et’s address the silver fox in the room: you’re aging (spoiler alert: we all are). Now whether you are ready to embrace your gray or you just want to understand what is happening to you and why, we’ll explain it all. From remedies to maintain your highlights to gray hair care, we’ve got you covered.
Why do we get gray hair?
Let’s get down to the science of it. Gray hair is related mostly to genetics and unfortunately for the ladies, hormones (basically it’s inevitable).
Melanin is a pigment responsible for deciding the color of your hair. With aging, less of this pigment is produced, causing the slow process of ashy hair.
Your body goes through a scope of physical changes during the aging process. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the natural process of hair loss and rejuvenation occurs daily, though the older you get, the less hair that will rejuvenate. With each cycle, the strands produce less and less pigment, and the weaker your strands will be. In some cases, hair follicles become dormant, resulting in balding (damn you, genetics).
How to Get Rid of Gray Hair Naturally
If you aren’t ready to go gray yet, have no fear. There are many safe and natural remedies to keep your hair looking young, and here are a few of the best (and the easiest).
Capric acid found in coconut oil is full of antioxidants and disinfectants. Along with Vitamin B, Vitamin C and Phosphorus, this fatty acid can help treat some causes of graying hair. Applying a light layer of oil from your roots to the ends of your strands at night and washing it off with a light shampoo in the morning can keep your hair looking shiny, sleek and vibrant.
Natural hair dyes
Most salon and box hair dyes can expose your scalp to harsh chemicals that cause scalp irritation, hair loss and premature aging. The most prevalent chemicals in commercial hair dyes are ammonia, which can cause respiratory irritation, lead acetates, which can spike blood pressure levels, and hydrogen peroxide, which can result in hair thinning. To avoid these sources of inflammation, utilizing the ingredients in your cabinet might just be your hair’s best bet.
If you’re looking to quickly and temporarily darken your hair, mix a dark roast coffee or a black tea and coconut oil to create a hair mask and let sit. If you’re looking for a longer-lasting natural hair dye, the dye derived from the native Middle Eastern plant, henna, can serve as a long lasting and safe darkening dye.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Chamomile tea was used as a medicinal herb for centuries in ancient Europe – no wonder it is still used today as a way to treat skin conditions, anxiety disorders and insomnia. Mixed with a fatty acid like coconut oil, applying chamomile tea as a hair mask can promote hair growth, reduce dandruff and lighten hair.
Lemon juice can be used as a spray to slowly strip your hair of its pigment and lighten hair – be aware that this treatment is permanent!
If you're looking to protect your auburn locks from the element of time, according to TreeHugger, carrot juice can be used as a bright antioxidant that actually helps slow down the aging process. Giving your hair a light red-orange hue, mixing carrot juice with coconut oil provides a great healthy mask that promotes growth.
Imagine this- you’re slicing beets and the juice seeps from the root and stains your hands an intense shade of magenta. Have no fear- you can turn this inconvenience into a new hair color formula! The beetroot can be used as an effective long-term treatment containing anti-inflammatory nutrients that also serves as a color stain to help your roots flourish.
Preventing Premature Graying
You might not be ready to embrace your gray yet- and that’s okay! Here are a few remedies to keep your hair-and your body-looking and feeling young and healthy.
Smoking can cause damage and shrink hair follicles, creating frizzy, dry hair. According to the National Library of Medicine, smoking reduces blood flow to hair, disrupting the growth cycle and causing lost fiber pigmentation (no wonder you're graying already… you're aging yourself faster!)
Reduce the Stress
Stress can play a minor role in hair loss and premature aging. If your stress triggers a condition known as telogen effluvium, early shedding of hair begins at an accelerated pace.
Although our Neanderthal ancestors would argue that stress is a crucial way of survival, enacting humans’ ”fight or flight” reaction to protect us from life-threatening situations, the fact that you’re worrying about your graying hair and not being hunted by a bear proves that our stress reactions are not as necessary in our current day-to-day-lives.
Although “reducing stress” sounds much easier on paper than it is in practice, reducing long-lasting, unwarranted stress- therefore improving your mental and physical health-is critical to a happy head of hair. Exercising regularly, practicing time-management, reducing caffeine intake and going to sleep at a reasonable time can do wonders for your hair growth journey!
