Colours Perspective

Why we go grey

After a certain age (maybe mid-30s to early 40s), most people might find that their hair would start to go grey. It’s unfortunate and it could be the first signs of people growing older. Some people get the “salt and pepper” look for years before going completely white. Other people go grey rapidly in a short period of time. The brief reason why we go grey can be explained in a short discussion about how hair follicles work.

Hair follicle colour is set at birth and never change afterwards to another colour. If you are a redhead you would most likely remain a redhead until your hair follicles change. After a certain age, the DNA pattern of what the hair follicle was loses its information and goes grey. And like at birth it never goes back to the original colour after it changes.

A couple with grey hair walking across a street. Credit Siarhei Plashchynski – Unsplash

Hair follicles are small sacs that line skin cells with pigment cells known as melanin. Melanin cells give your hair its colour and over time the hair follicles can lose their pigment causing white hair. There are many reasons that can cause greying. Genetics can play a part in the preposition to go grey around a certain age. Stress like sleep problems, anxiety, changes in appetite and high blood pressure. Diseases that attack the autoimmune system or the thyroid like vitiligo or hypothyroidism. Vitamin B-12 deficiency causes a lack of healthy red blood cells carrying oxygen. Also, smoking causes reduced blood flow to the hair follicles causing hair loss.

Sudden Grey

The condition Marie Antoinette syndrome turns hair grey overnight. This is based on the imprisoned queen turning grey and dishevelled over the stress of the riots in the streets before her beheading in 1793 at 38 years old. This condition is mostly connected with alopecia areata, a type of sudden hair loss. Others who went through sudden greying of the hair was Thomas More before his execution in 1535. When Mary, Queen of Scots, was beheaded at 40 years old, her hair was short and fully white. Some belief that it was the sorrows, troubles and misfortune she suffered through in prison before her death. Some others belief during her time in prison she couldn’t have the same maintenance for her hair has she did before. Also, World War Two bombing survivors experienced sudden whitening of the hair. The condition is gained more traction in public light through science fiction and literature with psychological undertones. Premature greying is also called canities subita which means turning white overnight.

Undoing grey hair

Preventing greying hair depends on the cause. In most cases the change might be permanent and irreversible. This is where consulting with a doctor would be the best root to go. For most people just going grey, embracing the grey hair or cover it up with a lot of hair dye. It’s your hair, you can do whatever to it.


Healthline – Marie Antoinette Syndrome: Real or Myth?

Healthline – What Causes White Hair?

The Ladders – The reason why your hair has suddenly turned grey is…

NCBI – Premature Graying of Hair: Review with Updates

Banner Credit: Philipp Sewing – Unsplash – With some Photoshop

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