Grey Hair And What You Can Do About It

Grey Hair And What You Can Do About It

Although grey hair affects us in more of a cosmetic sense rather than medical, that doesn't mean it we're not allowed to feel a little bit panicked by it. Many women when they first get grey hair face the tough decision: stand by it or dye it? Well we are going to walk you through the topic and look at what's best for your hair.

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Every person has around 100,000 hairs on their head. The exact number depends on hair colour, genetics and, of course, age. For us women in particular, each of these hairs is sacred. Hair not only keeps our heads warm, but is also part of our identity. If it suddenly changes colour to grey, it is therefore psychologically more than just a change of colour. Not really a drama - and yet a topic that is hard to ignore.

But what actually happens when the hair on your head loses its colour?

Causes: Why do we get grey hair?

The natural hair colour is created by the pigment melanin. Pigments are dyes that give tissue its specific colouring. Melanin is produced by specialised cells in the human skin - the melanocytes. They determine the genetically determined skin, hair and eye colour and ensure that the skin is better protected against UV radiation.

The melanin produced in the hair root is deposited in the layers of the hair. This is similar to a pine cone, between the scales of which the pigments are deposited, giving the hair its colour.

In order to produce melanin, the body needs the amino acid tyrosine. As we get older, the cells at the root of the hair naturally become older and more sluggish. Less tyrosine is converted into melanin, resulting in a melanin deficiency in the hair.

The colour pigment then no longer reaches the horny layers, but rather tiny air bubbles. These are what make the hair appear white or grey. Basically, they are simply colourless and not white.

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Each cell has its own timetable for when this happens. This is why greying occurs gradually and not abruptly. Once the cell has stopped producing melanin, the dye is no longer available to the hair root. There is no going back. Exceptions are certain diseases or medications that trigger a melanin blockade.

Even a healthy lifestyle cannot trick our cell schedule. However, factors such as vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, smoking and stress have a major influence on hair quantity and structure. And grey hair in particular requires more care. So you can't influence the timing of colour loss - but you can influence how beautiful your head of grey hair looks.

Hair care is becoming more important 

Your hair will thank you if you don't constantly treat it with chemicals for the next 40 years. Because this puts a strain on the hair structure. The reason? In order for the colour pigments to be deposited, the hair must first be made to swell. The hydrogen peroxide often contained in hair colourants also attacks the hair substance. For many women, this thins the hair and increases the risk of allergies. Most colourants are also not good for hormone balance as they contain xenoestrogens.

Until your hair is around 30 % grey, you can use the same hair care routine as before. Once you have exceeded this percentage, your hair needs special care. This is because more will change in addition to the colour:

  • Your hair becomes dry and stubborn more quickly: the air bubbles that have been deposited in your hair instead of melanin change its structure. It feels drier. In addition, all hair loses lipids with increasing age: Around 0.5 per cent per year from the age of around 30. In this case, special anti-age hair care can help by stimulating the build-up of keratin, giving the hair more strength and making it softer. Some women also find hair oils help to balance out the dryness.
  • A yellow tinge develops: Why grey hair sometimes turns yellow is one of the last mysteries in hairstyle history. Even experts don't know exactly what really causes this strange colouration. One thing is certain: silver rinses, which contain small amounts of blue dye, gently neutralise the yellow tinge and create bright silver reflections. Both heat and direct sunlight can cause the yellow colour to intensify. As grey hair is more susceptible to sun damage anyway due to the lack of pigment, you need to protect it extra. Use a UV filter for your hair or get yourself a cool sun hat.

With the new texture and thinning hair, it may also be time for a new hairstyle. Under no circumstances should you simply pluck out grey hair. They will still grow back grey, as the hair root can no longer produce pigmented hair. All you are doing is thinning it out.

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What about colouring?

Of course, your hair won't instantly transform into a radiant silver-grey. And some women may not want the silver look at all, but feel more comfortable with a different hair colour. That's why many women colour their hair. Either completely or with highlights, which usually looks more natural thanks to the different shades. If you don't want to go to the hairdresser, you can of course do it yourself. However, it has to be the ‘right’ colour.

Tints cannot completely cover grey hair. Tints contain dyes that attach themselves to the outer cuticle layer of the hair or are so small that they penetrate the hair and give it colour. Chemical hair colour (colouring) reliably covers the hair. However, as it puts a strain on the hair structure, an extra portion of care is very important. And beware: white hair absorbs the colouring more intensively. Bear this in mind when choosing a colour!

There is now another option: so-called repigmentation. This involves a step-by-step return to the natural hair colour. However, this procedure is currently only possible for dark hair that was not previously coloured. There is also no guarantee that the natural colour will be achieved.

No matter how you look at it: the hairline that grows back grey must be treated every four to six weeks.

What if I decide to stick to my real hair colour?

If you simply let the coloured hair grow out, you will usually end up with a very noticeable root. For many women, this is like a shock therapy that they don't want to see in the mirror for months.


A somewhat gentler method is to set ‘highlights’ in the previous colouring and to dye fewer highlights with each colouring. However, this should definitely be done by a hairdresser. They can also colour highlights in different shades of ash and slate, creating a particularly natural look.

Special root sprays can also help. They do not affect the hair structure as much, but only colour the surface. The colour can simply be washed out later. These sprays are now available in all conceivable shades. As soon as the grey hair has reached the desired length, the remaining coloured sections of hair can be gradually cut off.

More and more women are opting for their natural colour and wearing their grey mane with pride. If you don't like it: that's okay too! Make sure you look after your hair on the outside and pamper it on the inside with a healthy diet. Especially when minerals are not sufficiently absorbed through food, the body gets what it needs from the scalp.

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Sources & References

Quantitative mapping of human hair greying and reversal in relation to life stress, Ayelet M. Rosenberg

E life Science, 2021

Greying of the human hair: a worldwide survey, revisiting the ’50‘ rule of thumb. S. Panhard, I. Lozano, G. Loussouarn

British Journal of Dermatology, 2012

Why does hair turn gray? Harvard Health Publishing

Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, 2020