Updated date:

How to Transition to Gray Hair and What Causes Your Hair to Go Gray

Author:

Loves sharing tips and techniques which she feels would help others out there looking for advice.

Causes of Gray Hair and How to Start Going Gray Over Time.

Causes of Gray Hair and How to Start Going Gray Over Time.

When your hair loses its pigment it will start going gray. Hair gets its color from two pigments eumelanin (dark) and phaeomelanin (light). These are what determine what hair color you have. Hair grows from a hair follicle or bulb.

The hair shaft comprises of three layers:

  • the cortex
  • the cuticle
  • the medulla

The hair shaft starts growing from the hair matrix. In the matrix cells there are melanocytes.

The job of the melanocytes is to produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment in your hair and the more of that you have then darker your hair will be. If the melanocytes start to produce less melanin, then your hair follicles will start losing pigment. This is what causes your hair to start turning gray or for some people white.

Melanin is found inside the keratin cells. Keratin is a protein that is part of your hair, skin and nail cells.

The sebum in your hair comes from the sebaceous glands.

Causcian people start going gray in their 30's.

10 Facts About Gray Hair and What Can Cause It

  1. Gray hair is coarser and rougher than regular hair and usually occurs as you get older. Your hair turns gray because the melanocytes cell start producing less melanin. There will also be less sebum produced by the sebaceous glands. Sebum is natural producing oil that keeps hair moist and elasticated.
  2. Gray hair doesn’t just grow straight down from your roots. Some people might see patches of silver or gray grow in around different parts of their hair while other people might just have a few gray strands throughout their hair.
  3. If your gray hair isn't caused by age but a medical condition, then the only way that your gray hair could actually go back to its original colour was if you got treatment for your medical condition. Once your medical condition is gone, then your hair could return to its natural colour.
  4. Your lifestyle can play a part in the change in your hair colour and sometimes if people go through a devastating event in their life then it could be the cause of them going prematurely grey.
  5. A 2016 study found that a deficiency in serum calcium, serum ferritin and vitamin D3 may be a reason why young people start to go prematurely gray. Serum calcium is the calcium in your blood, serum ferritin is a protein in the blood that contains iron and vitamin D3 comes from sunlight, fish oil, fatty fish, liver, and eggs yolks.
  6. If you are diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis which is a common thyroid condition, then this has also been known to give people prematurely gray hair.
  7. A study carried out in 2011 by the Seoul National University College of Medicine of 1002 participants, 522 of them men and 480 of them woman found that 51.5% had gray hair appear in their 30’s, 81.1% starting getting gray hair in their 40’s and 95.3% started seeing the appearance of gray in their hair in their 50's.
  8. A more recent report published in January 2021 by Boston University School of Medicine reported that Caucasians started getting gray by their 30s, Asians by their late-30s and Africans by their mid-40s.
  9. A Statista report found that the hair colorant market was worth 29 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 and it is estimated to be worth 40 billion U.S dollars by 2023.
  10. A heart condition called atherosclerosis which can cause strokes, heart attacks and heart failure has similar characteristic to what causes gray hair. Both can increase with age and cause oxidative stress and aging cells. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body.

Use a moisturizing shampoo between every second or third wash to stop your gray hair looking dried out.

Article Overview

This article will discuss the following areas in relation to how to grow out your gray hair and how to disguise the process behind it.

  1. Pick a Time Frame
  2. Do Your Research
  3. Ignore Other People's Opinions
  4. Take Care of Your Hair
  5. Be Prepared for It to Take a While
  6. Hide Your Gray as It Grows
Helen Mirren stopped dying her hair and lets her natural hair shine.

Helen Mirren stopped dying her hair and lets her natural hair shine.

How to Accept Your Gray Hair and Go Fully Gray Over a Period of Time

1. Pick a Time Frame

There will come a time when you will decide to let your gray hair grow out. There will most likely in the beginning be a few setbacks and it will take some time before you are finally committed to the decision to stop dying your gray hair.

A lot of people won't be fully ready when they see those first few gray hairs. It's only as you get older and wiser that you learn to love it. But for many people that start going gray in their 20's or 30's or for those that work in a profession where appearances is everything it might not be the right time for you to make this decision.

It might take you a few years or even a decade before you finally wake up one morning and decide that this is the day that you are going to stop dying your hair. Once you have fully embraced the decision to go gray, you need to be aware of the methods and products that you can use to help you transition your hair during this time.

