Going grey is one of the most obvious signs we’re ageing, but luckily it’s a gradual process! At the age of 45, about 2 out of 3 people will have some sort of greyness. It’s also more likely to happen to men than women, particularly around the temples.

Why am I going grey?

Grey hair is hair that lacks melanin, our body’s natural pigment. As we get older, the pigment cells in our hair follicles start to die, which means there is less melanin to produce colour. Hair starts to look dull, become stiff and breaks easily.

Meanwhile, hair can look grey because the white hairs are mixed with your natural hair pigment colour (blonde, brown, red, black). Grey hair is just an optical illusion!

The shame of ageing

No one ever wants grey hair, but for men in India and China, going grey is a big problem. In these countries, grey hair is associated with rejection and a decrease in vitality. Black hair is the beauty ideal!

It doesn’t only affect men though – in Japan, women are extremely embarrassed by any grey hairs, although they can cover them up more easily with hair dyes and colours. 

Grey hair doesn’t seem to be as frequent with Sub-Saharan Africans and Afro-Americans compared to other races. Generally, Africans and Asians are less affected, and it’s much more common to find grey-haired people amongst blonde populations. However, the lighter the hair, the less noticeable it is! That’s why darker-haired populations are so ashamed of grey hairs… They’re so much more obvious!

What happens to grey hair in the sun?

Melanin protects the hair by absorbing solar radiation. In greying hair, there is less melanin to filter through the light. 
We can see the first effects of solar radiation when grey hair starts to turn yellow.
Hair is also considerably weaker when it is grey. When white hair and pigmented hair are exposed to the same UV radiation, grey hair is less resistant. This is because it is much more damaged.