Want to keep your hair from going gray too soon? The genetic code inherited from Mom and Dad mostly determines when hair follicles start losing natural color, but you can also help defend against premature graying with your lifestyle. Hair follicles naturally lose pigment with the passing years, so what age is considered premature? One study says half of us have 50 percent gray hair by 50 years old. Going gray before age 20 is early for Caucasians, while African Americans that gray before 30 are considered premature.
You may be able to slow the clock by making sure your hair follicles receive the right nutrients to make melanin—the pigment in hair and skin. Research finds that low copper, zinc, iron, calcium, and vitamin D can all affect premature graying.
Here’s what you should be eating and doing to help your hair keep pigment longer.
Add walnuts, spinach, and fish to the menu.
Fill in nutritional gaps by adding certain foods to your diet. Walnuts are a great source of copper. Zinc is found in fish, seeds, beans, whole grains, and leafy greens like kale and broccoli, which are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids that strengthen hair health. Lentils, beans, and spinach provide the iron in most diets, while high concentrations of this vital mineral are found in liver, clams, mussels, oysters, and canned sardines.
Consult your doctor before taking B-vitamin supplements.
Your healthcare professional can offer advice about taking B-vitamin supplements to help delay graying. Talk to a doctor about whether you’re truly deficient in nutrients.
Your healthcare provider can help determine if you have other conditions that affect your hair color. Some autoimmune and kidney conditions can change the way your body absorbs vitamin B-6 and cause premature graying.
Smoking kickstarts graying.
Studies prove a significant relationship between lighting up and premature graying. One study showed that smokers are 2 1/2 times more likely to gray before age 30 than nonsmokers. A report in the British Medical Journal attributes early graying to toxins in cigarettes damaging hair follicles.
Is stress responsible for gray hair?
You may find the effort to stop smoking stressful, and your doctor can suggest ways to make it easier. While no studies prove stress causes premature graying, stress can cause a condition that prompts your body to shed hair about 3 times faster than normal. You may see more silver because the hair that grows back may be gray instead of your original color.