It’s very likely that at some point everyone will develop canities — the technical term for gray hair. The bad news is that there’s no proven way to reverse the condition. The good news, as most of us probably know, is that it isn’t life or even health-threatening — just a little demoralizing. Canities can affect 20-somethings, but usually kicks in around middle age. Some people retain most of their hair’s color into their 60s. Technically, hair doesn’t turn gray — it turns white — but as it does, it reflects nearby coloring and appears gray.
“Each of the 100,000-150,000 hairs on our scalp are on independent growth cycles,” says Dr. Robert Dorin, a family practice doctor and member of The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery. “As our hair shafts elongate, special cells called melanocytes produce hair pigment and deposit it in the hair cells. As we age, the specialized cells that constantly re-supply new melanocytes, called melanocyte stem cells, begin to slow down.”
So, with aging, or interruption in melanocyte production due to illness, the amount of pigment distributed through the hair becomes more sparse. The rate of natural hair color change is mostly due to genetics, says Dorin, but maintaining good health plays a huge part, too.
“Hormone levels, stress, lifestyle, environmental pollutants and toxins can affect hair pigment production,” he adds. Even natural body chemicals affect it. “Recently in a study done in Europe, scientists found that a buildup of hydrogen peroxide from the hair cells’ biological process contributed to graying hair.”
Keep your color
As yet, there’s no proof that graying hair can be reversed, but slowing down the process is possible, says Dorin. His tips for maintaining natural hair color sound familiar: They are the same for maintaining general good health.
Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption: “These inhibit your body’s ability to fight the processes of aging, and create free radicals that destroy cellular function.”
Exercise: “Consistent moderate exercise helps your body’s innate defense system to maximize its ability to slow aging and to prevent loss of cellular function at the molecular level.”
Eat a well-balanced diet: “Eat the ‘rainbow’ of fruits and vegetables to ensure you consume plant-derived antioxidants. Drink green tea. Juice at home, especially with organic grown veggies. This is a fabulous way to get high nutritional value antioxidants into your system.”