Why Do We Get Grey Hair?

Some think having grey hair makes them appear distinguished or intelligent; others just think it makes them look old. Either way, grey hair is a natural sign of aging for all of us, but why does our hair turn grey and why does it happen to some people earlier in life than others?

ThinkstockPhotos-78814148Each strand of hair on our head is surrounded by a tube of tissue called a follicle. These follicles contain pigment cells that produce the chemical, melanin, which gives our hair its color. As we get older, the pigment cells in our hair follicles gradually die. When there are fewer pigment cells in a hair follicle, that strand of hair will no longer contain as much melanin and the hair will become a more transparent color — like grey, silver, or white as it grows.

People can get grey hair at any age. How early we get grey hair is determined by heredity. When you’re born, your genes are already hardwired for when and how quickly your hair will turn grey. This means that most of us will start developing grey hairs when our parents or grandparents did. This also applies to those who turn grey prematurely—people who grey before age 30 usually do so because it runs in their family.

While some researchers say that your genes are solely responsible for grey hair, others say that there seems to be a connection between greying and stress. While this may be true, the belief that a single traumatic or shocking event will cause your hair to suddenly turn grey is not true. Hair, once grown, doesn’t change color, so waking up with a head of white hair isn’t going to happen.

Another myth is that if you pluck one grey hair, it will cause three new ones to grow in its place. This old wives’ tale is simply not true. Each follicle can contain only one hair, and plucking it won’t make it able to produce multiple hairs. What happens to one follicle has no bearing on others.

So whether you plan to embrace your grey hair or cover it with any number of dyes and other concealing products, just know that there is no avoiding it – if and when you turn grey has already been decided.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.