Portrait of a woman with thick grey hair

Young children associate grey hair with age. They tend to think that people with a lot of silver strands are ancient. Of course, everyone seems timeworn when you can count your age on two hands. And, it is true that grey hair is associated with age; except now you know that you don’t need to be super old and infirm before the grey creeps into your life. When does good hair go grey? Why does hair go grey? And is there a problem if you’re completely grey before then?

When Does Hair Go Grey?


If you once believed that only elderly folks had silver hair and now you’re convinced that it’s time to check into an assisted care home, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Normal greying is usually tied to age and race. Caucasians often spot grey hairs in their mid-30s, Asians towards the late-30s and Africans will notice the silver in their mid-40s. It’s estimated that most people can detect significant silver, white or grey on their heads before their 50s.


Premature greying is another story. If you’ve got a full head of silver before you turn 30, you might want to have a medical check-up. Premature greying can be completely normal (and the result of genetics) – or it could signal thyroid or pituitary issues. It may also be a Vitamin B-12 deficiency. If your early silvers link to these causes, it’s possible to reverse the colour without a visit to the salon or buying a box of hair dye.


So, How Does It Happen?


The colour of your hair is the balance between two melanins or pigments, and these are linked to those all important chromosomes your parents gave you. These two colours are eumelanin (black and brown tones) and pheomelanin (yellow and red). That’s it. But, between these two melanins, any number of combinations is possible. The ratio determines the melanocytes (or colour) pumped into the keratin proteins in your hair bulbs. You’ve probably heard the word keratin before; hair product manufacturers love to splay it across their products. It’s essentially the lifeblood of your hair.


As you age, your produce less melanin and the colour of your hair (as well as your skin) tends to fade a little. Incidentally, this is why you and your sisters have matching hair colours. It’s also why the blondest of babies grow into brunette teenagers (the melanin levels grow while you do).


Scientists are still uncertain about the relationship between hair colour and stress. However, it does appear that significant physical changes can disrupt the levels of melanin produced. That’s why some women find post-partum a few more greys or another hue along the way.


And, if you’re wondering why some beards appear reddish, and hairs elsewhere on your body appear darker than the hair on your head – that’s the balance of melanocytes pumped into the keratin of those follicles.


Can you do anything about nature hair tones or imbalances? You can always buy a box of colour, but you may just want to accept your grey hair for what it is. After all, it’s only children that will believe that you’re so old because of the hues on your head, and according to New York Fashion Week, the colour known as “Granny Grey” is very much the in thing at the moment.