When you begin to see the first signs of gray hair, you likely blame your stressful job, your lack of sleep and even your children.
But here’s the truth about your silver locks: You wouldn’t gray any sooner or any more if you got all the sleep you needed and had angels for kids.
“It’s based on a collection of genes,” says Jerry Shapiro, MD, adjunct professor at New York University’s Lagone Medical Center, adding that scientists don’t know whether the gray gene is passed on maternally or paternally.
Most people begin graying in mid-life when the cells that produce pigment in hair become depleted, but the timing of that process is pre-programmed by your DNA. There are certainly other factors that affect gray hair — and many that don’t.
Let’s go over the facts:
Fact: Ethnicity is a Factor
By age 50, most people can expect 50 percent of their hair to be gray, but when gray first appears seems to be determined, at least in part, by ethnicity. According to a 2005 study published in the “Journal of Investigative Dermatology,” a white person will begin graying in his or her mid-thirties, Asian people will start noticing a little silver in their late thirties — but black people generally ward off the gray strands until their mid-forties.
Fact: Gray Hair is Hard to Dye
Ever noticed that your silver strands seem to stubbornly resist chemical coloring? Dr. Shapiro says it’s not your imagination: Each fiber of gray hair is wider in diameter and contains a central core of air that makes it less permeable than non-gray hair. “That’s why gray hair doesn’t take to dye as easily,” he says.
Fact: Hormones Play a Part
Though gray hair isn’t usually a symptom of your body’s overall health, there are rare cases in which gray can indicate a hormone imbalance or a thyroid condition. Talk with your doctor if you notice gray hair cropping and also are feeling unlike yourself.