An Apple a Day Unfortunately Does Not Keep the Doctor Away
Conditions such as thyroid disorders, pituitary problems, autoimmune diseases, vitamin B12 deficiency and anemia can play a factor in premature graying. Routine doctor visits are a must to ensure a healthy body.
Adjust Your Diet
EatingWell agrees that reducing inflammatory foods like sugary drinks, commercially baked goods and processed high-fat meats can help to alleviate symptoms of hair loss and damage. According to the National Institutes of Health, our bodies thrive off of these crucial vitamins and minerals and a drought of nutrients can strip your body of its nutrition.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium for strong hair and bones. It is found in cow’s milk and plant-based milks, egg yolks and tuna.
Vitamin C aids in metabolizing proteins and serves as an antioxidant to protect from harsh UV rays and can increase blood circulation for hair growth. This nutrient can be found in fruits and vegetables-especially red and green peppers and oranges.
Found in poultry, milk, clams and some breakfast cereals, Vitamin B12 helps to keep nerve cells healthy and helps make DNA.
Acting as an antioxidant, protecting cells from cigarette smoke, air pollutants and UV light, Vitamin E is most prominent in vegetable oils, nuts and green vegetables.
Vitamin A provides your body with nutrients to boost reproduction and growth. It is found in salmon, beef liver, green, leafy vegetables and dairy products
Helping the body fight off invading bacteria, Zinc is responsible for the creation of DNA and proteins. It is found in oysters, meat, fish and whole grains.
Iron aids in making hormones and proteins and is found in lean meat, seafood, white beans, nuts and dried fruits.
This nutrient produces melanin that is responsible for promoting hair color. Copper can be found in nuts, wheat-bran cereals, potatoes and tofu.
Protecting hair from free radical damage, Selenium is important for reproduction and thyroid function. It can be found in seafood, meat, dairy products, cereals and breads.
Magnesium balances your body’s blood pressure and produces proteins, bones and DNA. This nutrient is found in nuts, seeds, cereals, milk and yogurt.
How Do You Take Care of Gray Hair?
According to the Library of Congress, our chances of going gray on average increases 10% to 20% every decade after the age of 30. If you decide that it is time to go gray, be mindful that a new kind of hair needs a new care routine.
Keep out of those Rays
Your silver locks are more brittle and fragile than they used to be. Make sure to wear a hat or a scarf around your head when outside in the blistering sun; UV exposure can cause yellowing of gray hair and premature aging. Lynn Shabinsky agrees that a nourishing shampoo and violet toning product can neutralize any yellowing after a long day in the rays and make your hair shine instead.
Turn Down the Heat
According to Russh, Heat products like curlers, straighteners and dryers can damage a vital protein known as keratin found in hair. Repetitive use of heat products can alter the shape of keratin strands in your hair and cause long-term damage and lost elasticity (try a heatless hair curler instead).
Enough with the chemicals
Harsh chemicals found in hair care products can strip your hair of its beautiful pigment, leaving hair dull, thin and stripped. Next time you are shopping for shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, heat protectant, mouse, gel, masks, etc, check the ingredients- in this case, less is more.
Invest in a satin pillowcase or bonnet to prevent breakage and retain moisture. Satin acts as a shield against damage caused by the friction between moisture-absorbing materials and your hair. Your cotton pillowcase is currently soaking up the moisture your hair produces (and by no surprise, needs), causing broken, frizzy hair.
Let’s Go Gray!
Yay! You’re ready to go gray! Here are a few glamorous celebrities that embraced their gray (or are dipping their toes in the salt-and-pepper sand). Let these stunners inspire you to rock it.
1. Jamie Lee Curtis
2. Idris Elba
3. Rachel McAdams
4. BD Wong
4. Helen Mirren
The Silver Lining
The reality is, we all eventually go gray; it runs in your jeans-and under your hat. The adjustment can be a considerable physical and psychological transition. The question is… are you ready to embrace the gray? Like Helen Mirren did-have fun with it!