Why do we get gray hair?

September 5, 2016

Have you ever wondered why hair turns gray as you get older and whether there is something you can do to prevent graying or at least slow it down?

A person’s hair color is the result of pigments known as melanin. Made from two amino acids (tyrosine and phenylalanine), these pigments are produced by a specialized group of cells known as melanocytes. They do this through a process called melanogenesis. Melanocytes are found throughout our body and the melanin they produce is what gives our skin, hair, and eyes their color. The melanocytes responsible for hair color are found in the bulbs of your hair follicles.

There are a few different processes that can make our hair turn gray. The one most people think of is the natural graying that occurs as we grow older. As we age our melanocytes become inactive, but are still present. The older we get, melanocytes decrease in number. The result is less and less melanin, until none are present. Thus, we slowly turn gray, and then our hair turns white in the winter of our lives.

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