Allowing nature to take its course isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially when the end result is a head full of gray hair.
Gray hair results from a loss of pigment, commonly known as melanin. The two types of pigments: dark (eumelanin) and light (phaeomelanin) blend together to make up the wide range of hair colors that begin to form even before we’re born.
While age and genetics play a role, the exact reason why hair goes gray is still a mystery. And the rate at which it occurs is almost as inexplicable. For some people, the process starts in their 20s and 30s while others don’t see the first signs of gray until they’re well into their 40s. What’s known for sure is that your chances of going gray increase 10-20 percent every decade after 30 years. Some scientists even believe that certain environmental and metabolic conditions like thyroid dysfunction and exposure to toxins also should be taken into consideration as possible contributors to the loss of hair color.
Fortunately, for many “mature” women, access to products and information geared specifically toward caring for and maintaining gray hair, has opened the door to a number of new style options.
Today’s gray-haired lady isn’t the matronly figure we may be accustomed to in our mind’s eye. Instead, she’s vivacious, spunky and proud to flaunt rather than hide those grays.
To put a spin on a popular saying: 40, 50 and maybe even 60 is the new 30 and the rules of color have changed. And, for the women who opt to let Mother Nature have her way, the choice can be a very personal one.
“I was determined to do and spend whatever it took to fight the grays to the death,” said Stacy Pierce, a 40-something professional photographer based in Orlando, Florida. “Eventually, I decided, no more, and learned to embrace the uniqueness of my gray hair.”
But, make no mistake, she said. Going gray does not equate to being maintenance-free. Generally speaking, gray hair remains just as strong as hair that has retained its color. The big difference is that there are fewer lubricants in the hair shaft. This occurs naturally as oil-producing cells in the hair follicle begin to decrease with time. The result is hair that feels brittle to the touch and can be quicker to break as a result of normal combing and brushing.
“The texture of my gray hair is completely different from hair that has retained its pigment,” said Stacy. “Gray hair is unruly, dry and simply doesn’t respond to product the same way.”
To keep her gray locks looking shiny and bright, Stacy deep conditions her hair more often and uses a leave-in on a regular basis. Additionally, she uses coconut oil in conjunction with a clarifying and moisturizing shampoo and conditioner made specifically for gray hair, as a “tried and true” remedy to help lock in extra moisture.
The key, according to Stacy, is to choose a treatment and hair care routine that’s right for you. If needed, also consider consulting a professional stylist for tips on how to go gray with grace.