Grey hair, as we get older, is a sign of old age. Some might even say it’s a symbol of our growing wisdom accumulated from our lived experiences so far.
But what if they appear prematurely when we’re still young? Should it be a cause for concern, and is there any way at all to reverse the greying if we’re not ready to embrace our silvery wisps yet?
For many, premature greying is “almost always linked to genetics”, Yvonne Png, Head of Retail Education at hair and scalp care brand PHS HAIRSCIENCE, told Mothership.
But besides genetics, there are other causes of premature greying stemming from our environment and lifestyle that we can identify and try to mitigate.
These factors contribute to greying among young people as they affect our melanin production.
With less melanin, which is the dark pigment that affects our hair colour, our hair turns grey.
UV rays and pollution
Png explained that environmental factors such as UV rays from the sun, as well as pollution, can generate oxidative stress, which is the imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body that can lead to cell and tissue damage.
This can in turn cause damage to hair follicles, and slow down melanin production.
When that happens, hair begins to lose its colour, turning grey and eventually white when melanin production stops completely.
Stress, smoking and nutrient deficiencies
Our lifestyle choices play a part in our hair health too. Smoking, excessive drinking, a lack of exercise and a poor diet can lead to oxidative stress, which can cause one to be more prone to premature scalp ageing and greying hair, Png said.
Stress can cause premature greying too as it reduces the number of melanin cells in the hair follicles.
Some young people who are facing premature greying have also been found to have nutrient deficiencies, Png said, adding that they are more likely to try out weight loss diets which might not necessarily provide the optimal nutrients that the body needs.
Vegetarian and vegan diets that fail to consider vital nutrients for a balanced diet, as well as having fast food frequently, can contribute to scalp ageing and premature greying too, she said.
Png also cautioned against too much chemical treatments, such as bleaches and dyeing, as these processes often expose hair to chemicals like hydrogen peroxide that can accumulate in the hair follicles, which can affect melanin production.
Lastly, Png stressed the importance of hygiene as a dirty scalp can be another cause for premature greying and thinning hair, adding that a health check should not be ruled out to understand the underlying cause of premature greying.
“As much as premature hair greying can be hereditary, it also has a lot to do with your lifestyle choices that you have complete control over,” she said.
“It’s never too late to start paying attention to them.”
Proper scalp and hair care can slow down hair loss
Besides premature greying, the abovementioned factors can contribute to hair loss as well, although genetic hair loss accounts for most hair loss, similar to premature greying.
Png said hereditary-pattern baldness, which is the most common cause of hair loss, is caused by a combination of genetics, hormone levels and the natural ageing process.
While genetic hair loss is permanent, the rate at which hair is lost can slow down with a proper scalp and hair care regime, Png said.
Products and treatments can help slow down balding, and also help to stimulate hair growth in balding areas, she added.
Png also emphasised the importance of a healthy scalp, which is fundamental to achieving a head of healthy hair. While most people spend a lot of effort on skincare, not much is done for the scalp, she said.
She added: “A good scalp care regime is as important as your skincare regime.”
Scalp disorders, which are the next common cause of hair loss, should not be left untreated as well, she said.
More young people experience premature greying and hair loss nowadays
According to Png, she has seen an increase in the number of young customers that come for professional help with their greying or thinning hair.
For instance, a customer in her early 20s started experiencing premature greying and hair loss after going for several chemical treatments to bleach, colour, perm and rebond her hair.
She was also a heavy smoker and went for frequent weight loss diets. As a result, her scalp had become “extremely sensitive”, Png said.
Another customer, who was in his mid-20s, also suffered from severe hair loss, with many empty hair follicles in his crown area. New hair that was growing appeared thin and weak as well.
While his hair loss was partly genetic, it was also accelerated by an untreated scalp disorder made up of oily dandruff. In addition, he was putting in multiple late nights in the office, even skipping meals on some days to complete his work.
He was also smoking and drinking too in order to relieve his stress.
What can be done?
Their hair conditions were not completely beyond salvage, however.
Png recommends a holistic approach that in addition to lifestyle choices, includes treatment and a well-balanced diet, in order to achieve a healthy scalp and combat hair loss.
Treatment both at the salon and at home
There are many salon treatments that focus on scalp repair, as well as hair loss or grey hair treatments that work to strengthen hair follicles to control hair loss and promote hair growth and melanin production.
For instance, PHS HAIRSCIENCE offers “a clinical regenerative programme” that helps to restore and maintain scalp health, treat and prevent scalp disorders, and “reactivate natural hair regrowth” using plant stem cells.
There are also products that help strengthen scalp health, fight environmental aggressors and support healthy hair growth.
Deficiency in certain nutrients can lead to hair loss.
Png recommends a well-balanced diet that contains essential fatty acids, minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc, vitamins A, C, E and D, as well as protein.
A diet that contains these nutrients can strengthen hair, and keep it healthy and shiny, she said.
You can visit any of the following PHS HAIRSCIENCE outlets for a scalp consultation:
- LAB Ngee Ann City
- LAB Plaza Singapura
- LAB Wheelock Place
- CAPSULE Bedok Mall
Customers who sign up for their Miracle Stem Cell Solution Treatment will get to enjoy their first trial at S$68 instead of the usual price of S$88.
Take a look at their range of products here as well.
They include a shampoo that contains special polymers that “plump up the hair shafts” to make them appear thicker and fuller, a scalp primer that helps to exfoliate the scalp so it can better absorb vital nutrients, and a range of products to help slow down greying.
Top image adapted via PHS HAIRSCIENCE.
In the course of writing this sponsored piece that’s brought to you by PHS HAIRSCIENCE, the writer found herself scratching her scalp occasionally.