Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Does Hair Turn Gray?

It’s been a few years now that my hair has been gradually turning gray. Like everyone else, I blamed it on the kids. Yes, stress must be behind it! Kids becoming teenagers, parents becoming elderly with all kinds of serious health issues, my own health issues, living in the biggest city in the world; come to think of it, I should have been all gray a lot sooner, if stress was the cause.

Maybe it’s some subversive plot of hairdressers? Maybe something they put in the water supply? They stand to make a lot of money coloring hair if women become prematurely gray. After all, who wants to be 40 and look like they are 65? It’s not so easy to color your own hair either. You really need help. It’s not too expensive if you can do it yourself, maybe $6 to $10 for a box of dye. But if you go to a salon, it could be $40 or more. And that’s a lot of money when it needs to be done every 4 to 6 weeks. But, no, hairdressers cannot be the cause either.

Is it hereditary? If it is, then we are all carrying the same gene.

My curiosity got the best of me, so I looked it up online. What I found was that hair color is like the ink in a pen. After a while it just runs out. The scientific explanation is as follows:

“Hair turns gray as we age because the follicles at the base of the hair shaft cease to produce melanin. Each follicle contains a finite number of pigment cells. These pigment cells produce melanin, a chemical that gives the hair shaft, the visible strands, its color, whether that be black, brown, blonde, red, or any shade in between. The darkness or lightness of the hair depends on how much melanin each strand contains. Melanin is the same pigment that makes skin tan upon exposure to the sun. With age, the pigment cells in the follicle gradually die off. As they do so, that strand will no longer contain as much color and will show up as silver, gray, or white as it grows. Eventually, all the pigment cells will die and the hair becomes completely gray.”

I never heard any of that before, but it’s good to know. At least there is something concrete I can blame for this extra work I have every 4 to 6 weeks. And when my age catches up to my gray hair, then I will stop coloring it.

My curiosity is now satisfied. We are all in the same boat. Well, not quite. When men start graying, people say they look “distinguished.” When women get gray hair, they just look old. Maybe that’s a blog for another day?

Meanwhile, I better go get a box of Clairol and color my hair. I’m not quite ready for Senior Citizen discounts.

No comments:

Post a Comment