3 Keys to Gorgeous Gray Hair (and 4 More Things to Know)
If, like many women, you start coloring your hair in your late 30s and keep it up till you're a spry 88, you will have been covering your gray for 50 years. Your choice. But you do have some beautiful alternatives.
Photo: Hugh Kretschmer
Three Keys to Gorgeous
The cut: Choose a medium-length style; a few long layers around your face are an option. If you look good in short hair, you might try a pixie.
The shampoo: To keep gray healthy and soft, wash your hair only two or three times a week with a clear or white shampoo (like Klorane Silver Highlights, $13). Once or twice a month, wash with a violet-based shampoo to remove dullness and product buildup.
The styling regimen: Use a dime-size dab of anti-frizz cream on damp hair from roots to ends—gray hair tends to be dry and can get fuzzy. If you're heat-styling, don't forget to use a heat protector. Once hair is dry, spritz shine spray from roots to ends to keep it from looking flat.
All shades of hair have the potential to turn a pure, radiant white, says Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, a trichologist at the Philip Kingsley clinic in New York City. White hair has no melanin (the pigment that gives hair color); gray, a small amount. Whether or not you stop producing melanin completely is based on genetics. So if your mother and grandmother went white, chances are you will, too.
Gray's AnatomyWhy do we go gray, anyway? Here are two theories:
1. Fade Away
Some scientists believe that at a certain (likely genetically determined) point, hair follicles simply stop producing melanin.
2. Add Bleach
A 2009 study found that cells in hair follicles produce small amounts of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). As we age, our bodies make less catalase, an enzyme that breaks down H2O2. With a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide in our hair follicles, hair "bleaches" and turns gray.
The Holy "Grayl":
L'Oréal is developing a pill that would—hold on to your hats—prevent gray hair altogether. The company won't release details, but the pill will likely mimic the activity of TRP-2, an enzyme that helps boost hair follicles' ability to produce melanin. Scientists have also tested a cream containing a compound similar to catalase on subjects with vitiligo (a condition that causes depigmentation of skin); the subjects' eyelashes regained pigment. The study shows that it is possible to reverse the loss of pigment in hair and should lead to further research.
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