One sign of getting older is the appearance of lighter colored strands or grey hairs in our hair. Long associated with wisdom and aging, grey hair has come to be the accepted outcome of a life of experiences. However, there are some whose hair starts to grey as early as their teens. Others take many more years to start going grey than average. So, why does hair turn grey?
Our hair is made of cells similar to our fingernails. The reason our hair has color instead of being transparent like the fingernails is the presence of the substance melanin. This substance is responsible for the pigmentation of almost every living thing. It controls the color of our skin, hair, and more.
Scientists have determined that grey hairs are not, in fact, grey. Instead, they are transparent like the fingernails. This means that there is a pronounced lack of melanin in these hair strands. They appear as grey when viewed against the backdrop of our normal hair color.
There is no single answer as to why the hair follicles stop producing melanin in sufficient quantities to keep our hair from going grey. Age, stress, and genetics have all been linked to the onset of graying hair. Another recent discovery made in Britain indicates that failure in the hair follicles to produce sufficient quantities of the enzyme, catalase. This enzyme works to break down hydrogen peroxide which is produced as a by product of cellular metabolism.
As any hairdresser can attest, a buildup of hydrogen peroxide on the hair can and will strip the melanin out of each strand and leave them bleached and colorless. Reduced amounts of catalase allowing for more hydrogen peroxide and reduction in production of melanin occurring together could account for the vast majority of peoples hair turning grey each year.
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