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6 Things You Didn't Know About Gray Hair

OK, no surprise here. Dermatologists call this the 50-50-50 rule. "Fifty percent of the population has about 50 percent gray hair at age 50,"




Find out what's causing your salt-and-pepper strands.


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Although some women proudly sport a silver mane, many others face the arrival of new gray hairs with dread. The good news: Scientists are hard at work on how to prevent them. So what do researchers know that you don't?
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1. Normal Aging Is the Biggest Culprit

OK, no surprise here. Dermatologists call this the 50-50-50 rule. "Fifty percent of the population has about 50 percent gray hair at age 50," says Anthony Oro, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology at Stanford University. And as with skin, hair's texture changes with age, says Heather Woolery Lloyd, MD, director of ethnic skin care at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

2. Your Ethnicity Makes a Difference

Caucasians tend to go gray earlier — and redheads earliest of all. Then Asians. Then African-Americans. Scientists haven't figured out why yet.

3. Stress Seems to Play a Role

"Stress won't cause you to go gray directly," says Roopal Kundu, MD, associate professor in dermatology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "But stress is implicated in a lot of skin and hair issues." During an illness, for example, people can shed hair rapidly. And hair you lose after a stressful event — like the hair you lose after getting chemotherapy — might grow back a different color.
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4. Your Lifestyle Makes a Difference

Smoking, for example, stresses your skin and hair. "Low vitamin B12 levels are notorious for causing loss of hair pigment," says Karthik Krishnamurthy, DO, director of the Dermatology Center's Cosmetic Clinic at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. Try eating foods such as liver and carrots, recommends Wilma Bergfeld, MD, a senior dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Foods packed with certain vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants might help protect cells against toxins and help prevent heart disease, cancer, and other ailments (and perhaps gray hair!).

5. Hair and Its Color Are Separate Things

Hair stem cells make hair, and pigment-forming stem cells make pigment. Typically they work together, but either can wear out, sometimes prematurely. Researchers are trying to figure out if a medicine or something you could put in your scalp could slow the graying process. (Hair dye simply coats your hair in color but doesn't alter its structure.)

6. Your Hair Doesn't Turn Gray — It Grows That Way

A single hair grows for one to three years, then you shed it — and grow a new one. As you age, your new hairs are more likely to be white. "Every time the hair regenerates, you have to re-form these pigment-forming cells, and they wear out," Dr. Oro says.

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Women's Magazine: 6 Things You Didn't Know About Gray Hair
6 Things You Didn't Know About Gray Hair
OK, no surprise here. Dermatologists call this the 50-50-50 rule. "Fifty percent of the population has about 50 percent gray hair at age 50,"
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