01.12.2022

80% of us will get them, so here’s everything you need to know about natural grey hairs

Despite the fact that 2 in 5 choose to cover up their greys, a growing number are more than happy to embrace a bit of salt and pepper. 25% of British women said they noticed more peers showing off their greys now than ever before, which in turn has made them feel more confident about their own hair.

Grey hairs happen – to 80% of Brits, in fact (according to a recent survey from Pantene). So whether you have just a few strands or turn full-on silver fox, it’s likely you’ll encounter at least a few greys of your own at some point.

Not only is grey a shade we’re accepting, it’s a shade we’re embracing, with many actively seeking it out. Pinterest, for example, has seen an 879% surge in searches for “going grey”. Those that don’t have it, want it, and many that do, are more than happy for their silver strands to shine through.

The Instagram account, Grombre, which is dedicated to the “radical celebration of the natural phenomenon of grey hair,” has taken off, with over 142 thousand followers (and counting. At last count, it had over 1,356 posts of women of all different ages and ethnicities sharing photos of their hair in all its natural icy glory.

But to understand a little more, we called on Anabel Kingsley, top trichologist at Philip Kingsley and leading hairdresser Michael Van Clarke to shed light on what causes grey hair and how best to look after it.

What is grey hair?

“Grey hair is simply hair that lacks pigment (melanin). In fact, there is actually no such thing as ‘grey’ hair – the hair is white, but simply looks grey when it is interspersed with pigmented hairs,” explains Kinglsey.

What causes grey hair

“When you go grey is largely down to genes. If your mother or father started getting white hairs at a young age, it is likely that you will as well. On average, most people’s hair is 50% white by the time they turn 50 years old,” says Kingsley.

“Certain medications and health conditions can also cause hair to turn white. For instance, Vitamin B12 deficiency, pernicious anaemia and thyroid disorders can cause premature greying. When hair initially grows back after Alopecia Areata, it often comes in white, and then usually reverts to its usual pigmented colour. Stress has also been linked to premature greying,” she adds.

Can a grey hair become pigmented again?

“No – unless your hair has temporarily lost its pigment due to a health condition or medication,” says Kingsley.

Does hair turn grey or grow grey?

“White hair is caused when a protein in the base of the hair follicle triggers a switch-off in the production of melani. There is no gradual fading of colour for that hair – it changes from fully coloured to white,” says Van Clarke. Since our hair goes through different cycles (it grows, sheds and grows again), the grey will begin to grow through with a new hair cycle.

Why do some people’s hair not go grey?

“It is primarily down to genes,” says Kingsley, “but environmental factors may also play a role.”

Will greys show up in some hair colours more than others?

“The ratio of white hairs to coloured hairs on the head gives the overall tone of grey,” explains Van Clarke, “it’s why blondes and redheads do not appear to go grey, just gradually whiter. They also turn white the slowest.”

Does grey hair need to be looked after differently to other shades?

“Since white hair lacks pigment, it’s more prone to UV damage. Therefore, it’s even more important to use UV protective products if you have white hair,” says Kingsley. “White hair also gets discoloured easily,” she adds. “To counteract brassy or dull tones, regularly shampoo and condition with violet-hued toning products like the Philip Kingsley Pure Silver Shampoo and Conditioner,” recommends Kingsley.

“Grey hair tends to feel less mobile, frizzier or coarser and thinner at the ends. This puts more energy at the roots and less at the ends making it hard for the hair to have movement and swing (imagine taking the weight off the end of a pendulum),” says Van Clarke. “Smoothing or texturising products and techniques can help loosen and boost the roots and thicken and smooth the ends,” he adds. “Try a thickening blow dry spray at the roots and volumising mousse at the mid lengths and ends to thicken and smooth, which will give control and shine.”

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