You Silver Fox, You: Why Your Hair Turns Gray

George Clooney, Anderson Cooper. Harrison Ford. Jon Stewart: all proof that, in 2016, achieving silver fox status actually ratchets up your sex appeal. But perhaps you've still stared at the mirror, inspecting your salt-and-pepper look, reflecting morosely on your now-squandered youth. Self-pity isn't a good look for anyone. Why not face your own mortality armed with knowledge about why hair turns gray in the first place?

Before we explain: you're not alone. Most of us find our first gray hair by the time we hit 30 or so - and by the age of 50, about half of us have lost color in half of our hair. Researchers have found that 74% of people aged between 45 and 65 had some degree of graying with an average of 27 percent salt-colored strands.

Second: human hair growth is cyclical - and pigment production, like its growth, alters depending on which phase of the growth cycle you're in. When a person goes gray seems to depend largely on genetic factors - not so much stress and lifestyle, despite what we're regularly told. Caucasians, especially redheads, tend to go gray earlier, followed by Asians, then African-Americans, although the reasons for this aren't yet thoroughly understood.

As IFL Science explains, "Hair color is produced by cells known as melanocytes, which migrate into the hair bulb as the hair follicles develop in utero. The melanocytes produce pigment that is incorporated into the growing hair fibres to produce hair in a bewildering array of natural shades." The melanocytes in your hair wear out after a while as you shed and regrow hair - meaning, once you hit a certain age, your hair actually starts growing in gray, not "turning gray" per se.

OK, fair enough - so what, if anything, should you do about it? Depends on how much maintenance you're willing to put in - and how secure you are in your old age. But before you bust out the Just For Men, keep in mind you could be saying goodbye to a coveted look: plenty of millennial heartthrobs, GQ reports, are going gray by choice. So maybe it's time to embrace the gravitas, and allure, made possible only by the passage of time.


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