Premature Hair Graying (Canities)
In this time of COVID-19, which itself is so stressful in every aspect, something which bothers everyone is early graying of hair. In this world of showbiz which is crazily driven by celebrities, fashionistas, lifestyle influencers, perfect chiseled face, great body and black hair has gained a top priority.
Premature graying of hair is a bothersome and disfiguring condition causing significant interference with social adjustment and acceptance.
Although I don’t find it something very worrisome, because if you can handle it you can look great like Milin Soman (Still looks the best). To top it there is a recent trend of the salt pepper look, consisting of combo of black and white hair (I too tried that on me, looked decent).
Hair is said to gray prematurely only if graying occurs before the age of 20 years in Whites, before 25 years in Asians, and before 30 years in Africans. So when a person of 40 comes to me and says doc my hair is turning grey, I am like you are 40 till when will it remain black…!!! A good thumb rule is that by 50 years of age, 50% of people have 50% gray hair. When a person grows older, the pigment cells begin to die and the melanin production reduces, making the strand transparent – grey, silver or white
Graying first appears usually at the temples, and spreads to the vertex and then the remainder of the scalp, affecting the occiput last. Beard and body hair is usually affected later. Graying often follows a wave that spreads slowly from the crown to the occiput. In women, graying is first noticed at the boundaries of the scalp.
Hair graying is a consequence of a reduced activity of hair bulb melanocytes, sounds a little Greek and Latin. So basically, hair has a color producing factory called melanin, which gets altered with lifestyle changes, stress, pollution, chemical damages, vitamin deficiency, aging, etc. Because of these reasons we are starting to see early onset graying of hair in adolescents. It also runs in the family, to the point almost 30-40% have either their mother or father having early graying.
Oxidative stress caused by pollution, UV light, psycho-emotional or inflammatory stress overpower the hair melanocyte antioxidant capacity resulting in enhanced damage of the hair follicle. This is the reason why smoking leads to early graying.
There are multiple diseases and syndromes giving rise to white hair but they run in family and is impossible to treat them. We can treat graying of hair before 25 years by a holistic/medical approach, because presence of premature hair graying in chronic smokers indicates higher than normal risk for CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE SO ITS NOT JUST A COSMETIC PROBLEM. Also, study found that people who grayed before their 20s has lower bone mineral density compared to those who grayed later, which can lead pain in joints.
So as we discussed about the causes and how the lifestyle, stress, nutritional deficiency, pollution plays a role in premature graying, let’s throw some light on treatment.
Despite the extensive molecular research being carried out to understand the cause of canities, treatment options still remain far from satisfactory and no effective therapy is available. Few oral therapies have been tried with rather inconsistent results. Shampoos have no role to play in early graying, a common myth busted.
As of now the best treatment is a multimodal approach like:
- Quit smoking
- Lifestyle modification
- Reduce stress levels
- Protect your hair from pollution, excess sun exposure by wearing a cap, hat, bandana
- Regular exercise
- Adequate sleep
- Diet and vitamin supplements
So lets talk about vitamins and graying:
- Vitamin B12-
- P-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
- Vitamin d3
- Calcium pantothenate – Most important ingredient for treatment
- Vitamin C and vitamin E
- Vitamin b6- pyridoxine
You can start with Multi-Vitamin containing these supplements out of which most important is calcium pantothenate.
Antioxidant-rich foods include which fight against the oxidative damage
- Fresh fruits – grapes and berries.
- Vegetables- eggplant, onion, garlic
- Green tea
- Olive oil
- Dry fruits- almonds, pistachio, walnuts
- Pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach and parsley.
Certain natural remedies have been tried but the evidence is lacking on it.
- Combining curry leaves with oil
- Amla powder mixed with coconut oil
- Daily consumption of black tea
- The juice of the bhringaraj leaves is boiled in coconut oil or sesame oil.
The above combination can be Massaged on the scalp and left for 2 hours and washed.
Paucity of systemic or topical therapies in this condition has rendered camouflage techniques using hair colorants as the mainstay of therapy. The use of hair color in a patient depends on various factors such as age of onset and psychosocial impact. Plucking out of hair alone may be a reasonable choice if less than 10% of hair are affected, yes it can be done, as there is a common myth that plucking gives rise to more white hair near it.
Alternatively, an individual may choose to color only the gray hair, especially in the beginning when graying is confined to the temples in men or the perimeter in women.
So that is it a complete scientific and evidence-based analysis of premature graying of hair. Hope this helps you to identify the problem, what you should do and what you shouldn’t do if you start graying early…!!