It is normal for hair to turn white over time. However, many people believe that white hair ages the face and would like to delay its appearance as much as possible. Let's explore together whether it is possible to stop getting white hair.
Is it possible to stop getting grey hair?
- Going grey: is it inevitable?
- Step No. 1: Protect your hair from the sun and pollution
- Step No. 2: Avoid smoking
- Step No. 3: Learn to manage stress more effectively
- Step No. 4: Maintain a varied and balanced diet
Going grey: is it inevitable?
Hair whitening is a natural process that is part of life. It should be noted from the outset that most factors contributing to the appearance of white hair are not modifiable. This can be attributed to the decrease in activity and number of melanocytes over time. These cells are responsible for the production of melanin, a pigment that, after its synthesis, is transferred to the keratinocytes surrounding the hair bulbs, giving them their colour.
Another element over which we have no control: the genetics. Several studies have established a link between the activity of certain genes and transcription factors, such as the MC1R gene (MelanCortin 1 Receptor) and the microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF), and the early onset of white hair.
However, it is important to understand that other external factors influence the onset of white hair. These are more about behaviours and habits that we can indeed influence.
Step No. 1: Protect your hair from the sun and pollution.
The UV rays emitted by the sun are not only harmful to the skin. They also generate free radicals in the cells of hair fibres, which trigger a cascade of reactions leading to the degradation of melanin, this promotes the appearance of white hair. Similarly, pollution can cause the release of free radicals in the body.
To protect one's hair, there are now several hair sun protection treatmentsavailable, often in the form of sprays or mists to be directly applied to the scalp and lengths. The principle of these products is the same as that of sun protection for the skin: to prevent UV rays from penetrating the body.
Wearing caps, hats or scarves on days of intense sunlight or prolonged exposure is also a good idea. Similarly, if you live in a polluted environment, you can spray a pollution-fighting spray rich in antioxidants on your hair to protect your fibres from particles, and/or wear a hat.
Step No. 2: Avoid smoking.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that just over 20% of the global population smokes either occasionally or regularly. In addition to causing numerous health problems, tobacco can lead to premature hair whitening. Indeed, it is estimated that each puff of cigarette smoke releases about 200,000 free radicals. Therefore, to limit health risks and maintain naturally coloured hair for as long as possible, it is advisable to avoid smoking.
Step No. 3: Learn to manage stress more effectively.
Studies have shown that stress can play a role in the greying of hair. The precise mechanisms are not yet known but it appears that hormones associated with stress may disrupt the functioning of melanocytes, thus leading to a decrease in hair pigmentation.
In addition to making life more enjoyable, managing stress reduces the risk of premature greying. There are several methods to help control your response to stress, such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, positive visualisation...
Select the one that suits you best and pair it with a healthy lifestyle. Indeed, sufficient sleep, engaging in physical activity, taking time for oneself, and having a pleasant social circle greatly aid in reducing stress.
Step No. 4: Maintain a varied and balanced diet.
Deficiencies in vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin B9, selenium, iron or copper can impact hair colour and cause their premature greying. The mechanisms involved vary from one molecule to another. For instance, copper plays a role in activating tyrosinase, an enzyme that facilitates the conversion of tyrosine into melanin. Selenium and zinc, on the other hand, act as antioxidants that protect melanin from damage caused by free radicals.
To mitigate the risks of premature greying and nutritional deficiency, it is crucial to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. With regards to the elements mentioned above, the table below summarises in which foods they are most prevalent and what the recommended daily intake is.
|Recommended Daily Nutritional Intake
|Foods in which it is found
|4 - 5.5 µg
|Dairy products, eggs, meats, offal, fish, crustaceans
|2.9 - 3.1 µg
|Fatty fish, mushrooms, dairy products, dark chocolate, cereals
|300 - 330 µg
|Legumes, leafy green vegetables, poultry
|20 - 80 µg
|Fish, crustaceans, meats, nuts
|10 - 20 mg
|Meat, seafood, legumes, spinach, tofu
|0.9 - 1.2 mg
|Offal, seafood, offal, seeds
Note : To date, there are few studies on the potential link between nutritional deficiency and the onset of white hair, which prompts us to be cautious about the impact of diet on hair whitening.
SEIBERG M. Age-induced hair greying - the multiple effects of oxidative stress. International Journal of Cosmetic Science (2013).
RAWNSLEY J. & al. Hair biology: Growth and pigmentation. Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America (2018).
PHILPOTT M. Watching hair turn grey. eLife (2021).