Why hair turns white

Ever wondered why your hair turns white as you get older? In this article, we explore why hair turns white. We explain the factors involved why your hair will eventually turn into grey or white.

Factors involved

To begin with, there are two parts to the hair: the shaft and the root. The shaft is the coloured part of the hair whether it is brown, black, red or blonde. The root keeps that piece of hair fixed on the scalp.

Under the root of each hair is a follicle. It surrounds the hair's root. Each hair follicle contains a number of pigment cells. Melanin is constantly produced by these cells. These cells are responsible for giving the hair its colour.

  • Purpose of melanin
  • Melanin is also responsible for the pigment of our skin and eye colour. Darker skinned people have more melanin in their skin than those with lighter skin. It also determines how quickly a person will burn or change colour when exposed to the sun's rays.

  • Getting older
  • As you get older, the pigment in your hair follicles gradually die. There will come a point where melanin is not produced anymore. Hence, the colour of the hair changes at the root to a lighter colour whether it is silver grey or white.

    From the time your hair starts turning white or grey, it will take about 10 years before your entire crown will turn into this colour.

    When hair turns grey

    You can get white or grey hair at any time. How early or late your hair turns white is dependent on your genes. It is more visible of course in people with darker skin, but equally, grey or white hair will also catch up on lighter skinned people. It is not true though that hair can turn white or grey overnight due to trauma or shock. There is no scientific explanation that backs up this occurrence.

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