Thursday, November 03, 2011

I'm Going Grey! What Can I Do?


Achromotrichia is defined as the absence or loss of pigmentation in the hair. The good and bad news (depending on how you look at it) is that greying hair is very much a normal process of ageing and unfortunately can really happen at any age. Greying is almost entirely due to genetics. If your parents and/or grandparents started going grey early, chances are, you may also.

Why we Grey?
Stem cells at the base of the hair follicle produce melanocytes (which are the cells that produce and store pigment/colour). As we age, melanocytes become inactive and eventually decrease in number until they are gone altogether. The decrease of melanocytes means greying of hair, the disappearance leads to white hair. In this sense, greying or whitening of the hair is not a change in colour, but rather a lack of pigment in the hair altogether.

Conditions that may cause us to go Grey
Vitiligois a condition is which there is patchy losses of hair and skin colour. This is due to an autoimmune condition. Rare conditions such as Neurofibromatosis and Tuberous sclerosis have also been associated with greying or whitening of the hair, as have some more common conditions, such as B12 deficiency or hypothyroid conditions. Some research has shown that Tobacco smoke can cause premature greying, as well. Research does not support the theory that stress itself (shock or trauma) can cause greying or ageing of the hair. That being said, stress has been associated with a condition called telogen effluvium, in which hair sheds about 3 times it's normal rate. In this condition, the hair will grow back once the stress or trauma has passed (usually at the root cause of the hair loss). In some cases, it is possible that the hair will grow back back grey or white.

Can we stop it?
The whole truth is, we can no more stop our hair from greying then we can stop our nose from looking like our father's, or make our eyes a different colour. We have to play the hand we are given. That being said, there are a number of things we can do to, at least, ensure our hair follicle is as healthy as it can be. And if it comes down to it, there are also a number of natural hair colours that can mask the grey until we are a little more prepared to face it.

Natural options to ensure a healthy hair follicle
Ginkgo Biloba has long been studied for it's use in memory and conditions of decreased cognition. One of the mechanisms by which it works is simply that it increases blood flow/circulation, in this case, to the brain. That being said, it has also been shown to increase blood flow to the hair follicle. More blood means more oxygen, supplying the hair follicle with the nutrients it needs to stay strong and healthy. Prickly ash and rosemary are said to have similar actions in terms of circulation. Silica has long been used for support of strong and healthy hair and nails, as it is a major constituent of healthy connective tissue/collagen. Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense) is also included in many formulas as a source of silica. Silica is available in capsule form to be taken internally, or as a serum which can be applied directly to hair. Essential fatty acids, B-vitamins, iodine, selenium, zinc and amino acid complexes can also be useful to improve hair quality and support a healthy hair follicle. Most of the research on all of these products is aimed at preventing and treating premature hair loss more so than greying, however.

If all else fails, cover it up (naturally, of course)
Recently, a variety of natural permanent and semi-permanent hair colours have been released into the natural healthcare/bodycare market, many containing no ammonia or parabens and fortified with natural essential oils. These formulations are meant to not only provide lasting colour, but to nourish the hair, as well. Many are also vegan. These are an effective and safe alternative to some of the damaging products used in commercial salons, some of which have been shown to contain potential carcinogens, like Phenylenediamines (PPD's). Scary!

The final answer? Greying may be a process that we have very little control over (sigh!). Do the best you can to support a healthy hair follicle, colour your hair, if you feel the need, or simply embrace what mother nature intended. Hey, if George Clooney can pull it off...

Shop for Natural Herbatint Hair Colour

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