“I love to see old women. I love wrinkles. I love gray hair.”—Alber Elbaz (Israeli fashion designer)
Seven-year-old Erica jumped, skipped, twirled, and laughed as she stormed into her grandmother’s house.
She had just returned from Disneyland with her mom, dad, and other grandparents, grandad Bill, and grandma Alice.
“Did you have a good time?” her grandmother asked.
“Yes!” exclaimed Erica.
“What did you ride?” her grandmother wanted to know.
“We rode Space Mountain, Mad Tea Party, California Screamin’, and a bunch of other things! But grandma Alice didn’t ride anything,” said Erica.
“Well, why not?” asked her grandmother.
“Because grandma Alice has gray hair!” squealed Erica.
Yes, Erica thought gray hair was why her grandma Alice didn’t enjoy the rides at Disneyland.
What does this funny (and true) little story say about older women?
In this young child’s mind gray hair is viewed as a sign of aging—grandma Alice was too old and frail and couldn’t keep up, which could not be further from the truth.
Erica’s grandma Alice was only 53 years old and a very active business owner who happened not to enjoy carnivals and amusement parks.
So, should grandma Alice dye her hair?
After all, as noted in one reference work, “In every age and culture, hair expresses some part of the person beneath it.”
What do you want your hair to say about you?
I believe the central message one should want their hair to convey is health and attractiveness. You want to appear vibrant.
Why does hair turn gray?
Graying doesn’t mean the hair dies. The visible portion of all hair is already dead.
Each hair on our head extends below the skin surface, and the end of that hair, which is the only living part, is called the “bulb’—that bulb functions as the hair factory.
Rapid division of cells in the bulb forms the hair, which absorbs melanin produced by pigment cells.
Hair turns gray because the pigment cells that make melanin, a chemical that gives your hair its color, stop generating melanin, and no one knows why.
But without pigment, new strands grow in lighter and take on various shades of gray, silver, and eventually white.
Scientists believe that your genes dictate how early this happens.
I knew a man, for instance, who had utterly white hair—prematurely—in his twenties!
Thus, it appears to be beyond our power to prevent graying. This fact doesn’t deter people from trying.
For instance, there are some treatments, such as melanin injection. And, of course, many dyes their hair—a practice that dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The ancient Egyptians used the blood of bulls to color their hair.
Hair can indicate the condition of your health.
Hair is one of the fastest-growing tissues in the body, and any abnormalities in your body’s chemistry will show up in the growth structure of your hair.
Some doctors are even beginning to think diagnosing a person’s illness is possible by examining a strand of hair.
For instance, in infants, doctors can use blood tests and microscopic hair examinations to diagnose Menkes Disease (Syndrome).
And you’re probably aware of how hair analyses can determine your drug use and your unique genetic code or DNA, which helps the police solve crimes.
Yes, hair analysis can be a helpful tool.
Emotional stress can also affect hair. Extreme nervousness appears to disrupt the proper flow of nutrients to the scalp, thus causing hair problems.
Diet can also affect your hair. A balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruits, and not too many starches and sugars contributes to a healthy body and, in turn, healthy hair.
Consider these healthy tips:
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, salmon, sardines, and mackerel: help to protect you from disease and gives you what your body needs to grow hair and keep it shiny and full.
- Greek yogurt: has vitamin B5, which helps blood flow to your scalp and hair growth.
- Leafy vegetables: spinach has vitamin A, iron, beta carotene, folate, and vitamin C that work for a healthy scalp and keeps your hair moisturized, so it doesn’t break.
- Tropical fruits: such as guava have lots of vitamin C that protect your hair from breaking.
More best foods for healthy hair:
In addition to the tips listed above, here’s an additional list of the best foods for healthy hair as reported in an article by Angela Haupt, www.health.usnews.com
- Lean red meat (iron-rich; may help to regrow hair)
- Eggs (contain biotin, a B vitamin that promotes hair growth and overall scalp health)
- Bananas, beer, oats, and raisins (contain mineral silica to improve hair thickness)
- Sweet potatoes (packed with beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A that nourishes your hair and skin, and protects against dull hair and dry skin)
- Beans (legumes like kidneys and lentils are iron-rich and play a role in hair maintenance and support)
- Oysters, crab, and clams (zinc-rich choices to keep hair shiny and healthy)
- Vegetable oil (healthy oils like olive, peanut, safflower, and sunflower; about a teaspoon a day can restore shine)
To dye or not to dye gray hair:
“Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can’t put on make-up or dress, or do your hair with any sort of fun or joy if you’re doing it from a position of correction.”—Kevyn Aucoin
Not all women want to hide or cover their gray mane. Comments I’ve read recently on the Web about this topic include:
“My gray hair is a testament to my self-love and a celebration of getting older.”
“I find it freeing to stop coloring my hair.”
“I am embracing and love the color gray.”
Some women believe gray hair makes them look glamorous and visit salons to enhance their gray.
Did you see the movie The Devil Wears Prada? Meryl Streep played a silver-haired woman who projected power and confidence! These are qualities we would think of when gray hair robs us.
Many women wanted Streep’s look and visited salons to add strategically placed silver and platinum strands throughout their hair.
But there are, of course, many other women who believe gray hair ages them and fight this natural progression tooth and nail.
Some women feel uneasy about graying.
For instance, Diane shared with a friend:
“I got a haircut to see more of my natural color, which is gray and brown with red highlights. I liked the gray, but there wasn’t enough of it. It made me look older, and I don’t need any help with that!”
But attitudes are changing:
According to the social media platform Pinterest, in January 2022, there were 900+ searches of the term “going gray” and related terms.
Many middle-aged women in 2022 no longer want to be stuck in the endless six-week cycle of “hiding new growth” and coloring their hair.
Pinterest predicts that women will stop fighting the natural aging process of going gray and proudly let their silver strands shine through.
And according to a September 21, 2021 article posted by MSNBC writer Natalie Johnson, “silver is the new black; a symbol of aging fearlessly.”
Yes, older women are beginning to embrace their gray hair, which shows how they value authenticity and speaks to their self-confidence: “I am who I am!”
The more mature women accept this beautiful transition, the more empowering it is for all of us. Gray hair no longer means “getting old.”
When will you ditch the dye?
Of course, it is a personal decision whether or not to grow gray gracefully.
And any suggestion to go gray is a non-starter for many women (and men).
To keep dying one’s hair takes time and effort; for some, it may cause skin problems or allergic reactions.
Even if you decide to dye your graying hair, there may be a time when you will want to stop.
Hairstyling is a form of self-expression.
Hair has been cut, extended, straightened, curled, colored, and variously styled to meet fashion trends and social and political agendas.
So what does your hair reveal about you?
If or when you decide to give up the dye, I can assure you that gray hair can look elegant and give you the dignity you never had before.
“Your illustrious Gray Hair is a crown of beauty!”
Journal of Clinical Pathology
Article adapted and reprinted from:
Chillis, R. (2019), Gray Hair: A Crown of Beauty Blog