At mid-twenties, I know I shouldn’t be stressing over aging just yet. Sure, I’ve amped up my skin care routine with a powerful antioxidant serum and layers of broad-spectrum sunscreen to nip premature skin aging in the bud. But while I’ve got my skin covered, another part of me is sabotaging my youthful look: graying hair. Yes, a quarter of my head—the front right section, that is—is already showing signs of old age!
I got my first gray strand when I was 18. “It’s because you keep tying your hair while it’s wet,” my mother used to say, although we both know she played a huge part in it too—she’s gone completely gray at 45! By the time I graduated from college, I already had a few dozens, something that extreme side parting could not conceal anymore. That’s when the tedious routine of monthly hair coloring began—and with it came dull, dry and damaged hair.
Hair goes gray when color-producing cells stop producing pigment. While it’s been known ever since that genetics plays a crucial part in premature graying, some scientists believe that psychological stress and certain medical conditions could also be the culprit. Thankfully, according to Dr. Leo M. Cooney of Yale University, people like me who suffer from this condition don’t necessarily die sooner than anybody else. “I think the study shows that gray hair has something to with your genetics and very little to do with premature aging,” he says.
Still, regardless of how stately Bill Clinton and Anderson Cooper have sported their gray heads, I don’t think a lot of women are ready to embrace that look just yet. While scientists are still busy trying to find a way to reverse premature graying, here are some tips on how to take care of your “aging” hair.
1. Permanent hair color chemically changes your hair, weakening the hair shaft and making it dry and brittle. If you must use permanent color, protect your hair by using a specialized shampoo and conditioner, preferably something with silicone to minimize damage.
2. Re-dye only the roots that start to show. Hair grows only about 0.3 to 0.4 mm per day, which means you only have to color about 1/3 of an inch after 4 weeks. If you must color your entire head of hair, wait at least 4 weeks after your last appointment.
3. Wash your hair less often, as frequent washing easily dries out your hair and washes away semi-permanent hair color.
4. Protect your hair from the sun’s rays with a scarf or a wide-brimmed hat.