Silver and foxy: why hair goes grey and how to own it when it’s your turn.

To grow older is the ultimate privilege, and hair greying is a natural, beautiful part of this process.

Around 75% of people aged 45-65 have grey hair, ranging from a few metallic strands to a full head of silver.

But it’s common for people to notice greys well before their forties, too.

If you’ve noticed a few silvern streaks sprouting in your regrowth, don’t panic.

You might be sporting some new pewter highlights, but this doesn’t mean that you’re greying early, or that you’ll be totally grey any time soon.

The term ‘premature greying’ only applies when hair begins to grey before age 20, in people of European descent, before age 25, in people of Asian descent, and before age 30, in people of African descent.

Hair greying is usually a gradual process. It can take upwards of ten years after the first grey strand for all your hair to lose its pigment.

You might have heard of people greying rapidly, due to trauma, but scientists haven’t validated this phenomenon.

Rapid greying is most often due to health issues, such as vitamin B12 deficiency, thyroid disease and vitiligo.

What’s certain is that we’re all different when it comes to greying.

Some people go grey much earlier than others and some more quickly, but why is this so?

The masters of our silvery fate

Most people assume that genetics determine the age at which we begin to grey, but genes are only one factor.

Scientists have identified one gene, IRF4, which appears linked to hair greying, while the inherited diseases, neurofibromatosis and tuberous sclerosis, can cause premature greying.

But health and environmental factors may be equally as important to our hair’s destiny.

Factors like stress, poor nutrition and unhealthy lifestyle choices, like regularly smoking and drinking alcohol, are key drivers of inflammation.

In turn, inflammation damages melanocytes – the pigment-producing cells that give hair its colour.

Autoimmunity is another key player in hair greying. Autoimmune conditions, like lupus, cause the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack healthy cells, including melanocytes.

With less melanocytes to colour the hair and skin, people with autoimmunity can develop vitiligo, alopecia areata, and premature greying.

Slowing down time

Wondering if there’s a way to slow down or reverse the greying process?

We’re big advocates of loving who you are, for exactly where you’re at, but there are a few things you can try if you’re keen to be a test bunny.

There are no guarantees, of course, but these experiments have the upshot of benefiting your health, so we’re very much on board …

Stress less

Mama wasn’t lying when she blamed her early greys on your crazy kiddo antics!

Stress depletes our colour-lovin’ melanocyte friends, resulting in greys. But the cool part is that reducing stress has been shown to reverse this effect.

While stress is pretty much a given in our modern lives, we can both reduce our exposure to stressful people and situations and improve the ability of our bodies to manage stress.

A healthy diet and regular aerobic exercise can go a long way to reducing our cortisol levels – but don’t overexercise, as this will have the opposite effect.

Trial some different relaxation techniques until you land on something that feels right for you.

This might look like breathing exercises, journaling, yoga or walks on the beach. When it’s right, it won’t feel like a chore, and you’ll feel a noticeable shift in your wellbeing.

Eat a rainbow

We know, you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but food is medicine.

Poor nutrition is at the root of most diseases and dysfunctions in the body, not least, inflammation.

B-group vitamins and copper are key to preserving hair colour and delaying the greying process. While antioxidants, like zinc and selenium, protect melanocytes from free-radical damage.

Your body best responds to these nutrients in the form of fresh, healthy foods, so get a wide variety of greens, legumes, nuts and seeds into ya!

Bottled miracles?

There are topical products on the market which claim to activate melanocytes, when applied to the scalp, but these treatments aren’t well-founded.

If you do want to give grey hair serums a try, look for those with gentle, non-toxic ingredients that will at least benefit your hair and scalp, if they don’t slow or reverse the greying process.

Greying with grace

It’s natural to feel a bit of angst when those first grey hairs appear.

We’ve been conditioned to fear ageing by a society and media that shun the over 50s, but the winds of change are a’ rustling.

We’re beginning to see mature models in national campaigns and megawatt celebrities, like Cynthia Nixon and Julia Roberts, displaying grey sparkles in all their glory. 

People now invest ridiculous amounts of time and money to sport gleaming silvery locks, so rest assured your fab new highlights are bang on trend.

Plus, there are so many options for covering and blending greys, if that’s your bag: think highlights, balayage, ombre, or a full head of colour or foils.

George has friends in their twenties and thirties who rock their steely streaks, and some over fifty who are determined to dye ‘til they drop.

Ever dreamt of unicornesque silver blues and purples? Of ashy blondes and caramels that don’t throw warm undertones?

Once grey, you’ll have limitless options for experimenting with colour.

How you choose to sport your silver – or not – is completely your call. Hair lacking pigment is a blank canvas, allowing you to express yourself in any way you choose.

Healthy hair is timeless, no matter its colour, so be sure to care for your hair at every age and stage with our Better Hair Days Restore & Repair Hair Mask.

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