Walking around the park or the supermarket, you’ve probably seen your grandparents or older adults at their age, with grey or white hair. Maybe you’re noticing your parents’ hair showing flecks of white and grey and you’re wondering why! The appearance of white or grey hair can happen at any age, even as early as middle school! The age we get grey hair depends on our genes, meaning you will probably get grey or white hair around the same time your parents did.
Why does hair turn grey?
Each strand of hair is anchored to connective tissue inside your head called the hair follicle. Each follicle contains pigment cells which produces a pigment called melanin.
Melanin is a chemical which gives your hair its natural color. The more melanin in your hair, the darker your hair color will be. Grey hair is caused when there is only a little bit of melanin in the hair and white hair has none at all.
When hair first starts turning grey, it’s because the pigment cells are becoming less active and so less melanin is produced, therefore turning the hair lighter. As the person gets older, more pigment cells will begin to die and so less and less melanin will be produced. Eventually all the hair will be completely grey or white.
Why does hair reduce?
You may also notice your grandparents having very little or no hair! This is because the hair is thinning. As adults get older, their hair follicles begin to shrink and aren’t as rooted into the skin, leading to smaller, finer strands of hair which fall out easier. Their hair growth is slower than the rate their hair falls out. Eventually, some follicles die and stop producing hair and this leads to balding. If you know someone that’s completely bald, it’s because all their hair follicles have stopped producing new hair.
Hair turning grey and growing less are natural process that people may face as they turn older. So don’t be worried if you find white strands on your head your hair grow thinner!