What Causes Grey Hair and Why You Should Learn to Embrace It

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re experiencing a major rite of passage in every woman’s life: You’ve just discovered your first grey hair. You’ll probably hate us for saying this, but going grey is a natural part of ageing. We think that silver grey hair is fabulous. Don’t believe us? Keep reading to learn more about grey hair and how to make the most of your own greys.

Sofie Tidemand

Co-founder, HairLust

Sofie is co-founder of HairLust. She is a hair-nerd with capital H, and loves to share her hair care experience with others. She has a keen interest in learning and testing the latest trends in hair care, styling tips and natural ingredients. Read more.

Like wrinkles, grey hairs are a visible sign of ageing - and let's be clear, there is nothing wrong with that. It's a part of life - and a beautiful part at that. But if you've ever wondered just what actually causes hair to change colour over time, you're not alone. In this article, I'll explain what triggers grey hair, whether it can be delayed and what hair care you need for grey hair. Intrigued? Continue reading to learn everything you should know about grey hair.

What is Grey Hair?

Grey hair is the same as pigmented hair except for one key exception: Grey hair lacks pigment. Pigment is what gives hair its natural color, whether that’s blonde, black, red, or somewhere in between. Without pigment, hair appears grey, silver, or white.

Greys are most noticeable on women with naturally dark hair since there is more contrast between the grey hairs and the dark hairs. All hair colors turn grey, but on redheads and blondes the greys tend to blend with the pigmented hairs (think blonde hair with grey highlights), creating the illusion that the overall shade is getting lighter over time.

What Causes Grey Hair?

Hair goes grey thanks to melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment called melanin. As we age, those melanocytes wear out and stop producing melanin. Without that steady supply of melanin, hair loses its color and turns grey, silver, or white.

This greying process starts with a few white hairs mixed in here and there, which creates salt and pepper hair. As more hairs lose their color, hair turns silver grey. Eventually, all of the hair loses its color and hair appears white.

Does Grey Hair Feel Different?

Contrary to popular belief, grey is hair not coarser or more wiry than pigmented strands. In fact, grey hair is typically finer. However, as we age, our scalps produce less oil. This means that grey hair is more prone to drying out, which can make it feel coarser than pigmented hair. With the right kind of moisturising treatments, grey hair can feel just as soft as pigmented hair (but more on that later).

Can Grey Hair Become Pigmented Again?

Alas, once those melanocytes wear out and stop producing melanin, that’s pretty much it for your natural hair color. Despite what some sources claim, there is no way for hair to become pigmented again once it’s turned grey (besides coloring it).

The only exception is if your hair has gone grey or white due to a medical condition, but those cases are rare.

When Do Most Women Go Grey?

According to the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, hair first starts to turn grey between the ages of 34 and 44. But many women start to go grey before they are 34 and that’s okay! Going grey before the age of 34 doesn’t mean that you’re unhealthy or something is wrong.

Does Everyone Get Grey Hair?

Everybody’s hair goes grey after a while. It’s a natural part of the ageing process. However, it does seem like some people retain their natural hair color way into their sixties, while other women notice their first greys in high school. So what gives?

Exactly when your hair starts going grey is primarily linked to genetics. So if someone in your family had greys at an early age, you’re more likely to as well.

Ethnicity can also play a role in hair greying. People of Caucasian origin tend to start going grey earlier than people of other backgrounds.

Is It Possible to Slow the Rate of Greying Hair?

If you’re looking for a way to prevent grey hair, we regret to inform you that there is no such thing. However, there are some factors that are thought to make hair go grey more quickly. Following these tips will help you eliminate those factors and may slow the rate of greying hair:

1. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

Studies suggest that low levels of certain minerals in the diet, like vitamin B12, vitamin D3, copper and iron, can cause loss of pigment in the hair. To prevent premature greying, eat a well-rounded diet with plenty of whole, protein-rich foods like eggs, fish and milk.

2. Take Your Vitamins

Take Your Vitamins

Of course, eating a healthy diet is often easier said than done! That’s where hair vitamins come in. Our hair supplements are formulated with hair-healthy nutrients like vitamin B12 and biotin. They come in gummy and tablets formulas, but both provide essential nutrients for your hair follicles. Noteworthy is the content of copper, which contributes to normal hair pigmentation. By keeping your hair and scalp healthy with proper nutrition, you may be able to stave off greys.

3. Quit Smoking

Quit Smoking

Smoking doesn’t just age your skin – it also ages your hair. Scientists hypothesise that smoking may prematurely grey hair through oxidative stress on the hair follicles.

4. Reduce Stress

Reduce Stress

It’s thought that emotional and physical stress can make the hair follicles more susceptible to free radicals, resulting in prematurely grey hair. Prevent grey hair by reducing the stress levels in your life through lifestyle changes like exercising, getting more sleep and meditation.

Should You Color Your Grey Hair?

Many women opt to color their greys, but we actually recommend going au naturale. Silver grey hair is universally flattering and no one can deny that the silver fox look is in right now.

