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It is no news that women are aware of their hair, while more and more of the men also strive for healthy and thick hair, without any gray or white hairs peeking out! Many men and women also dye their hair to get the desired color, or hide gray and white hair. But what is it that makes us humans have different hair colors and what is the reason for gray or white hair?
Depending on the person's ethnic group, the hair can be black, brown, blonde or red. The background to the hair color difference is the pigments eumelanin and feomelanin. They are two different types of melanin, and a pigment found in animals. It actually determines both a person's hair color and skin color; more melanin gives a person darker hair and skin, while less amount gives a person lighter hair and skin.
As we get older, our hair slowly turns gray and eventually white, which is because we naturally produce less melanin the older we get. However, there are those who get gray hair already in adolescence. Gray or white hair is actually "transparent". This is due to a lack of melanin and pigmentation in the hair follicles. It only looks gray or white when the light is reflected on the hair strands.
Thyroid or vitamin B12 deficiencies can also cause hair to turn white or gray. Albinism, a genetic abnormality, gives a person white or pale blonde hair. Autoimmune disease, malnutrition, anemia, as well as other medical conditions can also cause gray hair to appear prematurely in life. Tobacco smoking can also make hair gray prematurely. But the biggest factor that affects when we get gray hair is the genetics we inherit from our parents.
When the hair starts to turn white or gray, the whole hair is not affected. The gray hairs begin to appear when there is still naturally colored hair left. White hair only appears when all the colors in the hair are gone. Every hair on our body has its own cycle. Each hair grows, absorbs nutrients for health and growth, falls out and then grows back. Each of the hairs gets its own dose of melanin, and while some get enough melanin, some do not get it, so these become light, while others become dark. What you notice is that the hair seems to be gray; when the actual thing is a mixture of colored, gray or white hair. As the person gets older and the body's ability to produce melanin begins to slow down, all the hair in the body becomes gray or white, and that is when you begin to see all the hair as white.
For young people and the elderly who suffer from melanin deficiency for various reasons, gray or white hair can be hidden by coloring the hair. But the best thing is of course - if you want, because many people actually like gray hair and think it's nice - is to try to prevent gray and white hair from appearing, unless it depends on the genetics we inherit from our parents. Live healthy, do not smoke and feel free to supplement with dietary supplements that counteract melanin deficiency. Eat foods rich in vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 is found naturally in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products. Vitamin B-12 is generally not found in plant-based foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are an easily accessible vitamin B-12 source with high bioavailability for e.g. vegetarians.
Collagen can act as an antioxidant and fight damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds that develop in the body due to stress, air pollution, smoking, poor diet, alcohol and other environmental influences. Too much free radicals can damage your cells, proteins and DNA (1). Research shows that free radicals can also damage the hair follicles. As your body's defense against free radicals decrease with aging, older adults are particularly susceptible to damaged hair (2). To fight free radicals and promote healthy hair, your body needs antioxidants. Several studies have shown that collagen - especially from fish - can have powerful antioxidant activity (3) (4) (5). One study found that marine collagen from fish could fight four different types of free radicals, while another study observed that the protein may be a more effective antioxidant than a well-known compound found in tea (6) (7).
Due to its antioxidant properties, collagen can fight cell damage and counteract gray hair. Age-related gray hair is largely affected by genetics, but free radical damage to the cells that produce melanin may also play a role (8). As you age, the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin, which gives your hair its color, begin to shrink. However, free radicals that are the result of poor diet, stress and environmental pollution can also damage melanin production (9). Without enough antioxidants to fight free radical damage, your hair can actually turn gray prematurely. In fact, one study found that the antioxidant activity in gray hair follicles was much lower than in hair follicles that still contained melanin pigment (10) (11). Since collagen has been shown to fight free radicals in various studies done in test tubes, it can in theory help prevent damage to cells that produce melanin. As a result, it can prevent gray hair or slow down gray hair that occurs due to genetics (12) (13).