Everyone remembers the day they woke up to find a grey hair. It’s a rite of passage, a sign of wisdom and a life well lived. But while those with steel strands should embrace the hue, the question remains: Why do we go grey? And is there anything that can be done to prevent our hair from losing its natural pigment?

Why does your hair turn grey?

According to research conducted by the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, the average age men and women start to see grey hair is between 34 and 44. But if you’re someone who noticed your hair turning white before you hit your 30s, then chances are it’s due to genetics.

Hair follicles contain pigment cells that produce melanin – which is responsible for giving your hair its natural colour. As we age, the body stops generating melanin resulting in grey hair.

Sure, there are other factors to consider, such as stress, but experts say the correlation between stress and grey hair is yet to be proven.

“It is unclear whether emotional stress is truly associated with greying of the hair,” Joshua Ziechner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at the Mount Sinai Department of Dermatology told Allure.

“We know that stress can have physical effects, interfering with wound healing and promoting inflammation. We don’t know how significant of an impact it has on hair colour, but I would not be surprised if one day a definite association is found.”

What makes grey hair different from other hair?

It’s long been thought that grey hair is much coarser in texture than coloured hair, but that myth has been debunked. While grey hair can feel rough, it’s actually much finer than your natural hair. The reason for its dry appearance is due to oil glands.

You see, oil glands are responsible for providing a lubricant to the hair, and as we age, our bodies produce less sebum, meaning your follicles will appear to be much drier.

“It is unclear why, but the biological process that affects the colour of the hair likely also affects the structure of the hair being produced as well,” says Zeichner, which may put a dampener on your mood, but is a plus when it comes to styling hair as grey strands hold curls better!

Speaking to Allure, colourist Jax Williard said: “A lot of women get discouraged from going grey, but the texture [greys] give you can actually make your hair routine more exciting. Your hair might dry much quicker, and you might feel that it is much thicker, holding styles better and longer. That being said, you should also focus on keeping your hair very moisturised from roots to ends. This will keep it soft and shiny.”

How do you care for grey hair?

Congratulations! You’ve decided to become a silver fox or vixen and rock what you’ve got. You’re in good company, with women such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Emma Thompson flashing the brilliant hue. But before you commit, it’s important to understand exactly how to care for your new locks.

First things first, grab yourself some blue or purple shampoo. While it may sound like a ridiculous concept, the coloured shampoo helps cancel out any brassiness that may appear, and also helps keep your hair looking brighter for longer.

Using a purple or blue-toned shampoo a few times a month will help keep your strands in optimal condition, but be sure not to go overboard, as excessive use may dry out your hair further.

And speaking of dry hair, the words “hydrating” and “nourishing” are your best friends. For your everyday shampoo, you want it full of antioxidants to help revive your hair as chances are, it’ll be a little thirsty.

But if shampoo isn’t providing enough moisture for you, then Aura Freidman, a colourist at the Sally Hershberger Tim Rogers salon in New York City let Allure in on a genius alternative: “I always recommend a cleansing milk,” she says. “I find it much more moisturising and it keeps the hair from getting too dry. With grey hair, it tends to [feel] a little bit dryer. It has a different texture. A cool blonde conditioner is great – the shampoo tends to dry out the hair, but the conditioner deposits the tone, conditions the hair and adds moisture.”

Are you planning to ditch the dyes and embrace your grey hair? Let us know in the comments below.


This article was written in partnership with Over60.