But besides silver grey hair being on-trend, embracing your greys demonstrates a certain self-confidence, which we love. Plus, colouring your hair causes damage, which can leave locks looking dull, lifeless, and brittle. Growing out your greys and rocking your natural hair color is the best way to keep your hair looking healthy and shiny.

If you already color your hair and want to embrace your greys, the key is to have your colourist help you make a gradual transition to silver grey instead of quitting hair color cold turkey. Your colourist can add highlights to help blur the line between your natural color and your dyed color, which will help to minimise the high contrast of that awkward growing out stage. Another option is to have your stylist give you blonde hair with grey highlights, which will grow out to grey more gracefully.

After that, you’ll just have to be patient and wait for your greys to grow in. But it will definitely be worth it. Just think how much money you’ll save by not needing to visit the hairdresser every few weeks!

Does Silver Grey Hair Need to Be Looked After Differently Than Other Shades?

Yes, silver grey hair requires a different haircare routine than pigmented hair. But if you’ve only just started noticing greys, you don’t need to worry about it for a while. Until your hair reaches about 30% grey, you can follow the same haircare routine you’ve always used. Once you get past the 30% point, follow these tips to keep your silver grey hair healthy and shiny:

Use Purple-Toned Shampoo & Conditioner

First things first, you’ll want to use a purple-toned shampoo and conditioner like our Hair Growth & Repair Set For Blondes to keep your silver grey tone beautiful. Silver grey hair and blonde hair with grey highlights have a tendency to turn yellow or brassy. Purple-toned cleansing products neutralise that brassiness, maintaining your silvery locks.

When hair is turning grey, the light colour in the hair will often change and take on a warm (and yellowish) undertone that requires proper treatment, like a purple shampoo, to be kept at bay. Watch how to below:

Moisturise Frequently

As we mentioned before, grey hair has a tendency towards dryness. Keep your greys shiny and moisturised with treatments like our Hair Growth & Protection Mask, which is formulated with natural ingredients like aloe vera, oat extract, and acai to imbue grey hair with moisture.

You can also use our Hair Defence & Hydration Mist as a leave-in treatment to keep hair moisturised all day.

Avoid Heat & Direct Sun

Both heat and direct sunlight can make greys turn a shade of yellow, which is not what you want! Since grey hair lacks pigment, it’s more prone to sun damage. Make sure to always use a heat protectant spray before styling your hair with heat. If you plan to be outdoors in the sun, opt for a hat or invest in a hair sunscreen. Our Hair Defence & Hydration Mist also offers some UV protection for silver grey hair and blonde hair with grey highlights!

5 Ways to Rock Silver Grey Hair

Ready to give silver hair a go? Here’s how to make the most of your new look:

1. Learn the Best Hairstyles

Greys are more fine and prone to dryness than pigmented hair, so if you’re embracing silver grey hair, you might find that the same hairstyles no longer work for you.

Ask your hairstylist to cut your hair in a way that works with your new hair texture instead of against it. The right haircut will not only flatter your new shade but it will also make styling easier for you. And less heat styling means less damage to your hair!

Find inspiration for the perfect silver grey hair look:

2. Consider Highlights

Depending on how your hair is greying, you can also explore adding some highlights. Face-framing white streaks can really make your greys pop and are very flattering whether you have silver grey hair or blonde hair with grey highlights.

3. Use the Right Products

Since greys are finer than pigmented hair, it takes a little extra effort to get volume and body into your locks. Using a root volumizer can work wonders for grey hair, giving it life and movement. I use the Scalp Follicle Treatment & Volumizer from HairLust, and I love it.

Grey hair’s tendency towards dryness can also leave you with unmanageable, frizzy areas, especially towards the ends. Use a moisturising hair oil like our Hair Strengthening & Protection Oil to calm frizz and make hair more manageable.

4. Protect It from Dryness

As we mentioned before, grey hair has a tendency to become dry. To keep your hair soft, shiny, and moisturised, use our Hair Growth & Protection Mask once per week. Then use a hair oil to add leave-in moisture as needed.

5. Wear Grey-Flattering Clothing and Makeup

The color of your hair has a big influence on which shades are most flattering on you. If you’re going grey, you might find that your go-to colours are no longer flattering.

For starters, having grey hair can wash out your complexion, so opting for blush in a warm peach, pink, or gold shade can give you back your glow. Similarly, opting for a pigmented lip gloss or lipstick in a warm shade can also brighten up your complexion.

What about clothing? Jewel tones tend to be universally flattering with silver grey hair and blonde hair with grey highlights. Think rich shades like purple, fuchsia, emerald green, and royal blue. Neutrals also look wonderful with silver grey hair, while pastels can work well with blonde hair with grey highlights.

But the bottom line is that you can wear whatever you want. Experiment and find out what looks best on you!

With the right care and styling techniques, silver grey hair is beautiful. We hope that this article encouraged you to embrace your greys! To keep your grey tone beautiful, my best tip remains: A purple-toned shampoo and conditioner like our Hair Growth & Repair Set For Blondes


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