What is Gray Hair?
Gray hair is a visible sign of aging and is a natural part of growing older. It signifies a mixture of white hair, mixed with black hair, making the gray appearance of hair, also known as salt and pepper on the scalp. It is hair with little or no pigment and wherein light reflects off, after falling on the hair, making it appear gray. Many of us might have gray hair. From the first time a person notices a bunch of gray hair, it might take about ten years for all the hair on the head to go gray.
It is said that gray hair shows up as a feature that comes with wisdom acquired through ages. Gray hair is not an issue to worry over, however, if graying of hair occurs prematurely, it is recommended to consult your dermatologist.
What are the Causes of Gray Hair?
Each strand of hair consists of two parts, a shaft, and a root. The root of every strand of hair is surrounded by the hair follicle underneath the skin, which contains melanocytes. Melanocytes are pigment cells that constantly produce a chemical known as melanin.
Hair has two types of melanin pigments: the darker one is called eumelanin and the lighter one is known as phaeomelanin. Both of them blend to make up a wide range of natural hair colors. Melanin pigment is responsible for the color of hair being brown, blonde, black, red, and any other hair color. It is responsible for graying of hair and for making the skins color complexion light or dark. The darker or lighter character of hair is determined by the amount of melanin present on the hair follicle.
The melanocyte pigment cells in the hair follicles gradually die with the passage of age. With a fewer pigment cells in the hair follicle, and eventually a lesser amount of melanin, the strand will become a more transparent color like gray, silver, or white as it grows. Eventually, with the approaching senescence the hair will appear completely gray.
It has been proposed by scientists from Harvard that due to the failure of melanocyte stem cells (MSC) to maintain the adequate production of melanocytes, graying of hair occurs. This failure might result in the breakdown of signals, which maintains the darkness of hair and hence the hair turns gray. The melanocyte stem cell failure could be both age related or genetically determined in cases of premature graying of hair.
However, gray hair in some cases, may not necessarily be a sign of aging. People might get gray hair at any age and this mainly depends on genetics and hereditary causes. Some people might get gray hair as early as their teens or early twenties, some might see their first gray hair during the early 30s or 40s. Since the age of appearance of gray hair depends on the genes, most people start graying at approximately the same age their parents or grandparents first did.
Other causes of graying of hair depend on hormones, climate of the native country, pollutants, exposure to chemicals and toxins. It has also been proposed that a chemical called as hydrogen peroxide gradually deposits over the shaft of hair, and leads to the loss of natural hair color with the passage of time.
What are the Home Remedies to Delay Gray Hair?
Why must we color our hair with artificial hair colors and expose our hair to harmful chemicals, which can cause degraded hair quality, and hair fall, when we can protect and nurture our hair with basic ingredients in our homes? Here are some home remedies which can be used both by external application and also in your diet, to naturally dye gray hair and also to prevent the premature graying of hair.
Packs for Gray Hair
Amla - The Indian Gooseberry
Mix amla pulp with coconut oil or almond oil and massage into the scalp. This mixture will act as a colorant; and the oils will moisturize and enrich the scalp. Amla juice or amla can be cooked as a vegetable and consumed to slow or halt the growth of gray hair.
Henna leaves or mehandi leaves is a natural auburn dye prepared from the Lawsonia inermis tree. Crushed henna leaves or powder can be made into a paste with a variety of other hair darkening substances such as lemon juice, vinegar, tea, and coffee. It is then kept overnight in an iron container, before it is applied to hair.
Tea decoction covers gray hair and restores a natural hair color. Black tea is used for darker hues, chamomile tea is used for obtaining a blonde shade, and rooibos tea is used to obtain a redhead look. Tea could be applied once a week. Mix it with henna or any other conditioner and leave it on the scalp for a couple of hours. Steep a few tea leaves in water, strain and cool it. Rinse the hair with the cooled tea decoction after shampooing. Make sure to rinse the hair in cool water as the use of hot water might leach the color from hair faster than cold water.
Coffee can also dye your gray hair dark brown or black. Again, mix coffee decoction with henna or your hair conditioner and leave it on for a couple of hours. Repeat this once every week to get the desired color. You can also simply rinse off your hair after shampooing with cooled coffee water.
