Getting grey strands of hair isn’t the most welcoming change happening to your body. What exactly triggers this sudden change in your hair, you ask?
Gray hairs pop up when your body stops producing pigment cells aka the melanin in your strands that gives them their color, says Anabel Kingsley, consultant trichologist and Director of Communications at Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic.
“But the hair isn’t actually gray, it’s just un-pigmented or colorless,” she says.
However, if you’ve ever really inspected a gray hair (you’re not alone, we’ve all done it under the bathroom vanity light), you’d see that the strand almost looks yellow. This is because keratin, the protein that makes up your hair, has a naturally yellow tint to it. So, when your hair loses its melanin, the yellow hue of keratin shows through, Kingsley explains.
The main cause of grays are the genes you inherit, so yes, that’s part of it. “When we go gray [it] can be inherited from either our mother or father’s side of the family,” she says—i.e. if your mom and dad went gray when they were young, then you have a greater chance of it happening to you around the same age. Alternatively, if they didn’t see grays until much later in life, then most likely you won’t either.
Stress, too, can play a role in losing the melanin in your hair, but you’d still have to have the genetic predisposition, while a vitamin B deficiency has also been linked to premature graying, Kingsley adds.
Unfortunately there’s no way to reverse or delay graying hair. But here are a few recommendations on how to hide grays if you’re not yet ready to embrace them—and how to care for silver strands if you’re ready to welcome them.
1. Dye your hair.
Rule No. 1? DO NOT pluck grays to get rid of them. “If you repeatedly pluck silver hairs,—or any hair actually—it can damage the hair follicle, eventually causing the hair to stop growing all together,” Kingsley warns. So, to camouflage their appearance longer, which can help them blend into the rest of your hair color better, dyeing your hair is one of the best options.
2. Add highlights.
“If you don’t want to go darker with your color [to cover grays], getting highlights also helps to camouflage any silver strands that come through so they’re not as obvious,” Kingsley says.
3. Use temporary concealers, like powders and sprays.
Kingsley suggests waiting six to eight weeks between coloring your hair to minimize any breakage.