Gray Hair and Age

Group of people of different ages
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Q: I am a 58-year-old woman with dark brown hair. I have only just begun to get the odd gray hair. Because I have been fortunate enough not to have to dye my hair, I am very unknowledgeable about how to deal with these stragglers.
My hairdresser who says she sees very little gray says to get highlights. I do not want lighter hair. What do you suggest? What is the average age for going gray? Both my parents were in their 50's also before turning gray. Am I just lucky?

A: There is no set age at which you can expect to begin going gray. One of my closest friends had salt and pepper hair by the age of 20, while I myself will soon be forty with only three grays in my hair. Gray hair development is largely a matter of genetics, but can be caused by other factors that cause stress to the body.
The friend who was salt and pepper hair at 20 had a mother who was forty with no gray until she developed cancer and underwent chemotherapy. She experienced no loss of hair from the therapy, but her hair turned gray in short order. The chemo also caused her skin to take on a dark bronzed tone and she ended up with a very striking look.
The average age for going gray - if such can be claimed to exist - should be figured based on your own family history since that is where the likelihood of developing gray at any given point in your life would be determined.
As for what you should do about covering the gray you have, if that is indeed what you want to do, I recommend using a deposit-only hair color that is at least 3 shades lighter than your natural color. This will give your grays some additional pigmentation without changing the natural color of your hair. For more information on covering gray with hair color, take a look at our articles on hair coloring.
See also:
Going gray
Teenagers and gray hair
Why and how does hair turn gray?
How to cover gray hair with hair color