Myths about hair health and gray hair
January 30, 2021
If you haven’t already brushed up on the basics of hair I highly recommend checking it out, or referencing it if you’ve got questions as you read along. Don’t miss out on the rest of the hair myths series. I’ve addressed a lot of hair myths in my years behind the chair and starting my own website has given me a great opportunity to really address those in detail for you!
You can watch this video for a brief rundown of the text, skipping ahead to 0:40 to skip the intro.
Conditioning overnight making it more effective:
This is kind of a “yes and no”. In my years behind the chair I’ve seen a lot of cases where conditioner would be more effective if it was left on longer. Shampooing pulls out most things, both good and bad. Conditioner puts back the good stuff and seals the hair’s cuticle. If it isn’t left on long enough it doesn’t have a chance to replace the stuff the shampoo took out before it seals down your cuticle. What works best in most cases is to shampoo as soon as you get into the shower, then put the conditioner in, and do everything else you’d do while you were in there, washing the conditioner out last.
If your hair needs the extra moisture or protein, applying outside of the shower might be the better option for you. The important part will be how wet or dry your hair is. When you apply your conditioner or mask to wet hair, the water that’s already inside your hair strand dilutes the effectiveness of the conditioner. For a more concentrated effect, this is when you’d apply it to your dry hair. In general you won’t need to apply it to anything that would be inside of a ponytail, instead focusing on the middle of your hair down to the ends. The amount of product you need and the amount of time you need to leave it on will vary depending on your hair’s condition and natural texture. Most of the time adding heat will be more effective than leaving it on longer since the heat will open the cuticle, and can be done at home just as effectively with a nice shower cap or even a plastic shopping bag. Rinse thoroughly with the coldest water you can stand and style as usual!
Washing in cold water makes it grow and be shinier:
There’s a little bit of fact behind cold water making your hair shinier. The short version is that hot water opens up the hair’s cuticle (the outer layer of the hair), and cold water helps to close the cuticle. A sealed cuticle usually means shinier hair. Even though there’s some truth to the shine, it won’t make a difference in how fast your hair grows. It’s still important to use good products and get regular trims for optimal hair health.
Hair turning white overnight/what makes hair go gray:
There’s a lot of neat science behind this one, even if it doesn’t all agree. The one that’s debated both ways is hair turning gray or white with extreme stress. Anything that can affect your bloodflow can affect your hair, usually in the form of hair loss. If your bloodflow becomes restricted on your scalp, hair follicles are no longer being supplied with food and energy and can start to die off. That’s part of the reason that scalp massages are so popular, as well as a variety of brushes designed to promote and increase bloodflow to your scalp for extra scalp health. But that answer is more aimed at hair loss rather than graying hair, which is what you’re here for.
The color in your hair is determined by melanin (the same stuff that decides the color of your skin based on evolutionary ancestry) and isn’t affected by much. As you age your hair follicles can start focusing more on just staying alive and active rather than continuing to produce the melanin that colors your hair; when your hair follicles stop contributing to the production of melanin for your hair your hair starts turning gray. The exact shade of gray or white, and even how early you start seeing those hairs show up is usually determined by your genetics, followed by any medical conditions or medications. Vitiligo can affect the color of your hair in the same way it affects the color of your skin and thyroid conditions and some forms of Alopecia can affect the color, texture, and density of the hair on your head.
Some studies have shown that extreme stress or shocks to the nervous system can “nuke” the cells that produce melanin in your hair. Most of the studies have been done on mice as opposed to humans, but there are plenty of humans who have experienced a trauma and found their hair has lost pigment.
Is there anything I can do to prevent premature graying? Only to an extent. All the suggestions I saw for preventing gray hair were most of the suggestions you see in general for overall healthy living. Make sure you’re eating a well balanced diet and getting all your vitamins, quit smoking, etc. If you’re taking care of your body in general, you’re doing everything you have control over when it comes to gray hair and the rest is going to be up to genetics.
Sources: BBC Health
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