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Going grey: what to do?

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 16 February 2009

Our hair changes over time, and whether you're blonde, brunette or ginger, your hair will fade to grey and even turn to white eventually. It's totally natural, but going grey can be a big worry. Here's our guide to dealing with it.

A natural process

Ageing is inevitable, though the moment when you discover the first grey and white hairs is never a pleasant one! Some people start getting white hairs very early, while others stay grey-free into old age. Whatever happens, accept it and deal with it if you want to.

Understanding the issue

The appearance of white hair is caused by a decrease in the production of melanin. Here’s the science: melanocyes, which are responsible for the colour of hair and skin, make melanin, which is a dark pigment. The dark pigment is transferred to keratinocytes, the cells which produce hair, located in the hair bulb. If these cells receive a lot of dark pigment during hair production then hair is dark; otherwise it is blonde. Hair becomes white over time because melanocytes run low over time and are replaced with air bubbles in the hair bulbs!

Did you know? Technically speaking, grey hair does not exist. The 'salt and pepper' effect is the mix between coloured hair and white hair, but hair is either coloured or not.

When do most women go grey?

The average age when women first discover white hair is 34. It may come earlier if the melanocytes and the cells that produce hair no longer work together properly. There are certain rare cases where this can be reversible (after chronic renal failure or chemotherapy). Hormones and genetics play a large part in abnormal and very early white hair.

To dye or not to dye?

You can choose to live with your grey hair whatever your age and play with sophisticated styles. This option is easy to maintain. Before you start dyeing your hair, remember that white roots need constant care! if you decide to stay natural, you can liven up your appearance with fun accessories such as coloured headbands, hats and glasses.

Dyeing grey and white hair

- Blondes and redheads

You're lucky because the appearance of white hair on blondes and redheads is sublter than it is on brunettes, and this buys you time to decide what to do! For a natural camouflage effect, streaks are recommended for blondes. These will drown out the white and save you having to get your roots done every month. If you have 20-30% white hair then home dyeing kits will do the trick, but if you have more then it's best to seek your hairdresser's advice.
- Brunettes
Grey and white hair soon shows up on dark hair. Dyeing can hide it well, but bear in mind you'll need to re-do your roots regularly.

NB Repetitive dyeing damages your scalp. If you dye your hair at home, it’s better to use natural plant-based products that don't contain ammonia.

by Sarah Horrocks

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