By: Dr Najia Ashraf
The onset of grey hair and the speed at which people go grey varies from person to person. Most people actually start going grey in their late 20s but they don’t notice it immediately. Premature greying is defined as grey hair onset before late teens for Caucasians and before age 30 in Africans and Asians, or alternatively 50% or more grey scalp hair before age 50.
It is extremely important to obtain an accurate diagnosis before trying to find a cure. Many diseases and conditions share common symptoms. If you treat yourself for the wrong illness, you may delay legitimate treatment of a serious underlying problem. In other words, the greatest danger is self-treatment may be self-diagnosis. If you do not know what you really have, you cannot treat it.
The time and speed of grey hair onset is due in part to genetics and early onset grey hair development can run in families.
The hair has a tendency to lose its natural color with advancing age and turn grey, but premature aging is a morbid condition and it makes even the young look older. The hair is an appendage of the skin. It is composed of the same kinds of cells as are found in the outer layer of the skin, which is known as epidermis. Hair grows from hair follicles which are deep recesses in the epidermis. The sebaceous glands of the scalp secrete an oily substance called sebum, which is the source of nutrition, luster and blackness of the hair. The hair cannot be fed externally, for such nourishment, as the scalp requires must come to it from bloodstream.
Why do some people go grey early? and does it have any health implications?
Hair grows in stages, with a certain percentage of hair either growing or resting at any one time. The hair follicles_ the little bags under the skin where hair is formed out of skin_ also contain pigment called melanin.
When the body stops producing pigments, the hair becomes colorless, turning white, mixed with darker hair, this produces a look most commonly associated with “grey”. An actual grey hair may be a result of pigment dilution.
Links To Other Health Conditions
Premature greying has been associated with certain medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, vitiligo, vitamin B12 deficiency and anemia. Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition in which the cells that make pigment are destroyed, resulting in patches of hair and skin that become white.
There may also be a link with decreases bone mineral density in post menopausal women, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis. In a study of 293 healthy post menopausal women, those who had experienced premature greying of a majority of their hair by age 40 had decreased bone density throughout their bones compared with women who did not have premature greying.
But more recent research published showed the opposite, that going prematurely grey is not necessarily an indicator of osteoporosis.
Causes Of Premature Greying
Faulty Diet, Mental Worries And Lack Of Vitamins
A faulty diet and mental worries are the two primary causes of premature greying of hair. Lack of some of the B vitamins, iron, copper and iodine in the daily diet is said to be a contributory factor. Mental worries produce extraordinary tension in the skin of the scalp, this interferes with the supply of vital nutrition necessary for the health of the hair.
Heredity, Unclean Condition Of The Scalp etc
Other causes of premature greying of hair are an unclean condition of the scalp, washing the hair with hot water, drying it with an electric dryer and use of hair dyes. Heredity is also a predisposing factor.
Premature Greying Of Hair Treatment Using Vitamins
The vitamins considered useful in guarding against premature greying of hair are pantothenic acid, paraaminobenzoic acid, inositol. The minimum daily requirement of these vitamins appears to be 10mg of pantothenic acid, 100 mg of para _aminobenzoic acid and 2 gm of inositol. To obtain satisfactory results, all 3 of these vitamins belonging to the B group should be supplied at one time, preferably in a form which supplies all the B vitamins, such as yeast and liver. The three anti-greying hair vitamins can also be produced in the intestinal tract by bacteria. Thus, taking a sufficient quantity of yogurt daily and a tablespoonful of yeast before each meal is an excellent remedy for the prevention and treatment of premature greying of hair. If one whishes to take tablets of calcium pantothenate and para- aminobenzoic acid, they should be taken in addition to the yeast and yogurt and not as a substitute for them.
Treatment For Premature Greying Of Hair
- A drop in melanin production may be caused by a lack of mineral copper. Eat foods such as crab, oysters, sunflower seeds, cashews and almonds, which have significant amounts of copper.
- To obtain better results, iron and iodine should be taken in the form of seafood. Besides fish, which is the main source of iodine, the requirement of this mineral can be met by adequate intake of carrots, bananas and similar other vegetables and fruits. Carrots are especially useful in furnishing fresh blood and maintaining the health of the hair.
- Nourishment and proper grooming is very important to maintain hair texture, growth, shine and luster in a good condition. Therefore, use a shampoo and conditioner that suits your hair type. For daily washes, use a shampoo that is mild, gentle and moisturizing.
- Dyeing is one of the most common ways of treating grey hair. Chemical dyes sold in the markets aid in coloring your hair. Though it is the most opted way, some people do not prefer it due to the reaction of its chemical properties on the hair and scalp.
- Henna coloring is one of the natural and traditional ways of treating grey hair. Henna cools the body as well as renders softness apart from coloring the hair.