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Mehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease), answeredGray hair is as inevitable as death and taxes; eventually we all go gray. That’s because as we age our hair follicles stop producing the pigment that colors our hair. The process happens earlier for some folks, mostly due to genetics, but premature graying can also be caused by environmental factors.
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YouBeauty answeredIt’s long been believed that people get gray hair when the cells in the hair follicle (called melanocytes) stop injecting the strands with melanin. For most people, those first errant strands start popping up sometime in the mid-30s to early 40s, but for some it occurs even earlier than that. The result: an unpigmented hair that, despite its gray appearance, is actually white.
But a breakthrough three years ago at the University of Bradford in Great Britain found that was only half of the gray hair puzzle. They discovered that youthful hair cells produce hydrogen peroxide that gets converted into hydrogen and oxygen. But as we age, even that system starts slowing down leaving hair to (essentially) bleach strands from the inside out.
Genetics play a role, too, as does genotoxic stress (chemical stressors that bring about DNA damage), not the plain-‘ol my-kids-are-driving-me-crazy melee. (Though a stressful life event, such as divorce or illness, can trigger a condition that causes hair to shed more quickly, and the regenerated hair could grow back in gray).