Gray hair typically reminds us of older people such as: grandparents, aunties, uncles, and probably your parents. But last year in 2015 there was no age limit on gray hair. My Instagram news feed was filled with pictures of young women sporting gray highlights. I have a few gray hairs but I usually cover them with a black rinse. I’ve never really thought about what happens to the hair when it begins to gray until my recent holiday visit to see my mom. To my surprise she was rock’in a big natural afro. During the entire visit she kept complaining about the lack of moisture and not being able to find the right products for her hair. So, I decided to do a little research to find out what happens to the hair when it begins to gray.
What exactly is Gray Hair?
Hair grows in a variety of colors and in many different shades, but gray is not one of them! Gray hair is actually clear hair or hair that has no pigment at all. The gray hair that we see is actually an optional illusion that occurs when clear or white hair is contrasted against the remaining darker-colored strands on the head.
As we get older, usually between the ages of twenty-eight and forty, hair produces fewer and fewer pigment molecules. Gray hair is simply hair that no longer produces melanin in the cortex. Since the cuticle is also colorless, gray hair is simply clear.
Note: Melanin is pigment found in skin and hair. Cortex is the innermost portion of the hair shaft and it houses our hair’s color molecules.
Caring for Gray Hair
Gray hair tends to feel dryer and is harder to style with heat. Also, gray hair may need to be deep conditioned and moisturized more often to keep the hair nourished. Whether gray hair is natural, relaxed, or colored using a light protein reconstruction may be necessary to reduce porosity and balance moisture.
Information in this article about gray hair was quoted from The Science of Black Hair (Davis-Sivasothy, 2011, p.181).
How much did you know about gray hair before reading this article? Leave a comment and let me know.