At Madison Reed, we LOVE to talk hair color, whether it’s blonde, brown, red, black, or a full head of striking silver with a dash of salt and pepper gray. We’ve got tips, tricks and interesting tidbits, especially when it comes to your gray hair. Read on for an overview on what causes canities, which is the technical term for gray hair.
What Causes Gray Hair?
Don’t worry (literally)—no clear link between stress and gray hair has been found. What actually causes gray hair is as simple as normal aging. As we get older, we produce less of two enzymes: the first is an enzyme that helps break down hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a well-known tool for bleaching hair, but did you know your hair cells actually make hydrogen peroxide? As we age, the amount produced increases, ultimately bleaching hair pigment.
With age, we also produce less of another enzyme that helps repair damaged hair follicles. This slow down reduces the amount of pigment, or melanin, we produce. Melanin actually comes in two shades: eumelanin, which is a dark brown or black, and pheomelanin, which is yellow or red. These two melanins combine to create the variety of hair color we see. If the amount of melanin is reduced, hair turns gray. Once the production of melanin is stopped altogether, hair turns white.
Is there a gene for gray hair?
What exactly causes the reduced production of melanin has remained a mystery until recently, when an international team of researchers discovered the first gene linked to gray hair. This newly identified gene--IRF4--regulates and produces melanin. In total, researchers identified 18 genes responsible for the look and feel of hair, genes linked to hair shape, curliness, other genes linked to beard and eyebrow thickness, even a gene marker for unibrow.
Clearly DNA and genetics factor in, but there’s no universal age that we go gray. Typically, Caucasians start going gray in their mid-30s, earlier if they are redheads, Asians in their late 30s, and African-Americans in their late-40s. Then there is something that dermatologists call the 50-50-50 rule: Fifty percent of the population has about a 50% chance of gray hair by age 50.
GRAY HAIR CARE
So what do you do if you find a gray hair? Or a few hundred? First—resist plucking. Perhaps you’ve heard the beauty myth that if you pluck a gray hair, three more will grow back in its place? While that is a myth, the actual truth may be worse. Like tweezing your eyebrows, plucking can traumatize the hair follicle and discourage regrowth. Translation: thinner hair in the long term, and possible bald patches.
Instead, start from the inside out. Studies have shown that gray hair may be exacerbated by a lack of B vitamins in your diet. Healthy foods feed your hair the same way they nourish your body, so make sure you stay hydrated and choose healthy snacks high in protein and B vitamins, like liver and carrots.
There is also a significant association with smoking and tobacco use. Yet another reason to quit smoking...or not to start.
Because gray hair is usually coarser and can be dryer than regular hair, you also want to condition it consistently to restore smoothness. Gray hair is more susceptible to discoloration and yellowing caused by the sun, chlorine, or mineral deposits in your water. To prevent this, rinse hair with water before and after swimming, or, better yet, wear a swim cap. Protect hair in the sun with a scarf or hat, and consider adding a filter to your shower head if your water contains a lot of deposits.
Of course, there is a silver lining to gray hair. While it may be coarser, gray hair is often thicker, stronger ... wiser.
Let’s say you have a few grays that you want to get rid of, but you know you’re not supposed to pluck them. Easy--keep your hair full by camouflaging rogue strands with an instant, semi-temporary solution like Madison Reed Root Touch Up. The brush-on powder is made of micro-milled pigments for incredible natural-looking coverage. Water-resistant and pillow-proof, it sets right away and stays put until you wash your hair. Available in eight shades from caviar-like black to platinum blonde, so you’re sure to find your perfect match. Other instant fix: change up your part to hide pesky problem spots — pronto.
TIP: Looking for a great shampoo for gray hair? Use sulfate-free Madison Reed Color Protecting Shampoo for a gentle, yet effective cleanse. The unique formula is derived from coconut oil, helping to hydrate, strengthen, and preserve hair’s natural proteins.
If you have too much gray to touch up, or want something with a bit more coverage, than a permanent color like Madison Reed Radiant Cream Color is the answer. It delivers gorgeous, multi-dimensional, 100% gray coverage. Apply it to the densest areas first so it has the most processing time. Repeat application to the ends of hair where you may not have as much gray.
To find a hue that’s right for you, start with the innovative Madison Reed shade matching tool. After a few quick questions, we’ll recommend which Madison Reed hair colors will flatter you (and cover your grays) best.
TIP: Preserve color and help soften coarse texture with Madison Reed Color Protecting Conditioner. It contains nutrients such as lupine flower protein, keratin, argan oil and ginseng root extract to help nourish and shield your beautiful color with UV protection.
Some gray can be resistant to hair color. If this is true for you, consider dropping down a color level or using something darker on your roots to deliver even more coverage, such as Madison Reed Knockouts. This exclusive gray hair dye is specially formulated to cover the most resistant gray without sacrificing depth, tone, shine or dimensionality, no matter the percentage of total gray or the texture of hair. Ranging from true light brown to true darkest brown, this formula has real staying power and covers grays seamlessly for all-over color that respects the hair's natural dimensionality.
TIP: Turn up the volume to help hide gray. Use Madison Reed Style, a lightweight styling cream before blow drying for natural-looking hold that won’t weigh down tresses.
These tips, along with a better understanding of the science behind gray hair, helps us create products to give you great color and coverage, from blonde to black and all the shades of gray in between.