Grey hair is often considered one of the first signs of old age, but these days it is not uncommon for younger men to discover an increasing amount of grey hairs taking up residence on their scalps.
No man wants to look older than he is, or to feel like his youth is escaping him, so those first few shock discoveries can really dampen the spirits. Hair dyes are a good way to hide the problem, of course; but why do some men can begin turning grey when they are in their twenties? More importantly, can anything be done about it?
Why Does Hair Turn Grey?
In order to understand why hair turns grey it is important to understand why it was not grey in the first place and it all comes down to a substance called melanin.
Melanin is created by stem cells called melanocytes. In the normal state of things melanin is forced into the hair as it grows and leaves the scalp, and it is the presence of melanin in the hair that gives it he color so many men take for granted until those first grey hairs begin to appear.
As the body ages the amount of melanin produced gradually decreases. When the hair contains an insufficient amount of melanin it loses its natural color and becomes grey. If no melanin is present at all it will turn white as snow. That’s great if you are seventy-years-old and looking for a little seasonal work as a shopping mall Father Christmas, but for a man with his whole life ahead of him it does not look good at all.
If it’s Not an Age thing, Why is my Turning Hair Grey?
When younger men find their hair is greying the problem can usually be traced to one or more of several reasons:
- Bad genetics: Thankfully this one is not as common as people believe. In most cases premature greying of the hair can be attributed to something else, but a few people are unfortunate enough to be cursed with a genetic heritage that has programmed their DNA for early greying.
- Bad Diet: Many men who experience early greying may do well to examine their diet. A healthy head of hair requires an adequate supply of important vitamins and minerals. If they are not present in the body the hair follicles cannot use them to manufacture that all-important melanin. Premature greying may often be traced to a lack of the vitamins B6, B9 (folic acid) or B12; but some studies show that copper also has an important role to play in keeping hair color up to scratch; so eating a balanced diet is one of the best ways to discourage those grey hairs for as long as possible.
- Stress: Although the link between stress and grey hair is often considered to be just an old wife’s tale, science has proven the tale to be true. Scientists at the New York University School of Medicine teamed up with colleagues from the Baylor College of Medicine and the results of their exhaustive tests show that those old wives were right all along.
- Health issues: Many disease and disorders can be as hard on the hair as they are on the body. Crohn’s disease, anemia, thyroid problems—all of these and many more can make a young man feel like an old man, so it always pays to seek medical advice as and when health problems arise.
- Alcohol abuse: Too much alcohol is not good for the body and it’s not good for the hair. Like most things, alcohol is fine in moderation, but going overboard can take its toll and premature grey hair is just one of the ways the body can protest and say enough is enough.
- Medications: Certain prescription medications can also interfere with the normal production of melanin and cause premature grey hair. (It may be possible to counteract the effects by using a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.)
Getting Back to Black (or brown, blond or red)
Grey or white hair will always make an appearance sooner or later. That’s just life, but most men should be able to save those grey hairs for later life, by making some simple changes to their lifestyle.
- Eating healthy: Eating a balanced healthy diet can be one of the most effective ways to ensure the hair follicles receive all the nutritional elements necessary to produce an adequate amount of melanin.
- Reduce stress: Any man who can remove himself from stressful situations (bad job, dysfunctional relationship etc.) will be taking a step in the right direction. It may also be beneficial to cut down on caffeine because too much caffeine can make people feel edgy and irritable and interfere with sleep.
The main thing any man can do is be good to himself and look after his body. A healthy body can result in a healthy head of hair and it in some case—especially where the hair has greyed due to a poor diet—making a few lifestyle changes may even result in the grey hairs being replaced by those of a more suitable color.