Why does our hair turn grey when we age?what makes our hair gray, and why so some people already have white hairs even though they are still young?

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dswain001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In our bodies, we all have a chemical called Melanin. Melanin is what gives color to our skin. The amount of melanin your body has determines how fair or dark your skin tone. People of African or Latin decent typically have more melanin which is why they usually have darker complexions. People who are albino lack this chemical which is why their skin, hair and eyes are lighter.  

Our hair follicles also contain this chemical. When hair first begins to grow out of our scalp, it is white. As our hair grows, the follicles provide hair shafts with this chemical. Hair has two kinds of pigments eumelanin which is dark and paheomelanin, which is light. When these two combine, they create various shades of hair color. How much or how little we have determines how light or dark our hair is.

As we age, these pigment cells begin to die out and our hair (while still growing) becomes gray because it lacks pigment. Old age does not necessarily equate going gray. It all depends on genetics. Some people go gray when they are relatively young (in their teens or 20's), others may not see their first gray hair until they are in their 50's. Still, we all will eventually get gray hair.

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