Going Gray

Man and woman with gray hair
Photo: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock
Camouflage or worship? The Implications of “Going Gray”
 
Regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity, discovering one's first gray hair is a shocking reminder that youth is not infinite and old age is inescapable. As the gray strand of hair silently taunts its owner, as if it is crying, "you're getting old", reactions can be infinitely different, and so can the plan of attack to disguise the unsolicited sign of aging.
 
In an interview with Ellen Degeneres, Jennifer Aniston admitted to being “flipped out and brought to tears” when she found her first gray hair just before her 40th birthday. Reactions from celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, while they may be a natural response to the prospect of resembling their grandmother, enhance the social stigma surrounding "going gray" and cause even more worry and distress when the inevitable finally arrives.
 
In reality, gray hair can look good, even sexy, on both men and women, and perhaps society should shift its attitudes towards gray hair, rather than people altering their hair color to mask their gray locks..
 
Why do we go Gray?
 
As people age, the pigment cells in their hair follicles slowly begin to die. A follicle with fewer pigment cells will produce less melanin, the chemical responsible for giving hair its color. With a gradual decrease in the amount of melanin, the strand will eventually become transparent and look silver, white, or gray.
 
Hair turning gray is a natural response to aging and usually affects people in their 30s and beyond. Research has revealed that gender can also affect the age at which we are likely to first notice gray hairs appearing. The average man starts to go gray at the age of 30, while in women it is slightly later at the age of 35.
 
Despite these averages, "going gray" can affect people of all ages. Even schoolchildren can be faced with the despair of premature signs of aging and often become victims of ridicule when they discover a gray strand has appeared in their hair.
 
Long gray hair with different shades
Photo: Instaphotos via Canva
Although the age in which we start to turn gray is determined by our genes, generally speaking, the chances of hair becoming gray increase by 10 – 20 percent each decade after the age of 30. Turning completely gray is a very slow process and usually takes about ten years for gray to dominate the whole head after a person notices their first wisp of gray. Genes and the laws of age-related probability are not the only factors influencing our "graying pains".
 
Many scientists assert that a deficiency of B12 can cause gray hair to appear. Smokers are also said to be at a greater risk of becoming prematurely gray, as smoking is known to decrease the production of melanin in the hair. Not only has smoking been conclusively linked to hair turning gray, but it has also been suggested that smokers are four times more likely to have gray hair than non-smokers.
 
Once you are aware of this fact, it is extraordinary how many smokers you know who are going gray. Other underlying health problems, such as Werner's syndrome and thyroid imbalances, can spur on the onset of gray hair.
 
Gray Hair Myths
 
Like many beauty-related matters, the issue of gray hair and how we become gray has several myths and old wives' tales attached to it. A popular misconception about "going gray" is that a trauma or shock can "turn you gray overnight". In reality, only a rare condition known as alopecia areata can cause this phenomenon to occur. This condition causes the darker and thicker strands of hair to cease growing before it affects the gray strands.
 
As the dark follicles quickly diminish, the gray hair keeps growing, giving the illusion of "going gray" overnight. Your grandmother may have teasingly remarked as you alarmingly pawed over your first gray hair, "Pluck one gray hair out and two will grow back." There is, however, no scientific evidence to support this theory, so if pulling out the gray hairs is your solution to disguise your graying mane, feel free to yank away.
 
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By Bea | Updated | ©Hairfinder.com