Premature grey hair is usually associated with thyroid problems, excessive stress, diet rich in animal fats, vitamin B deficiency and smoking. The fact is, however, that the number one cause for premature greying is genetics. The pigment that determines the colour of our hair is produced by special cells at the root of our hair called melanocytes. It is the lifespan of melanocytes that determines the beginning of the greying process. Once these cells die, the hair turns white.
There is no principal difference between a premature and a normal, age-related greying process. It is by virtue of nature that some people will experience their first grey hair in their teens and turn completely white in their early thirties, while others will keep their original hair colour for many years. If more than 50% of a person's hair is white by the age of 40, it is considered premature.
There are certain commercial products out there that claim to be able to rejuvenate the dead pigment-producing cells and reverse grey hair. Such claims, however, are mostly unsubstantiated. The truth is that at this point in time no remedy exists that can reverse the greying process. Most of the anti-grey hair products either use Fo-Ti, referring to the centuries old legend of Mr He, who recovered his original hair colour, youthful appearance and vitality thanks to this traditional Chinese medicinal herb, also known as He Shou Wu or use vitamins B (mainly PABA and folic acid) as their principal ingredients, since some forms of premature greying are said to be caused by vitamin B deficiency. However, such products are ineffective for the majority of grey hair sufferers.
Therefore, the only grey hair treatment that seems to deliver guaranteed results is camouflage. Women use various types of permanent, semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair dyes but men usually prefer a subtle and less noticeable change in their hair colour that does not cover all their grey hair. Such products are usually called progressive grey hair colorants. It is obvious that none of these products can make the dead cells produce pigmented hair and thus they must be used continuously to cover the grey of newly grown hair. Although there are some natural hair dyes that claim to effectively cover your grey hair, the products that really work well all use certain chemicals. When deciding about hair dyes or progressive hair colorants, you should always consider the potential health risks, as most of them contain substances that can cause poisoning if used inappropriately or can lead to allergic reactions. You should always use a patch test before applying any such product and follow the application guidelines in order to minimise exposure to aggressive chemical substances.
By Dody Gasparik MSc.
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