Why does hair turn gray?

By Vaageesha Das

We, as humans, get older and older, until we die. It’s going to happen to all of us.

Most of us will be lucky enough to get to that age where our hair starts losing its natural color and turns gray and then white.

For us to talk about why our hair gets reduced pigments, let us talk about how our hair becomes its natural color in the first place.

Your hair is originally white, it gets its natural hair color from melanin, which is also responsible for how dark your skin is. The formation of your hair’s melanin begins the moment you are born and hair is made up of two different kinds of pigments: eumelanin, which is dark, and pheomelani,n which is light. The light and the dark mix together to create a spectrum of hair colors.

The natural hair color also is dependent upon the distribution, type and amount of melanin inside the middle shaft of the hair.

Hair grows through openings in your scalp called follicles. Each piece of hair grows from one follicle. The process of hair growth has three stages: anagen (active hair growth which lasts from about two to seven years), catagen (hair begins to shut down and it lasts 10 to 20 days), and telogen (hair is at rest and falls out then, the process starts over).

When the hair is being formed, melanocytes inject melanin into a special cell called keratin, which gives the hair its color. Gray hair happens because the pigments in your hair reduce as you age and once they are all gone, your hair becomes white.

There are many variables that factor into why and how hair turns gray or white, including but not limited to genetic defects, toxins, age, chemical exposure, hormones, pollutants and body distribution. There are theories about how exhaustion also leads to hair becoming gray/white.

All in all, there is no definite reason for why hair turns colorless.

Fun fact: at age 30, your chances of getting colorless hair increases by 10-20 percent every decade.

Vaageesha Das is an eighth-grader at Suncrest Middle School. Today’s information comes from: www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/grayhair.html

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