Going gray is something that most of us will have to deal with at some point in our lives. Nearly all men will develop gray hair as they age and for some it can be a traumatic and irritating experience.
A lot of men find turning gray hard to deal with and accept, especially if they’re young. In fact, many men begin to show signs of graying hair as early as their thirties.
Graying hair is something that affects millions of men around the world, both young and old. So, I thought it’d be a good idea to provide you with this guide on how to deal with going gray. By reading this article and learning the facts about gray hair, the causes and remedies available, and how to accept your situation, you can regain your self-confidence and move forward with your life.
Causes of Gray Hair
Hair turns gray as we age because the follicles at the base of the hair shaft cease to produce melanin. Each hair follicle contains a certain number of pigment cells. These pigment cells continuously produce melanin, a chemical that gives the hair shaft (the visible strands growing out of our heads) its natural color (brown, blonde, red, and anything in between). How light or dark your hair is depends on how much melanin each strand contains.
As we get older, the pigment cells in the hair follicle slowly die off. With fewer pigment cells in the follicle, the strand of hair will no longer contain as much melanin (color) and will become a more transparent color such as white, silver or gray. With age, each strand of hair will have fewer pigment cells to produce melanin. Overtime, the hair will become completely gray.
Now that you understand why hair turns gray as we age, I will now outline a few other factors that may be related to your hair turning gray.
Genetics – It’s common knowledge that your genetics play a major part in when your hair turns gray. If one of your parents turns gray in their younger years, there is a possibility that you will too. Some men may begin the graying process as early as their teens, while others may be well into their forties.
Ethnicity – As a general guideline, the graying process normally begins in a person’s thirties and accelerates as he ages. If you’re Caucasian, it is likely that you’ll notice graying in your mid-thirties. Asians normally begin to go gray in their late thirties while those of African descent may not experience any graying until their mid-forties.
Smoking – Although smoking cigarettes doesn’t cause your hair to turn gray, the effects of smoking has been linked to premature aging. If you’re genetically programmed to start the graying process at a particular age, smoking may accelerate the aging process causing your hair to lose melanin prematurely.
Stress – It is a well-known fact that stress can cause hair loss, but what about gray hair? Although there is no evidence to support this theory, many medical professionals believe that there may be a link between premature graying and the causes of constant worry and stress.
Medical conditions – There are various medical conditions that are known to cause gradual or sudden graying of the hair, including:
- Vitiligo. A pigmentation disorder in which the melanocytes (the cells that produce pigment) in the skin are destroyed. This results in very light patches of skin and possibly patches of premature gray hair.
- Alopecia areata. An autoimmune condition which causes patchy hair loss. When new hair grows back, it’s often initially colored gray or white.
- Thyroid disease. Conditions such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism have been linked with premature graying of the hair.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. It can be caused by a diet low in vitamin B12, which is found primarily in meat, milk and eggs. Deficiency of B12 can also result from diseases that affect the small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease.
Graying hair that is caused by a medical condition can usually be reversed after successful treatment of the disorder.
Gray Hair Myths
To rule out any other causes of going gray, I’ve listed some myths about gray hair that you may or may not have heard of before.
If you pluck one gray hair, two or more will grow back. This is impossible. Each hair on your head comes out from its own hair follicle. If a hair is plucked, only one new hair can grow back in its place. Unfortunately, you will see one new gray hair grow back to replace the plucked hair.
Too much sun causes gray hair. This myth is likely due to the fact that ear and nose hairs do not go gray as quickly as those on the scalp. Although sunlight can lighten hair, there is no scientific evidence that excessive exposure to sunlight can cause hair to turn gray.
A traumatic experience can make your hair turn gray overnight. An old wives tale that suggests a person’s hair can turn gray overnight after experiencing a traumatic event. Although there is thought to be a link between gray hair and stress, it is impossible for a whole head of hair to turn gray after a single traumatic event.
Gray hair is reversible. Until Scientists discover a way to halt, delay or cure the graying process, once you see a gray hair, it is permanent and there is no natural way to restore it.
Gray Hair Remedies
So you’re going gray. What do you do? Well, there are many types of gray hair treatments available, however, whether they work or not is another question.
Dubious treatments – As mentioned above, once a hair follicle turns gray it is irreversible. There is currently no treatment that can make it start producing pigment again, no matter what supplement manufacturers try to tell you.
Most gray hair supplements typically include Chinese herbs such as PABA, folic acid or Fo-Ti to name but a few. Each supplement will claim to darken or restore the natural color of people with gray hair. Though products containing these “gray hair remedies” may be successful in very rare cases where the graying process is caused due to a deficiency in certain nutrients, in almost all cases, these products are ineffective and a waste of time and money.
