Hair that looks gray, white or silver actually is colorless.
Hair color comes from melanin, a pigment produced by cells in the hair follicles.
Over time, these cells suffer damage and become depleted, losing their ability to make melanin. This results in new hair without pigment — meaning, no color.
People use “gray,” “white” and “silver” interchangeably to describe hair that is turning or has turned.
Its appearance — whether it looks, gray, white or silver — depends on how much natural color, or pigment, remains, experts say. Hair that has lost all its color typically appears white.
4 Factors Speed Up Graying – You Control 3 Of Them
Studies have identified a number of factors that also may speed up gray hair, including smoking, diet, stress and genetics.
Melissa Harris, assistant professor of biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham explains:
“Our hair color depends on a set of specialized stem cells called melanocyte stem cells, and every time a new hair grows, these melanocyte stem cells have to divide in two and make a new melanocyte, [or] pigment cells,”
“These pigment cells stay in the base of your hair and their job is to produce pigment. These melanocytes reach out skinny arms, called dendritic processes, that shuttle the pigment to the hair shaft as it grows. So if all your melanocyte stem cells disappear, so do your melanocytes and so does your hair pigment. Thus — gray hair.”
Because stem cells directly influence hair color, studying gray hair can provide insights about why stem cells age and ultimately fail, offering important clues about the workings of other stem cells in the body — for example, those found in muscles, bones and organs.
In turn, these ultimately could point to whether gray hair could be a marker for disease, or the opposite, a longer life …
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