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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.

Nicole Patrick, founder of is an online hair care resource for women of color with natural hair. To learn more visit or contact her at

6 thoughts on “What Exactly is Gray Hair?

  1. Gray hair is hair that has no pigments at all, which means that a person isn’t born with gray hair; that also means that there are a few factors that cause it and a few methods for maintaining and caring for the gray hair.

  2. Although I have worn locks since 2005, I am starting to see more gray strands here and there in my hair.

    Since I am not one of those women who wishes to hide her age-I have no intention of dyeing my hair color to hide the gray.

    Women should age gracefully-that includes appropriate clothing for our age and letting the gray show in our hair.

    I am proud to be turning age 60 this year. Age is nothing but a NUMBER!!!!!!
    It is ones state of mind that really counts!!!!

  3. Good information. If reversing gray hair was an option thousands of us would already be exploring that option. When we are born, we begin to die slowly. Accept the gray or keep coloring

    • Jacki, I believe by virtue of the Scriptures that GOD has created humanity to reverse aging…if we study the body, we can see that the body contains what is necessary to reverse aging;;;GOD never intended for man to live less than 100 yrs. This living less than 100 yrs. is a New World Order we are subject to….prior to this World Order, humanity lived beyond 100 yrs. without dimness of vision & becoming feeble.

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