Some men and women go with the flow and embrace this side effect of ageing, while others rail against it and spend the rest of their lives covering the problem. We’re talking grey hair.
I have vivid memories of my mother pulling out her grey hairs, then heading off to the colourist when that strategy failed. And who hasn’t seen an older male sporting the tell-tale shades of Grecian 2000?
Dermatologists refer to the incidence of grey hair as the 50-50-50 rule. “Fifty per cent of the population has about 50 per cent grey hair at age 50,” according to Dr Anthony Oro, professor of dermatology at Stanford University.
But when those first grey hairs appear, how do you react? Can you slow process? Why do some people go grey at a much earlier age than others?
Hair follicles have pigment cells that make melanin, a chemical that gives your hair its colour, WebMD explains. As we age, these cells start to die and new hair strands grow in lighter shades that eventually become grey, silver, and white.
You might blame a stressful job, money worries, the grandchildren, but your genes tend to hold the key to how early and how quickly grey hair happens. So blame your parents.
Race also plays a role. On average, Caucasians start to grey in their mid-30s, Asians in their late 30s and African-Americans in their mid-40s.
Health problems can also play a role, including a lack of vitamin B12 (naturally found in animal products), thyroid disease and vitiligo (a condition that destroys pigment-making cells in the scalp).
Smokers are also likely to go grey earlier than the rest of the population with one study showing that smokers are 2.5 times more likely to grey before the age of 30 than non-smokers. They are also more likely to have yellow grey as opposed to silver grey hair.
So what are the dos and don’ts?
Don’t pluck. That does nothing but possibly damage follicles so that they no longer grow hair. This can make your mane look thin over time.
Do protect your grey hair from the sun, humidity, chemicals and heat styling, or the strands will feel dry, fragile and coarse.
Do use a moisture treatment on your hair and scalp. Grey hair is finer than coloured hair, but it may seem drier because our scalps produce less oil as we age.
Do consider a semi-permanent or permanent colour or highlights if that lifts your self-confidence. Or embrace the grey and maybe consider a different, shorter style to suit the new look.
Are you or will you be happy with grey hair or will you colour your locks for as long as you can?