Gray hair is a normal part of aging, but some people become very self-conscious when these strands begin to appear. If you want to avoid gray hairs for as long as possible, you’ll be happy to learn that you have options to keep your natural hair color. Worry not, as you can keep your youthful appearance intact.
But while there are ways you can prevent hair graying, the efficacy largely depends on what’s causing them in the first place.
Why Does Hair Turn Gray?
As we age, our hair follicles lose their ability to produce the natural pigments that provide color. Our hair strands gradually lose their original color, and we end up with gray hair.
According to a 2016 study, the gene IRF4 may be responsible for gray hair, so genetics may play an important role - a whopping 30% - in hair graying.
Some autoimmune and thyroid-related medical conditions could lead to graying hair.
- Alopecia areata(AA) can cause round patches of hair loss. Hair regrowth is often gray or white in the affected areas due to melanin deficiency.
Vitiligo affects the skin’s ability to produce pigment, which could lead to premature graying due to melanin cell death.
Thyroid problems may also play a part in premature hair graying, but more evidence is required to understand the connection.
Smoking cigarettes can cause your hair to become brittle and weak, which can damage and shrink follicles due to oxidative stress, leading to premature graying. However, more research is required to affirm this association.
A fast-paced lifestyle causes a lot of stress, which can induce oxidative damage to the pigment-producing cells in hair follicles.
How to Prevent Hair Graying?
Hair graying is a normal part of the aging process, which means you can’t really reverse it. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t tackle the factors contributing to gray hair.
Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to prevent new gray hair:
Eat a Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet
What you eat affects how you look - this is why we say beauty begins on the inside.
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet ensures that our hair follicles get all the nutrients they need to grow healthy hair. A diet that plays a role in melanogenesis can also help prevent graying. Here’s what you should include in your diet:
Calcium deficiency has been associated with premature aging. Integrate more chickpeas, dark leafy greens, and tofu into your diet.
Copper is needed to produce melanin, so not having enough of it can affect your hair color. Eat more almonds, cashews, potatoes, and sesame seeds to meet your body’s mineral needs.
Iron deficiency can also lead to hair graying. Eating legumes, dark chocolate, oysters, nuts, and seeds can give your body and hair the levels of iron it needs to thrive.
Selenium can keep oxidative stress at bay, so consume antioxidant-rich dark leafy greens, tuna, halibut, and shrimp to hold signs of aging in check.
Low levels of Vitamin B12 can lead to pernicious anemia, which has been linked to the hair graying process. To avoid this, consume nutritional yeast, nori, clams, tuna, and shiitake mushrooms.
Vitamin D3 deficiency affects hair pigmentation, so incorporate plant-based milk, trout, salmon, and eggs into your diet to maintain your natural coloring.
Zinc can cause hypopigmentation, so it may play a role in hair graying. Chickpeas, nuts, and whole grains will boost your zinc intake.
Adding vitamins and minerals to your diet can significantly boost your nutrient intake. They support scalp and hair health, which can help you retain your natural hair color.
Incorporating mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, and indulging in things that make you happy in your everyday routine can keep stress at bay. This will prevent stress-induced hair loss and graying.
Cigarette smoke causes oxidative stress, which is linked to hair graying. To prevent your strands from losing their original color, quit smoking and remove yourself from an environment that exposes you to secondary smoke.
Protect Your Locks from External Stressors
Protecting your locks from the elements is a fool-proof way of minimizing the risk of damage to your hair pigments.
These simple steps can help:
- Follow healthy hair and scalp hygiene habits
- Limit the use of heat-based products
- Wear a hat or scarf to protect your hair from the sun's harsh rays
- Avoid chemically treating your hair too often
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
As we age, so do our hair follicles. We begin losing natural hair pigments and notice gray strands coming in. It is best to be proactive and use treatments and products clinically proven to slow the onset of gray hair.
However, if you see little difference from making these lifestyle changes, consult a doctor to rule out underlying health concerns.