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Going Gray? Acceptance Or Avoidance!


There are several reasons why we go gray and, apart from covering up the gray, we might feel there is not a lot we can do about it.


While going gray is expected as we grow older, premature graying of hair is often a great concern for younger adults in their 20s or 30s.

I think we will agree that it is mostly women who are affected by the thought of going gray and many will have some gray hair as early as 35. When the production of melanin by the melanocyte cells slows down, the color in that strand of hair begins to fade. Gray hair has less melanin than brown hair; white hair has no melanin at all.

Because each strand of hair is colored by its own pigment pot (which can dry up at different times and rates), the graying process is gradual. Although research is exploring the possibility that melanocyte cells (that have stopped producing pigment) might be convinced to turn the function on again.

But this is all in the future... In some cultures, gray hair represents qualities — maturity, responsibility and wisdom. So should we be in such a hurry to cover up the gray?

It may no longer be necessary to maintain the look of a woman in her reproductive years. Instead, we could let our hair turn gray. But to many, this is a big decision to make. We tell you why our hair turns gray but we also offer some suggestions to help…

6 reasons why hair turns gray

1. Growing older is of course the main reason. Dr Anthony Oro (Professor of Dermatology at Stanford University) points out that 50% of us have 50% gray hair by the age of fifty. The texture of our hair will also change as we age.

2. Our ethnicity is another reason with redheads being the first to go gray, followed by other Caucasians. Asians are next on the list and bringing up the rear African-Americans and of course Africans themselves.

3. Stress can hasten the process, making us lose hair more rapidly with perhaps any new hair that grows being a different color or even gray.

4. As in so many other things, our lifestyle is important too. Smoking is never advisable while low vitamin B12 levels are known to cause loss of hair color.

5. Hair and its color are separate. Hair stem cells make hair while pigment-forming stem cells make pigment. They usually work together but either can wear out for a number of reasons.

6. Our hair does not turn gray. A single hair grows for 1 to 3 years before being shed. A new hair then grows but that new hair could be gray or white. Apart from aging, the use of unsuitable hair products and even chronic colds, sinusitis and thyroid disorders can be factors.

Natural suggestions for help

  • Henna is a natural hair colorant, making it darker as well as strengthening and conditioning the hair. The method for using henna is to grind a handful of henna leaves into a paste before adding 3 teaspoons of Indian gooseberry powder, one teaspoon of coffee powder, and a little plain yogurt. Spread the mixture carefully on your hair and leave to dry before rinsing and shampooing. Repeat as necessary every 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Another henna method is to make a hair mask by mixing hot black coffee and henna powder until it has a yogurt-consistency. Leave in a covered bowl for a few hours before applying to your hair. Leave for 1 to 3 hours and then rinse and shampoo normally.
  • Coconut oil, when applied to the scalp, nourishes the hair and may even prevent premature graying of hair. Mix 3 teaspoons of lemon juice in enough coconut oil to coat your hair. Apply and massage into the scalp and leave for an hour to moisturize, stimulate hair growth and add shine. If you keep on using the mixture weekly, the antioxidants can help reverse gray hair.
  • Rosemary and sage are herbs that can help cover the gray by darkening your hair color naturally. Boil one-half cup each of dried rosemary and sage in two cups of water. Let it sit for a couple of hours before straining the solution. Use as a hair rinse after shampooing, leaving it on for 15 to 20 minutes and repeat weekly.

Making the decision to go gray

If you do make this decision, you have to let your hair grow out but you can soften the line of demarcation with a process called lowlighting once you have an inch or more of gray exposed. Instead of highlighting your hair with a lighter color, your hairdresser will need to weave in a darker one, letting the gray hair become the lighter threads - the highlights. But if you cannot make that decision yet...

A more natural and commercial product for coloring your hair

If you go to our earlier post here you will find lots of information on using such a product. The Herbatint range offers a shampoo and conditioner, as well as their Intensive Aloe Vera Solution which protects and nourishes sensitive and itchy scalps and can be used before either tinting or shampooing.

It will also soothe and counter allergic reactions. All three products are SLS-free and Paraben-free.

SLS stands for sodium lauryl sulfate - one of the most commonly used poisons in the world appearing in shampoos, soaps and toothpaste.