What causes gray hairs in the first place? Your body produces a protein called melanin, which allows your hair to grow in (at the root) through melanin-filled cells. At some point (usually in your early 30s, though it can happen much sooner), your body stops producing this protein, resulting in a lack of melanocytes. Your melanocytes share melanin with keratinocytes, which produce keratin. When the keratinocytes die off, they still hold onto the melanin, which means they’re hanging onto your hair color. As a result, new hair that grows in has no pigment and presents itself as gray or white.
In laymens terms: your hair passes through melanin-filled cells as it comes in. When those cells no longer retain melanin (because it’s being hogged up by something — keratinocytes — that is dying), the hair has no pigment to pass through as it comes in, so it comes through gray. (This means that your hair doesn’t suddenly “change” into a gray shade; your new hairs are growing in gray.)
This gray hair, lacking in melanin and keratin, is very dry and coarse. For straighties, this often means they suddenly get hair that sticks out, flies away, or curls near the roots. For curlies, it usually means having hair that gets bumped up a level in type (i.e. type 3s start growing in hair that more closely resembles type 4). However, some curlies get shocked with gray hairs that are nearly straight and look nothing like the hair they’ve come to know and love!
Embrace the Gray?
Some people, usually men, view gray hairs as a sign of seniority and say that it gives them a “distinguished” look. Women, on the other hand, are usually horrified. Tolerating gray hair is one thing, but embracing gray hair is quite another! Nonetheless, at some point you’ll have to accept what you cannot change. Remember, chemical hair dyes are not natural!
Glowing in Gray
Some people, usually men,
view gray hairs as a sign of
seniority and say that it gives
them a “distinguished” look.
Women, on the other hand,
are usually horrified.
The solution for your newfound grays depends on what you’re dealing with once they make an appearance. If you’re going from wavy to curly or from curly to coily, consider adding more moisture-rich products to your hair care routine. The more curl your hair has, the more porous it tends to be. Gray hairs are more dry on their own, regardless of curl pattern or lack thereof. Additionally, some curlies seem to have the frizzies under control until the gray hairs takes over the majority of their hair. However, until your whole head is gray, which can take decades, you probably don’t need to go on a full-on quest to find a totally new regimen.
If you’re now dealing with random straight hairs or patches of somewhat straight hair, try scrunching it along with your regular hair. Treat it the same way you do the rest of your hair and see if you can’t convince it to cooperate.