How to prevent premature graying
Going gray before your time
A healthy lifestyle and work-life balance is key
Hair Gurus Drs. Apoorva and Sonal Shah are synonymous with strand and scalp care. Whatever your health woes—from graying and thinning to balding and hair loss, Drs. Shah have the perfect remedy. Featured in the Limca book of Records as India’s first certified trichologist, Dr. Apoorva took up the cause of tresses long before it became fashionable, setting up the Richfeel Trichology Centers in India—fifty two—at last count—to solve common strand woes. His beautiful wife Dr. Sonal shares his passion and is a qualified Beauty Physician in Natural Therapies and the first female Indian trichologist who launched the country’s earliest range of nutritive homeopathic remedies. The couple was also the Official Hair Care Experts for the Femina Miss India Pageant for ten consecutive years.
A natural process of ageing
Drs. Shah believes that though graying is part of the natural process of ageing, Indian men and women are spotting those pesky grays when they’re in their 20s and 30s. Dr. Apoorva explains that while hair tends to lose its natural color as we age, premature greying is a morbid condition that can age you before your time. “Hair is an appendage of skin, composed of the same kind of cells as the outer layer of skin, also referred to as the epidermis.” Hair grows from hair follicles embedded deep within the epidermis. Oil secreting glands (sebaceous glands) in the scalp secrete oily sebum that supplies nutrition, luster and blackness to hair. These nutrients are supplied by the bloodstream and no amount of external application—think oils and protein masks –can make the hair healthy from within.
The role of melanin in hair color
Dr. Sonal says that hair color is determined by a number of factors such as the quality of food you eat, your lifestyle, stress, and to some, extent hereditary traits. “If your mother grayed in her 30s, chances are you might too.” However, the single most important factor that determines hair color is melanin. Produced by melanocytes found within the layers of the hair follicle melanin accumulates in cells of newly produced hair bulb and colors the hair as it emerges from the follicle.
“There comes a time when the melanocytes start making little or no melanin, causing hair to become virtually transparent. The result: gray hair, “explains Dr. Apoorva. But what causes this to happen? He explains that melanocytes stop functioning effectively when there’s a decrease in the production of the hormone that stimulates their functioning. “This is usually a part of aging and the obvious signs are hair fall, thinning and graying.”
Causes for graying
Dr. Sonal points out that graying among younger men and women is often a result of nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of B vitamins, iron, copper and iodine. Tension and stress also affect scalp and skin health because it interferes with the supply of vital nutrition necessary for healthy skin and tresses. She adds that some experts believe that rapid hair whitening can be attributed to a rare form of alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakes the hair follicles to be invaders and launches an aggressive attack resulting in partial or complete baldness. Typically, only pigmented hair is targeted and falls out. Grays that may have been hidden under layers of darker strands now become more obvious. Dr. Shah say that other causes of premature graying include unclean scalp, shampooing with hot water, over-use of hair dryers and hair dyes. “There have been instances when extreme shock causes overnight graying,” says Dr. Apoorva.
Treatment protocols for graying
Treatment protocols for premature greying lie more in the preventive category than in the curative realm. Since oxidative stress is an important cause for graying, eating an energizing, antioxidant-rich diet choc-a-bloc with strawberries, red apples, cherries, green tea, red and black grapes, and kidney beans can pack a punch. “People must learn to de-stress through exercise, yoga or meditation.” It’s also important to maintain a healthy work-life balance and work towards ensuring a less fast-paced lifestyle. As Dr. Shah point out, “Those grays may well be an early warning of an internal imbalance. Think of them as a warning bell and seek help.”