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Why does some people’s hair turn grey or even white?

Question: Why does some people’s hair turn grey or even white? Answer: Leaves turn beautiful colors each autumn as they lose their pigment, die and fall off the tree. As we age, our “leaves” turn grey or white as the hair’s pigment cells – which give hair its colour – die. This loss of pigment, called […]

Written by haircentre

Posted on: February 5, 2008

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Question: Why does some people’s hair turn grey or even white?

Answer: Leaves turn beautiful colors each autumn as they lose their pigment, die and fall off the tree. As we age, our “leaves” turn grey or white as the hair’s pigment cells – which give hair its colour – die.

This loss of pigment, called melanin, is due mainly to the natural aging process and genetics, but it also is the result of things we do to our body. For example, have you ever noticed that some longtime smokers look older, greyer and more wrinkled than they should for their age?

A 1996 research study published in the British Medical Journal looked at 152 men and 152 women who smoked.

They observed that 14 of those men and 67 of those women developed gray hair before the age of 50.

Among nonsmokers in the same age groups, there were half as many grey heads. The researchers were unable to explain the reason for the link between smoking and grayness, although they speculated that smoking may somehow accelerate the body’s biological clock. Alcoholism and poor nutrition also may speed greying.

This biological clock is rooted in our genes. Wrinkles (sun damage excluded), hair loss and grey vs. white hair are just a few of the age-related changes programmed into each of us. As we unravel the mysteries of our DNA, we may one day have the ability to repair defective or damaged genetic information. While turning back the grey hair clock seems trivial compared with more serious health concerns, the aging process is linked to serious diseases like Alzheimer’s.

And bear in mind that the age at which grey or white hair will appear on your head is largely inherited. If either of your parents or older siblings develop premature greyness, you may, too.

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