Like wrinkles, gray hairs are visible signs of aging, but can the way you treat your hair keep it youthful in the same way that skin care can? Trichologist Madeleine Preston explains why we go gray and whether we can delay it—should we actually wish to.
1. When do most women go gray then?
"Most women who are in their 30s should see a few gray hairs, but by the time they get into their 50 most women would expect to have more than 50% of their scalp hairs turn gray."
2. Why the hell do we get gray hair in the first place?
"Gray hair is a combination of normally pigmented hairs interspersed with white ones. Hair turns white when the pigmentation cells responsible for color (melanin) stop being produced."
3. So, can you slow the rate of graying hair?
"Nutritional and hormonal factors can affect hair color as well as stress but, by and large, the predisposition to go gray earlier or later in life is genetic."
4. Is gray hair more common in certain people?
"Gray hair is an inherited trait—if your parents went gray early there is a possibility that you will too. Caucasians seem to go gray earlier and some health conditions may cause premature graying such as diabetes, pernicious anemia or thyroid problems."
5. What should we eat to maintain healthy hair?
"Hair consists of protein (keratin) so it is very important for strong healthy hair. Foods like eggs and fish are all good sources of first class protein. Proteins consist of amino acids (some essential and some non-essential). Essential amino acids are more abundant in animal protein and more easily absorbed. Deficiencies of iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, B12 and B6 can be common so it's important to eat foods that contain these vitamins or, if you're vegetarian, it may be necessary to take them in supplemental form."
6. Anything we take to combat going gray, if we're worried?
"A multivitamin supplement that contains Omega-3s, which prevents the hair from being dry and lifeless. It can also reduce itching and flaking dandruff. Find a supplement that also contains copper, which is known to prevent the onset of graying hair by boosting the production of melanin (the pigment that gives hair color)."
7. Can we make lifestyle changes to improve hair health?
"Since hair is such a barometer of our health, any improvements we make to our general wellbeing will be a bonus for our hair. A well balanced diet rich in proteins, carbohydrates–which contain key essential vitamins and minerals–are great for hair growth. As hair is recognized as a non-essential tissue by the body we need to top up our energy levels with proteins and carbohydrates every 4-5 hours. Research indicates that the energy available to non-essential tissue such as hair follicles may be reduced after this time. As certain diseases can have an impact on the immune system and may possibly cause deficiencies it is wise to have blood tests at least once a year through your own GP or private practitioner."
8. Does 'massaging the scalp' actually do any good?
"Like our bodies need regular exercise, so does our head. Shampooing hair daily means we are massaging our scalps, which in turn results in a clean fresh healthier scalp. Massaging our scalps through needing action means we are taking vital nutrients to the scalp via the blood supply and feeding our follicles."
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.