We associate grey hair with getting older (despite the trend currently for young people to dye their hair silver or grey). But why do we go grey in the first place, and is there a way to stop it?
Medical researchers have identified the elements our hair shaft matrix comes from, which appear to be specific to the hair shaft, not to normal follicle cells. A certain growth factor then causes the necessary stem cells to be produced that cause hair to have pigmentation – these factors maintain the melanocytes, our melanin-producing (pigment) cells that cause both tanning, dark skin, and hair colour. When this factor is depleted, hair growth stops and hair turns grey.
Another way hair turns grey is due to oxidative stress to the melanocyte stem cell or at a particular point in the hair melanocyte, which can cause death of the melanocyte. This means no pigment is produced, resulting in a grey hair.
Certain genetic mutations (like those seen in Chediak-Higashi syndrome) and ageing reduce and downregulate some antioxidants, which results in more melanocyte malfunction and death.
There is also a gene involved in grey hair, which is a gene involved with the storage and production of melanin.
Does this mean if we eat more antioxidants, we won’t go grey?
Not exactly. The only ‘therapy’ designed for greying hair is to dye it or let it go for it, which could be argued are not treatments or cures at all. These gene pathways may prove a good starting point for figuring out how to stop or slow the greying process.
What about platelet-rich plasma?
PRP treatments are being used as a novel hair-loss treatment, with some physicians reporting a reversal of greying in those whose scalps have been injected with PRP, however the results are not universal. There are currently no published studies regarding PRP as a treatment for greying hair, nor any other growth factors for that matter, though watch this space.
We do PRP scalp treatments for hair loss.