying cause. If certain medications are causing early graying, you may be able to discontinue them after speaking to your doctor. Your doctor may also alter your dosage or prescribe an alternative medication.
  • Diet: Maintaining a balanced diet is key to maintaining good hair health. Whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Antioxidants decrease inflammation and free radicals. Foods rich in vitamins and minerals (zinc, folate, iron, selenium, copper and vitamins A, C, E, B6 and B12) can help delay graying in addition to improving overall health.

Other tips for promoting healthy hair include:

  • Managing stress
  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting adequate rest
  • Staying hydrated

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References
Chakrabarty S, Krishnappa PG, Gowda DG, Hiremath J. Factors Associated With Premature Hair Graying in a Young Indian Population. Int J Trichology. 2016;8(1):11-14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4830165/

Sashin D. Premature Graying: Reasons, Options. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/abcs-premature-graying#1

Kumar AB, Shamim H, Nagaraju U. Premature Graying of Hair: Review With Updates. Int J Trichology. 2018;10(5):198-203. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6290285/

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