Ariel Laur is a freelance writer from NYC who shares her wealth of knowledge about health, beauty, and nutrition.
If you are starting to notice gray hairs springing up on your head, you are not alone. Over 60% of Americans have at least some gray hair by the age of 40. Researchers are hard at work searching for a "magic pill" to restore pigment to gray hair. Meanwhile, those of us beginning to get salt-and-pepper hair are left to make some lifestyle changes to remedy the situation. I have put together some of the best ways to prevent, diminish, and eliminate the gray hair on your head, which include:
- eating certain foods, especially those rich in copper and biotin;
- taking supplements;
- reducing stress and exercising;
- getting enough sleep;
- and massaging the scalp.
But first, let us consider why our hair is going gray in the first place.
Why Is My Hair Turning Gray?
Hair turns gray as a result of decreased melanin production in the hair follicle. Gray hairs typically start appearing around age 30 for men and age 35 for women. There are variations among races as well: Caucasians usually begin seeing gray hair in their late 20s, Asians in their late 30s, and African Americans in their late 40s.
The gradual decrease of melanin production causes hair to lose its pigment. Hair that has lost most of its melanin is gray; when melanin completely stops being produced, the hair loses all pigment and appears white. There also seems to be a connection between gray hair and an increased buildup of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicle; this buildup works to bleach the hair.
How Can Changing Your Lifestyle Prevent Gray Hair?
Genetics isn't the only factor that affects gray hair. Stress hormones disrupt the delivery of melanin to the hair. Tyler Cymet, head of family medicine at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, conducted a retrospective study and found that continued stress leads to a rapid increase in gray hair. Therefore, while genetics does play a large role, you can also change the occurrence of gray hair through your lifestyle.
Minimizing Stress and Getting Enough Sleep
Decreasing your stress levels and getting the right amount of sleep can decrease the amount of gray hair on your head. Furthermore, a healthy diet that includes certain vitamins and supplements can put you on the road to preventing gray hair and even reviving your hair back to its original color.
Consider Improving Your Diet
Following a healthy diet that's rich in vegetables and proteins will give the body the building blocks it needs to create a beautiful head of hair with less gray strands. Consuming a diet based primarily on whole foods will help with not only your hair, but your overall health as well.
There are certain vitamins that can help with hair health as well as melanin production. Being deficient in certain nutrients could have a correlation with how much melanin is produced during hair growth. Taken daily, over time, those vitamins and minerals could bring the natural color back to your hair.
Biotin provides both your hair and nails with the building blocks they need to thrive. Biotin can be taken in supplements or ingested through certain foods. Foods with the greatest amount of biotin include:
- Sunflower seeds
Copper is an antioxidant and is essential for building strong tissue. It is also believed to play a necessary role in the production of pigment, and the lack of copper in common diets has been linked to the increase of gray hair. Copper can be taken as a supplement, but it can also be found in certain foods. Foods that contain a significant amount of copper include:
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Lima beans
- Blackstrap molasses
Copper is the secret component of molasses that is said to return gray hair to its pigment-rich condition. Many people find great results in eliminating gray hair by taking blackstrap molasses.
To use: Spoon one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses into a cup of hot water, tea or milk, stir to dissolve, and drink. Repeat daily.
Reishi mushrooms, also known as Lingzhi mushrooms, originated from China and Japan. Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) work to improve the immune system and supposedly turn back the hands of time. There is possible evidence to prove the healing properties of this mushroom that was once only available to the nobility of China. It can be purchased in capsules or in a loose powder.
Pay Attention to Your Sleep
Sleep reduces stress and is restorative. It is during sleep that the body heals and resets. Basically, more sleep means less stress. With less stress blocking your melanin production, your hair follicles can grow hair with pigment. Making sure you get the amount of sleep you need will not only help you in eliminating grays, but will benefit your whole body and sense of well-being.
Sleep Requirement Guide
- Adults between the ages of 26 and 64 generally need about 7–9 hours of sleep.
- People over 64 need roughly 7–8 hours.
- The amount of sleep one needs varies from person to person.
Stress brings on premature gray hair, and it can increase the number of grays for someone who already has gray hair. You can reduce stress by finding ways to relax. Stress uses up the body's energy instead of allowing our bodies to expend that energy to grow healthy, colorful hair.
A few ways to reduce stress include:
- Listening to music
- Talking to a friend
- Drinking calming tea
- Yoga, stretching, or meditation
- Taking a few slow deep breaths whenever you remember (try it now!)
Try a Scalp Massage
Give yourself a scalp massage, or have someone else give you one. This increases circulation to the hair follicles, which could facilitate a return to your original hair color. It might also help you relax, reducing stress as well.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Ariel Laur