Gray hair is white or silver hair that appears as time goes by. Believe it or not, it such an impact on people’s lives that there are songs and poems that refer to it as the arrival of maturity.
What gray hair really is
Gray hairs are pieces of hair that look gray, white, or silver.
Hair gets its color thanks to a pigment called melanin. Its role is to protect the skin against UV rays and any type of invisible light. It’s the same substance that gives eyes and skin its color.
Melanin is produced by melanocytes, cells that make two types of melanocytes: eumelanin for brown and black tones, and pheomelanin for yellow and red tones.
These pigments, with their many variations and combinations, can generate an infinite amount of different tones.
The absence of melanin is what makes grays appear.
Why gray hair appearsMany studies have determined that its origin is genetic. The other crucial factor is age, since grays begin to come out when cells age.
- Hair strands have a life span of 3 to 6 years, after which time they fall.
- If the cells have aged and can no longer produce melanin, a new white hair will emerge.
- When a gray hair falls out, the next one will inevitably be white.
There are many myths surrounding grays, like if you pluck one out, more will grow out. That’s not true. If you pull out one gray hair, another will grow, not various.
When gray hair appears
With time and as the body grows older, melanocytes lower the production of melanin.
It begins with the hair on the head and later spreads to the rest of the body. Of course, there are also exceptions where genetics are at play and they appear much earlier.
Let’s take a look at some statistics about gray hair:
- These hairs appear earlier and more abundantly in Caucasians. Asian and black people tend to gray later.
- Men get more grays than women.
- Grays come out in groups, creating the illusion that if you pluck one out, more will grow.
Does worrying cause gray hair?
There has yet to be a conclusive study that shows stress as a factor in the appearance of grays. Apparently, stress causes hair loss and the first to go are strands with color.
Gray hair in men and women
Accepting gray hair tends to be a complicated subject, since its appearance is a sign of aging.
In the West, there’s a cult of youth that pushes us to slow down this natural process. Nobody wants wrinkles, sagging skin, bifocals, or gray hair.
It’s not the same for men and women. A man with gray hair tends to receive compliments like “interesting”, “mature” (in a good way), or “attractive”.
On the other hand, women aren’t so lucky. A graying woman is judged based on her appearance. People assume she’s sloppy, doesn’t take time for herself, or doesn’t care about her appearance.
Sometimes, grays are in style. However, in the West, they’re still not culturally seen as the best option, aesthetically speaking.
But not everything is rosy for men. If a man doesn’t like his gray hair, he usually puts up with it. This is because it’s not as socially acceptable for men to dye their hair.
Most men that dye their hair hide the fact or do it discreetly.
Check out this article: Dying Your Hair with Natural Extracts Is Possible
Myths surrounding gray hair
Popular beliefs tend to prevail over science. Old wives’ tales are repeated over and over and end up convincing most people.
Below are some of the most common myths:
- Grays don’t fall. False; they fall out like any other hair.
- Gray hair is gray. False; it’s an optical illusion. In reality, grays are made up of many yellow tones. Their proximity to hairs of other colors make them appear white, gray, or silver.
- Exposure to sunlight leads to grays. False; the sun lightens hair, which can make some strands lighter, giving the impression that they’re gray. Still, in no way does the sun cause gray hair.
- Plucking out grays makes more come out. False; as previously mentioned, only a single gray hair grows in the place of an old gray hair.