Look at photos of President Barack Obama before he took office. Now look at one after: there’s a lot of gray hair. And that’s understandable when you’ve the crushing mantle of Most Powerful Man On The Planet for eight years straight. But unbridled stress is not the only reason why you go gray.
According to a 2018 paper by the International Journal of Trichology, 50 per cent of the population will have about 50 per cent gray hair by the age of 50 (wowee, that’s a lot of 50s). It’s a complex topic that involves many factors, and if it’s something that’s bothering you, hair and scalp specialist Mark Birch has some sage advice if you want to delay the process.
Five Reasons You’re Going Gray
1. You’re Not Keeping It Clean
This one shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, but having a clean and healthy scalp can directly influence the wellbeing of your hair—and also the color of it. You should wash your hair pretty regularly, and when you’re looking for a shampoo or a conditioner, be sure to keep a close eye on the ingredients list.
“Shampoos, conditioners, and care products should contain natural active ingredients, and unnecessary chemicals and perfumes must be avoided.” says Birch. “By choosing high-quality and gentle hair products, you contribute to the overall wellbeing of the hair and scalp. This can go a long way especially if you’re already seeing a few strands of gray here and there.”
2. You’re Treating It Too Harshly
While we’re on the topic of squeaky, lovely, shiny hair, it’s essential that you avoid harsh hair treatments and hair styling products. Sure, hitting the bleach and getting all permed up might look pretty cool, but it’s no secret that it can cause some considerable damage in the long run.
“Heat styling tools and chemical treatments can damage follicles, which can potentially accelerate graying.” says Birch. “Treat your hair gently by properly moisturizing it with products like oils and serums, and avoid applying unnecessary stress to it. This is one of the easiest ways to keep your hair nice and healthy.”
3. Your Diet’s Not Up to Snuff
It’s not just about what products you put (or don’t put) on your hair that can affect it. Having a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and proteins can also potentially slow down the whole graying process. You are what you eat, and all that.
“A diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins such as vitamin E, C, and B-complex, and minerals like copper and zinc may help protect hair follicles from oxidative stress, which is linked to graying.” says Birch. “Foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains are good choices. Ensuring a balanced diet with sufficient protein intake is crucial for maintaining healthy hair. Hair is primarily made of a protein called keratin, so a lack of protein in your diet might impact its health.”
4. You’re Still Smoking
Like a cigarette every once in a while? Well, if you’re worried about going gray, it might be time to toss out those Marlboros for good. Giving up smoking can be tough, but it will save your hair (and your bank balance) in the long run.