Ever wonder why does your hair turn only gray?

Hair problems and premature graying of hairs. There is an article in Statista where it says in 2018, the global haircare market is estimated to be worth about 87.73 billion U.S. dollars. All thanks to our hair problems. And a lot of credit must go to texturing which makes us look beautiful. Texture and color have a lot to do with ethnicity — Africans, white people, Asians, etc. But one thing is common among all ethnic groups. All turns gray/white at some stage. Interesting, isn’t it? It is divided by ethnicity united by gray color. Hah Hah.

Getting gray or white is a natural part of growing older, but it does not necessarily say about your age. Some people go gray much earlier in their life than others. So today’s article is all about premature graying of hairs and its reasons. Hair problems and premature graying of hairs. Why does your hair turn only gray?

Let’s look at what scientists say about it.

Whatever the color your hair has, it is because of a pigment-producing cell called melanocyte. There are two types of melanin pigment which cause the variation in the hair color. One, eumelanin, responsible for black and brown color, depends on the amount of production. More eumelanin means black hair color and moderate production means brown and little production means blonde. Second, pheomelanin gives people red hair color. Again the type and amount of melanin production determined by many genes, among which MC1R gene is best studied.

This gene is responsible for the production of a protein called melanocortin 1 receptor which directs the pathway of melanin production. Melanocortin 1 receptor controls which type of melanin should be produced in the melanocyte. 

Causes of white hairs

Over time, either normal aging or some illness lowers the production of melanin. As a result, you will notice gray hair. And if your pigment-producing cell is destroyed, then you will see your hair turns white.

In some cases, gray hair may indicate more than your biological age. This is called premature graying of hair. The latest reason researchers believe is, it could be a sign of an overactive immune system. This was shown in a recent study on mice which indicates that premature gray hair could be linked to the immune system. They believe that the genes involved in your hair color are also involved in your body’s immune system.

Link between immune system and graying of hairs

To understand this, we must have a basic idea about how our immune system works. When our body is under attack from a pathogen, our immune cells can detect any kind of foreign substance and start producing substances to fight against it. It also signals other cells to produce molecules to destroy the foreign particle.

Researchers found that a protein called MITF (melanocyte inducing transcription factor) notifies our body of a pathogenic infection. This protein is also involved in making the pigment of hair cells.

Mice with a mutation in this gene show an overactive response to a virus, which results in the loss of pigmented cells, leading to graying. While the study hasn’t confirmed in humans yet but this is a popular belief among scientists. This is just a starting point in the research of link between immune system and graying.

This discovery may lead to discoed other types of pigment disorder such as vitiligo, which is also an autoimmune disorder. So up till now, we managed to understand premature graying is genetic. So parents experiencing premature graying tend to pass the character to their children.

Other biological factors may also play a role in premature graying of your hairs

  1. Smoking and premature graying of hair, this connection is not clearly understood, but the study suggests that people who smoke have two and a half times more chances of graying faster than the nonsmoking population. A more recent study further confirms that having gray hairs before 30s is more common among smokers.
  2. Vit B-12 deficiency causes hair loss and promotes gray hairs.
  3. Sometime metabolism disorder, particularly related to thyroid can cause graying of hairs.
  4. Natural accumulation of H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) may bleach your hairs.
  5. Some say there is a connection between premature graying and bone density later in life. But a study in 2007 by researchers of the University of California concluded saying your bone density is related to your activity level, your weight, your height, your ethnicity. It is not related to hairs or things controlling the coloration of your hairs.

There is a super myth about stress being a factor which causes premature graying of hairs. This is not true. Stress has not been shown to cause gray hair.

The myth that gray hair makes you look old is just a myth. If you are young, vibrant, active and healthy, you are still going to be that way. It all depends on the attitude that you bring with you, a famous author concluded.

Let me know if you have any further queries. Thank you.

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