You don’t need to fully let go of your hair dye or your bottle of L’Oréal Magic Retouch spray just yet. Use these products to help you disguise parts of your gray hair while the gray layer underneath is growing out. This can also help you avoid being asked those nosy questions by certain people.

But if you decide to just take the plunge and go natural then you will still need to maintain your natural gray hair.

2. Do Your Research

Before you stop dying your hair you need to do some research. Go on Facebook Groups, YouTube, blogs and online forums to see how other people have transitioned from dyed hair to their natural gray hair. You will need to see what types of hair care products other people are using and also see what methods will work to help you disguise your gray hair while you are growing it out.

Here is a list of things you will need to know prior to going gray.

  • Start using a hydration mask once a week in your hair as gray hair gets very dry.
  • Look at the different ways that you can style your hair to disguise your gray. Use undo's, hair bands or head scarf to disguise your gray hair.
  • Make sure you get regular haircuts to help your hair grow faster. Find out what types of hairstyles work best for when you are trying to grow out your hair.
  • Start using specific shampoos and conditioners designed for gray hair. There are a few shampoos that have pigment in them that help to disguise a few gray hairs in your hair.
  • Have a few images of role models, either woman or men who have embraced their gray hair. When you are having a bad day and want to get rid of your gray hair look back to these pictures. Use these images to keep you motivated.
  • Write out a list of reasons about why you are now making this decision and always have this nearby in your handbag or bedroom. Then if you ever begin to feel uncertain about your decision, reread this.

3. Ignore Other People's Opinions

If you decide to tell other people that you are going to stop dying your hair, you will need to be prepared for some negative remarks. Some people will probably support your decision but some might also try to talk you out of doing it especially if they themselves are dying their own hair.

Other people might tell you to just dye your hair gray. But many people will want to avoid hair dyes and let their hair go naturally gray. You need to tell them to mind their own business.

So sometimes it can be better to only let your family know what you are doing and to tell work colleagues and friends later once you have reached the half way mark so that no one can talk you out of it at the early stages.

When you are growing out your gray hair you still need to look after it. Be aware that it still needs to be protected from the sun. If you use a hair dryer or a hair straightener you will still need to use heat protecting products. When you are out in the sun wear a hat or stay in the shade as the sun damages hair no matter what colour your hair is.

Shampoos, Mascara and Sprays to Help Disguise Your Gray While You Transition to Gray Hair

ShampoosHair MascaraSpray

John Frieda Defy Grey Shampoo 250ml / 8.5 fl oz

L'Oreal Professional Hair Touch Up 75ml / 2.6 fl oz

Everpro Beauty Gray Away Temporary Root Concealer - 44ml /1.5oz

Plantur 39 Colour Brown Shampoo 250ml / 8.5 fl oz

L'oreal Paris Hair Dye Magic Retouch Instant Precision Brush 8ml / 0.2 fl oz

Morgan's Hair Darkening Grey Away Liquid Color Restorer 120ml / 4.2 fl oz

 

 

L’Oreal Magic Re-Touch 75ml / 2.6 fl oz

George Clooney went grey before his 40's birthday.

George Clooney went grey before his 40's birthday.

4. Take Care of Your Hair

When you first decide to start letting your gray hair grow out, you will need to make sure that you continue to take care of your hair. Just because you are no longer going to dye your hair doesn’t mean that you need to abandon all those hair care products.

Since gray hair is coarser and also more brittle compared to pigmented hair then you will need to:

  • Start using a moisturizing shampoo in between washes.
  • Use a hydrating hair mask once a week.
  • Use a purple shampoo a few times a month.

If you only have a few gray hairs spread throughout your hair then you can start using a colored shampoo and conditioner that has some pigment in it that will cover some gray strands. These products are good for anyone who doesn’t want to start dying their hair because of only a few gray hairs.

5. Be Prepared for It to Take a While

The length of time it will take for your gray hair to grow out will really depend on how long your hair currently is. Since hair grows about 6 inches a year, for those who have short hair it should only take year or so before they will be able to show all off their gray hair. However for anyone who has hair that is past their shoulders, then it could take two years.

How to Get Through the Process

  • If you are able to get your hair trimmed every few months then you will be removing the dyed part of your hair more quickly. This means that you might be able to rock a balayage look if the gray that grows out is dark.
  • If you decide to grow out your hair but want to disguise the whole process, then you might decide to only dye the top part of your hair around your crown area using the dye strip technique.
  • However, if your only have a few gray hairs, then you might decide to start using products like hair mascara or colored hair sprays to hide the few areas of gray that you currently have.

