Did you know the most common cause of having gray hair isn’t aging or “gray hair” genes?
It is actually caused by a reactive oxidative species (ROS) called hydrogen peroxide. More importantly, we produce this chemical naturally!
Yup. This chemical is also known as bleach – commonly used to disinfect kitchen counters and remove stains on fabrics.
In our hair, hydrogen peroxide are produced naturally from oxidative stress, particularly exposure of UV lights and stress (1). This explains why people’s hair become a lighter shade after prolonged sun exposure, and more hair turns gray when people are under high stress.
When people are under stress, whether physically or mentally, our body’s cellular metabolism goes up and more oxidative waste products are being generated. In hair cells, more hydrogen peroxide are produced and increase oxidative damage to cell nucleus and cell membrane. Prolonged exposure to hydrogen peroxide and free radicals make our cell weaker and less tolerance to stress. This results in inhibition of melenocyte and melanin production in hair cells (keratinocytes) along with increased hair follicle death (2).
What can we do to protect our cells and prevent graying of hair?
The solution is simple. Stop using toxic hair products and maintain sufficient levels of antioxidants, particularly glutathione and vitamin C. As these two nutrients quenches and neutralize free radicals, our hair cells are spared from being “bleached”. As a result, melanocytes and hair follicles are saved. (See illustration below for detailed biochemistry pathway)
Increase your glutathione, Vit C, L-cystine, and L-methionine intake daily.
This can be done via eating more cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage and fruits rich in vitamin C such as kiwi and lemon; or through oral supplementation.
Take home: Graying of hair is only a sign of insufficient nutrients or compromise of antioxidants. It’s very important to reduce total load of oxidative stress from environment, heavy metals, poor diet, and over-exercising concomitantly.
1.Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair. Ralph M Trüeb, Int J Trichology. 2009 Jan-Jun; 1(1): 6–14. doi: 10.4103/0974-7753.51923 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929555/)
2.Premature Graying as a Consequence of Compromised Antioxidant Activity in Hair Bulb Melanocytes and Their Precursors. Ying Shi et al. PLoS One. 2014; 9(4): e93589. Published online 2014 Apr 2. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093589 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3973559/)