And with gray hair remedies comes the old wives’ tales. If you search the internet for home remedies you’ll find hundreds of lotions and potions that have been passed down from generation to generation. From ingesting blackstrap molasses to rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar; these treatments may be cheap but it’s extremely doubtful that they’ll work.
If you come across a product that claims to cure gray hair, be sure that it’s a scam. If you’re unsure, look online for consumer reviews (a word of warning; positive reviews are likely to be written by marketers that are endorsing the product) and most importantly, make sure that the product is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Remember that pretty much all gray hair remedies exist to make the marketer money – not to reverse your gray hair.
Best Treatments – The only real way to get rid of gray hair is to disguise it using hair coloring products. Some people think that it’s not manly or attractive for a man to dye his hair. But what if you’re young and your hair is more than 50% gray? Or maybe you’re in your forties with no wrinkles and a full head of gray hair? Whatever your situation may be, men dying their hair is becoming more popular and is a treatment that can be considered. But with a growing amount of men’s hair coloring products on the market, it is best to first understand the different types available:
- Progressive coloring. Often known by the brand name ‘Grecian Formula,’ progressive dyes are used as a method of hair coloring to disguise or eliminate gray hair using a solution of metallic salts. The solution is applied daily, gradually allowing the salts to absorb oxygen from the air resulting in chemical changes that darkens hair due to staining. Hair is colored in stages, so you can stop when you’ve achieved the look you want and is considered a discrete way to color hair.
- Temporary color. Made of colored molecules that coat hair, temporary dyes are quick and easy to apply and are available in various forms such as rinses, shampoos, gels, sprays and foams. The pigment molecules in temporary dyes are large so cannot penetrate the cuticle layer. Therefore temporary dyes typically wash away after only a few washes, depending on the type.
- Semi-permanent color. This uses peroxide to allow color to partially penetrate the hair shaft. For this reason, the color is more permanent and will last twice as long when compared to temporary dyes. Semi-permanent dye will create subtle variations in shade across the whole head meaning it will give a more natural result in comparison to permanent dyes. However, it also means that gray hairs will not appear as the same shade as the rest of the hair. If you only have a few gray hairs, semi-permanent color will usually be enough for them to blend in, but as graying continues, there will come a point where your gray hair will not be disguised as well.
- Permanent color. This uses both peroxide and ammonia. The natural hair is lightened by the peroxide, providing a blank canvas for the dye, while the ammonia opens the hair shaft so that the dye can bond with the hair. Permanent coloring can be used to create both dark and lighter shades. The main disadvantage of permanent dyes is if you don’t like the color, you’re stuck with it until your hair grows out, or you dye it again, which can lead to unexpected hair color results.
Now, before you decide to color your gray hair, you must first consider the following:
A hairstylist will probably produce better results. If you’ve got a lot of gray hair, you’re likely to get a better result by going to the hairdresser instead of using DIY coloring kits. A professional colorist will be able to mix the right amount of color formula to ensure a natural looking finish.
Coloring your hair on a regular basis can be expensive. You can pay $20 on a box of Just For Men and do the job at home or $30 (excluding haircut and tip) for a professional men’s color treatment. Of course, it doesn’t forever and when the gray hair starts to show, you’ll need to reapply color. You can expect to reapply color every four to six weeks, depending on how gray you are to begin with.
Bad hair coloring can make you look stupid. If you color your gray hair with the wrong shade, it can look unnatural and appear obvious to others that you dye your hair.
Hair coloring can have adverse effects. Due to the chemicals used to remove, replace and/or cover up pigments naturally found inside the hair shaft, coloring your hair can cause adverse effects such as; skin irritation, hair breakage, skin discoloration and even hair loss. Using permanent hair coloring for an extended period of time has also been linked to certain types of cancers and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Accepting That You’re Going Gray
For most guys, gray hair means feeling old. The best way to deal with graying hair is to accept the fact that you’re going gray and embrace it. It’s cheaper and involves less work than the above options. If you’ve noticed a few gray hairs, remember that millions of men go gray every year and it is part of the natural ageing process. According to recent studies, more and more men are graying gracefully each year. So why not join them. George Clooney can pull it off, so why can’t you.
Hairstyles for Men with Gray Hair
As the color of our hair changes to gray, the texture of the hair and the thickness changes too. Gray hair tends have a stiffer texture compared to others. Receding hairlines, thinning hair and bald spots also have an influence on what styles will look good on a man. Therefore selecting the right hairstyle is important for any man that wants to look his best.
In general, the best looking hairstyles for men with gray hair tend to be short. Below are some short hairstyle ideas.
Short to Medium Length Hair with Razor Ends
Side Parted Hairstyle
If you’re not sure what to do about your graying hair, ask your barber or hairstylist for advice next time you go for a haircut. Remember that they deal with male clients that are going gray all the time so there’s no need to feel embarrassed.