Gray hairs are the aftermath of a battle that our bodies wage every single day.
On one hand, there are antioxidants (comprised of vitamins, proteins and enzymes), which protect our body against cellular deterioration. While on the other hand are the pro-oxidants (or free radicals). From pollution and smoking to deficient diets plus a lack of or excessive exercise, a build-up of those pro-oxidants cause an imbalance inside the body, known as oxidative stress.
So how does oxidative stress cause hair to go gray?
Each tiny follicle on your head is involved in a dynamic hair growth cycle, during which the follicle is either in a stage of growth (the anagen stage), in a period of rest (the telogen stage) or in a interval between the both (the catagen stage).
The anagen stage can be divided into half-dozen distinct processes. For the purpose of gray hair and oxidative stress, we focus on anagen stage III and anagen stage IV.
Hair follicle melanocytes (specialized cells which directly manage the pigment of one’s hair) achieve their peak anagen stage III. As the melanocytes proliferate, they become aligned inside the foundation of the hair follicle bulb and start the transition to anagen stage IV, which marks the hair pigmentation process.
Based on biomedical and pathology researcher within the UK, US and Germany, oxidative stress directly impacts melanocyte development through the anagen stage III process. An excess of pro-oxidants accumulates inside the papilla cavity kills off the melanocytes. There are no longer any melanocytes to pigment the hair, resulting in the gray hair strand.
However: Don’t resign your self to gray hair just yet. Although graying may seem final, it stands to reason that if oxidative stress can lead to melanocyte death, then the reduction of oxidative stress can allow these specialized cells to re-emerge and kick-start the hair pigmentation process all over again.
– gray hair may be reversed. There is ongoing research on how this may be achieved and I am hopeful that solutions will be shortly available.
[ C. E. CROSS, B. HALLIWELL, E. T. BORISH, W. A. PRYOR, B. N. AMES, R. L. SAUL, J. M. McCORD, and D. HARMAN. “Oxygen Radicals and Human Disease.” Ann Intern Med, October 1, 1987; 107(4): 526 - 545.]
[TOBIN DJ, SLOMINSKI A, BOTCHKAREV V et all (1999). “The Fate of Hair Follicle Melanocytes During the Hair Growth Cycle.” J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc 4.323-332.]