Once you determine how your gray hair is going to grow out, then you can decide on a hair plan that will work with this.

Use purple shampoo twice a month to correct the yellow tinge that can occur in your gray hair.

6. Hide Your Gray as It Grows

There is a method referred to as the Dye Strip Technique where you only dye the roots on the top section of your hair. You do not dye the roots at any other part of your hair.

As your roots underneath are growing out this is disguised by the top part that is dyed and now falling down over the sides of your hair. You might still have a few silver strands of gray hair appearing throughout your hair but using this method won’t make it as obvious.

The dye strip technique allows you to disguise your roots until you are satisfied with the length of gray that has grown out.

Then when you feel totally comfortable with the length of gray that is now in your hair you can just flip over the dyed part of hair and show the gray part.

Conclusion

Many people might continue dying their hair into the 60's or 70's and it might simple be about wanting to feel good and controlling some part of the aging process.

But eventually a time will come with you just decide that you are going to accept the gray.

If you visit a good hair salon and get a stylist that knows how to give you a hair style that flatters your face shape then you can rock the gray hair and look amazing no matter what your age is.

Further Reading

NCBI, (2020), Anatomy, Hair Follicle, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470321/#:~:text=The%20matrix%20is%20the%20part,core%20known%20as%20the%20medulla.https://www.healthline.com/health/melanin-in-hair

Library of Congress (2019), Why does hair turn gray? https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/item/why-does-hair-turn-gray/#:~:text=As%20the%20hair%20is%20being,comes%20a%20reduction%20of%20melanin.

NCBI, A Case of Premature Hair Graying Treated with Ferrous Sulfate (2016), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5125965/

Harvard Medical School, The Lowdown on Thyroid Slowdown, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-lowdown-on-thyroid-slowdown

Seoul National University College of Medicine (2011), Hair Greying Pattern Depends on Gender, Onset Age and Smoking Habits https://www.medicaljournals.se/acta/content_files/files/pdf/92/2/3521.pdf

Boston University School of Medicine (2021), Hair Aging Differs by Race, Ethnicity http://www.bumc.bu.edu/busm/2021/01/21/hair-aging-differs-by-race-ethnicity/

Statista (2020), Hair Color/Dye Market in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts, Hair color/dye market in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts | Statista

Medical News Today, More Gray Hair Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Disease, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316826

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Sp Greaney

Comments

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on February 24, 2021:

@ MG Singh emge, thank you. That's so true MG Singh. We all are going to get it someday.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 23, 2021:

Wonderful and realistic article. Time never stands still.

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on February 23, 2021:

@Chitrangada Sharan, thank you. We are all going to get it at some point. We just have to accept it and learn to embrace it at the right time in our life.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 23, 2021:

A very well written and researched article about grey hair.

I believe, we should accept this, as it comes. You have provided lot of important information on this topic, which I wasn’t aware of.

Thank you for sharing.

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on February 23, 2021:

@ Elaine Byers, thanks for your comment. I think a lot of us are reassessing things this year too.

Elaine Byers on February 23, 2021:

This article couldn't have come at a better time ! Thanks so much for these tips!

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on February 22, 2021:

@Adrienne Faricelli, yes I think that's more common than we think. Good on her for embracing the color change.

I know a girl who got one gray patch close to her forehead after an asthma attack. She does dye this patch though as she isn't as confident as your cousin.

But I think our current issues in society has changed people's opinion on dying their hair. Also having less available cash has also played a part.

Adrienne Farricelli on February 21, 2021:

I know one of my cousins who started getting gray hair when she knew she had to undergo surgery and this stressed her out a lot. She now is all gray, and I admire her because she never colors her hair. This goes to show she is very confident.

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on February 21, 2021:

@Liz Westwood, thank you. Yes, I know woman who have decided to take the plunge and go grey and they look great with that colored hair. That's such a smart idea by your friends and it also prepares you in advance for the lighter hair color.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 21, 2021:

This is a fascinating and well-researched article. I have heard of several people using lockdown as an opportunity to let their grey hair grow out. I have also had friends who progressively go lighter with their hair dye in order to make the transition to grey/white look less noticeable when the time is right for them.

Related Articles