Flowers and herbs make amazing natural dyes. Use the following ingredients to get the desired hair color tone
- For Dark Hair Use sage, nettle, cloves, cinnamon, black walnut hulls, rosemary and comfrey root.
- For Blonde Hair Mullein flowers, calendula, lemon peel, saffron, Chamomile, marigold, yarrow and sunflower petals give off a blonde shade to the hair.
- For Red Hair Carrots, red clover, rosehips, red rose petals, beets, hibiscus flowers, and marigold might come in handy.
Beet, Carrot, and Lemon Juice
Juice up your hair with beet juice, carrot juice, lemon juice, or may be a combination of all the three. It will provide reddish hues or might add some vibrant highlights naturally to your existing hair color.
Mix one cup of this juice with hair conditioner or coconut oil and massage into scalp and hair. Beetroot and carrot might color your skin as well, so make sure you do not let it run on the facial skin or eyes. Let it sit for about a couple of hours and wash it off with cold water.
Potato skins form a natural hair darkening dye as it contains the starch, which acts as a natural colorant. It will slowly darken all the gray hair.
Boil two parts of water with one part of potato skins for thirty minutes. Strain out the peels and let the mixture cool down. Add a few drops of scented essential oils for a pleasant aroma. Mix this with conditioner or hair oil and apply on scalp. Let it sit for a couple of hours and then rinse off with cool tap water. Repeat the process at regular intervals to get the desired look.
Black Sesame Seeds
Black sesame seeds are known to convert gray hair to natural black. Consume black sesame seeds, first thing in the morning with a glass of water regularly. You can also grind black sesame seeds with some water and the boil the mixture. Do not strain the mixture. Once it is cooled, mix it with conditioner or coconut oil and apply on the scalp and hair. Let it sit for a couple of hours and then rinse off with cool tap water.
Amaranth helps to retain as well as gain back the natural black color of hair. Grind the leaves of amaranth and make a paste. The paste can be mixed up with henna, tea and coconut oil and applied on scalp and hair to get the desired effect.
Shikakai is an effective therapy not only to treat premature graying of hair, but also to retain and preserve the natural black color of hair. It is a perfect natural hair conditioner. We all have heard the tales of amla, reetha, shikakai from our grandparents and it is a wonderful combination. Soak the mixture of amla, reetha, shikakai overnight in an iron vessel. Make a paste, apply on the scalp, and rinse after a couple of hours.
Dietary Ways to Reverse Gray Hair
Catalase Containing Foods
Catalaseis an antioxidant found in the cells of all plants and animals. It removes the hydrogen peroxide in our hair follicles that accumulate over the hair shaft and causes loss of natural hair color by breaking down the pigments in hair.
Hydrogen peroxide, a naturally occurring waste by-product of the metabolic process, is thought to be a major contributor in the breakdown of pigments in the hair. As we age, our bodies produce less catalase, resulting in the build-up of hydrogen peroxide in our hair follicles which bleaches hair follicles from the inside out.
Regular consumption of foods high in catalase such as garlic, onions, cauliflower, potatoes, broccoli, kale, and cabbage, can help in the gradual return of your natural hair color.
According to a study, low levels of copper in the body might cause premature graying of hair. Including foods with high copper content in your diet can help reduce premature graying of hair. Asparagus, sesame seeds, spinach, cashews, shiitake mushrooms, and soybeans are all naturally occurring sources of copper.
Vitamin B12 deficiency has also been known to be linked to premature graying of hair. The deficiency can be reversed by consuming foods rich in vitamin B-12 such as salmon, sardines, tuna, lamb, beef, eggs, and milk.
Nature has provided us with endless healthy ingredients, which can be both externally applied, or consumed to preserve the natural color of hair, to treat premature graying of hair and to naturally dye the gray hair. Some of the other ingredients which can be used to prevent or delay gray hair are rosemary and sage, ribbed guard, onion juice, curry leaves, coconut oil, almond oil and neem oil. Choose a perfect combination of treatments that works best for you and your hair.