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To Gray Or Not To Gray? That Is The Question

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Legend has it that Marie Antoinette’s hair turned white the night before she was guillotined. Presumably, the stress of impending decapitation caused her locks to lose color within hours. Extremely unlikely, scientists say, but stress may play a role in a more gradual graying process. Science tells us the reason hair turns gray is because of the loss of melanin, which is the pigment in our hair and skin that gives it its color. Melanin is produced by cells that are called melanocytes. These melanocytes eventually die and so the production of melanin is stopped. When the melanocytes stop producing these pigments, we sprout a transparent hair, which appears as gray due to the color of the dead cells that comprise the strand.

When the melanin disappears completely, the hair is white. It is not known exactly how hair loses its pigment. It is suspected that going gray is “genetically outlined,” meaning that if your parents or grandparents had gray hair, and they got it around a certain age bracket, it is likely that you will also “go gray” around that age as well. Independent, Assisted Living and even some nursing homes offer beauty salon services for their residents, even if they decide to keep their gray hair natural. Providing personal services such as shaving, haircuts, styling or even hair color treatments give Assisted Living residents the chance to look and feel their best.

Going gray, and keeping it that way, is becoming more common than ever. Even celebrities are not hiding their silver hair anymore. Stars like Helen Mirren and Blythe Danner have made gray look gorgeous and they proudly walk the red carpet showing off their natural hair color. Many people may have heard this before, but going gray can actually add to your appeal. Most women would conclude that George Clooney looks quite debonair with his graying locks. The trick to graying gracefully is to find your best hairstyle and use key products to enhance and maintain the look. Board and Care Facilities offer programs and classes to help seniors adjust to the effects of aging. This includes graying gracefully and leading a healthy senior lifestyle.


Marie Antoinette by *Basistka on deviantART

Scientists say there are several medical conditions characterized by graying of the hair. A B-12 deficiency, a thyroid imbalance, and anemia can all cause premature gray hair. And if you needed yet another reason to quit smoking, there is new evidence that smokers are 4 times more likely to go gray at a young age. The common belief that psychological shock or trauma can turn hair gray overnight is cause for a fair amount of controversy. While some people claim such an occurrence, many scientists question the actual time frame involved.

Stress hormones may affect the survival and/or activity of melanocytes, but no clear link has been found between stress and gray hair. Stress and lifestyle give you variation of plus or minus 5 to 10 years. Researchers at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom published the results of a study in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s online journal and concluded that build up of hydrogen peroxide in hair follicles contributes to hair turning gray. Hydrogen peroxide is produced naturally in the human body and interferes with melanin, the pigment that colors our hair and skin. The body also produces the enzyme catalase, which breaks down hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. As we age, catalase production trails off, leaving nothing to transform the hydrogen peroxide into chemicals the body can release.

So what happened to Marie Antoinette? There are at least 3 possible explanations:

  • She may have suffered from sudden onset of a very rare autoimmune disease alopecia areata, which attacks pigmented hairs, causing them to fall out, leaving the white, non pigmented strands behind.
  • Alternatively, the stress of the situation could have generated a swarm of free radicals in her hair follicles, which traveled along the hair shafts, destroying pigment and creating a bleaching effect.
  • On the other hand, maybe she just stopped wearing her wig, revealing she had gray hair all along.

Trivia: At the height of the French Revolution, Louis XVI was deposed and the royal family was imprisoned. 9 months after her husband’s execution, Marie Antoinette was tried, convicted of treason and executed by guillotine on October 16th 1793.

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Los Angeles and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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