Nothing makes you look older than a head of gray hair. Even a few errant grays can add years to an otherwise youthful face and body. Traditional hair dyes scorch your hair, can cause skin rashes and itchy scalp, and have even been linked to an increased risk of cancer! Not to worry: first, let’s understand the causes and tackle any health conditions that may be exacerbating the gray, and then let’s look at some quick and natural gray hair remedies to reverse your hair to its natural color.
Gray hair is determined by genetics, diet, and overall health and wellness. It’s an impending part of growing older, but not one you need to face with a sense of doom. When you start graying largely depends on genetics, but as the field of epigenetics is proving, we have more say in how and when our genes express themselves than we previously thought. You can stall (or accelerate) gray hairs through lifestyle and nutrition choices.
Our hair follicles contain tiny pigment cells called melanocytes that color the hair. As we age, melanocyte activity decreases and hair grows in without color…aka gray. Recent research suggests that oxidative stress (think: free radical damage caused by a lifetime of eating processed foods, drinking alcohol, smoking, and living in urban, polluted environments) causes hydrogen peroxide to accumulate, bleaching melanin in hair to gray. A diet rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals can neutralize oxidative damage and rejuvenate melanocytes.
The following health conditions can also cause premature aging and graying:
- Thyroid disorders (disorders such as hyper- and hypo-thyroidism, Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s disease)
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency
- Iron deficiency
- Iodine deficiency
- Copper deficiency
- Intestinal disorders (Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease)
- Complications from gastric bypass surgery or other stomach issues that impair absorption
- Vitiligo (disorder distinguished by lost melanin and white, patchy skin)
- Early menopause
Eastern medicine points to an underlying disturbance that causes premature aging and graying. Traditional Chinese Medicine attributes graying to poor blood quality and compromised kidney function as possible instigators, and recommends strengthening with the following foods:
- Blackstrap molasses
- Black sesame seeds
- Hijiki seaweed
Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, suggests strengthening the kidneys and liver with bringaraj—an herb that translates to “king of the hair”). It has also been praised as a treatment for coughs, intestinal worms, anemia, hepatitis, and assorted skin conditions.
Bringaraj can be taken internally or applied topically to the scalp. Ayurvedic herbs are potent, and because they balance the energies of the body it’s important to work with an accomplished practitioner to make sure your system doesn’t tilt out of whack.
Amla, or Indian Gooseberry, is another popular ayurvedic remedy for gray hair. Packed with antioxidants, including a high concentration of vitamin C, amla reverses those grays and strengthens hair. You can treat your grays with amla oil or amla pulp. Mix alma pulp with a dash of lemon juice and massage into your scalp nightly. Easy gray hair remedies that take less than 5 minutes to apply!
If you are absolutely intolerant of grays and want immediate coverage, use a natural, henna-based hair dye without ammonia, PPD, peroxide, parabens, resorcinol, heavy metals, or GMOs.