So, it's finally happened. Your head has sprouted its first gray hairs.
Maybe you've been closely examining your roots since your mid-twenties and have finally spotted your first single stray of gray. Maybe, you've gone a few months or years without noticing any changes, only to realize now that your roots are looking a little more silver nowadays.
Either way, you've probably thought of a number of things since you spotted your first gray - ranging from a moment of sheer panic ("this can't be happening"), to pure denial ("it's just the lighting, it's not my time yet"), to partial acceptance ("this happens to us all, and it's only a few white hairs").
Everyone reacts differently to new gray hairs emerging - but it's important to remember that this is not something you should feel bad about. Still, after your initial reactions, you'll most likely start to think about what you want to do with your locks going forward. That's probably how you've ended up here!
Keep reading to understand why your hair turns gray, plus the do's and don'ts when it comes to gray hair coverage.
Why does our hair turn gray?
Our hair turning gray is a normal part of the aging process - just like wrinkles and achy joints. But why does it happen?
All hair colors come from a substance called melanin which is produced by our hair follicles. Your specific hair color depends on the type and amount of melanin present within your follicles. But your hair doesn't just turn gray. In fact, once a brown, black, red, or blonde hair strand starts growing, it will never change in color - unless you dye your hair, of course.
As you get older, your hair follicles produce less melanin. So when your hair goes through its usual cycle of growing, resting, and shedding, some and eventually all of the new hair coming through will be gray.
What is a normal age for your hair to start turning gray?
There is no 'normal' when it comes to hair turning gray. Some people won't notice any silver strands until their 30s or 40s. Others start experiencing what's known as 'premature graying' in their 20s or even their late teens.
There are multiple reasons - related to health, biological history, and environmental factors - why your hair can start going gray earlier than expected:
- • Your genes - Family history plays a large role in how and when you start to age. If your parents started graying in their early 20s, it's likely you will experience the same outcome.
- • A link between stress levels - Heightened stress can impact your hair, sometimes triggering telogen effluvium - a type of hair loss that causes hair to fall out more rapidly during the shedding stage of the hair growth cycle. Although hair does regenerate, it's more likely to grow back gray if you've already reached an age where this is more common.
- • Your health - Certain conditions and illnesses can cause your hair to grow gray, including autoimmune diseases like alopecia and vitiligo, which can lead to a loss of pigment in the hair. Thyroid disorders can also limit melanin production in your hair follicles by disrupting the usual functions of the thyroid gland.
- • Vitamin deficiencies - Premature graying can signal a vitamin B-12 deficiency, which is associated with pernicious anemia - a condition where your body can't absorb enough of the B-12 vitamin. This can consequently weaken hair cells and impact melanin production.
- • Smoking - An association between hair graying and smoking is widely known, but what exactly is the science behind it? Smoking can reduce blood flow by constricting the blood vessels, which can lead to hair thinning. Damage to the hair follicles can also occur due to toxins in cigarettes, causing premature graying.
If you are concerned about any health-related issues that could be causing premature graying or hair thinning, consider speaking to your healthcare provider to discuss your options.
Does your hair change when it goes gray?
There's one key reason for this. When your hair starts producing less melanin, it also produces less sebum (your hair's natural oil). Consequently, the texture of gray hair is usually dry, coarse and wiry - though this will ultimately depend on your hair's natural texture, as different hair types will form different results. On the flip side, some heads of gray hair will be soft and fine. Genetics can play a role in this outcome.
What should I do about my hair turning gray?
When silvery strands start emerging, there are a few different things you can do - and the route you take is completely your choice! Just remember...
Whatever you do, don't tweeze your gray strays
Apart from temporarily removing emerging grays, plucking out single gray hairs has zero benefits. Going gray is inevitable (and completely normal!), and there's only so long you can go before tweezing becomes futile.
When you pluck out your silver hair, the hair follicle from which you removed it will eventually grow a new gray strand. By plucking hair, you can also cause damage to the hair follicle, to the point where it won't be able to grow any more hairs. What's more, if you pluck the same hair follicle repeatedly, you may even cause infection or scarring, which can lead to hair thinning and bald patches.
So, if you get an urge to reach for those tweezers, please think again and consider your other options!
Instead, blend away early grays with demi-permanent products
If you've just started noticing your first few gray strands, avoid the tweezers and choose a demi-permanent hair color such as Natural Instincts to blend the grays away.
You can try mixing up a shade close to your natural hair color and using a cotton bud to apply the color to individual gray hairs. This means you don’t need to dye your full head.
Alternatively, you can try a temporary root touch-up product - available for blonde, brunette, red, and black hair - that is close to your original hair color.
You can also take this opportunity to choose a demi-permanent shade that gives a subtle change to your natural color - or try a whole new look by trying a new tone!
Or choose a permanent hair dye if you have lots of gray hair
If you’ve got a lot of grays (say more than 50%), you’ll be better off using a permanent hair dye. Nice’n Easy has over 59 permanent hair color shades designed with gray coverage in mind. You can choose a shade that matches your original color or go for something new.
For root cover, Nice'n Easy Root Touch-Up will become your new best friend. It blends with your existing shade in just 10 minutes, resulting in no roots, zero grays, and no trips to the salon required.
Insider tip: For gray coverage, shades with 'natural' or 'neutral' are best. Avoid shades named 'ash' as they already have a grayish tint.
Alternatively, you can embrace the gray
Of course, you can always choose to embrace the gray. In the last few years, ash blonde, gray, silver and white hair have become huge trends in the hair coloring space. After all, gray is just another color - and we love it!
So, if your hair is starting to go gray naturally, you can choose to rock those highlights or opt for an all-over silver or platinum shade to enhance your look. We recommend Nice'n Easy Soft Silver permanent hair color and Blonde It Up Crystal Glow Toner Radiant Opal.
How do I look after gray hair?
Whatever you choose to do with your gray hair, always remember to show your locks some love. Whether you opt to cover your grays or embrace them, the texture of gray hair will likely mean you'll want to level up your hair care routine with deep conditioning products that provide extra moisture to dehydrated strands.
If you do opt for a gray coverage product, keep these tips in mind for when your color starts to grow out or fade:
- • Use a purple shampoo and conditioner once a week to balance out yellow tones and brassiness.
- • Try a color glossing product to add temporary vibrancy and shine in between color touch-ups.
- • Have a root spray handy for a quick fix between coloring.
But most importantly of all, never let gray hair get you down. Remember, it's a beautiful, natural part of life!