Middle aged man with gray hair

Why Our Hair Turns Gray with Age

The cells that impart color to the hair, called melanocytes, are the same cells that impart pigmentation to the skin. The melanocytes located in hair follicles are more sensitive to the aging process than those in the skin. Seek a fellowship-trained facial plastic surgeon if you have concerns about your hair.

Melanocytes in the Skin and Hair Follicle are Related but Behave Differently

Melanocytes in the skin and hair follicle are related to each other but behave differently where they reside. For example, melanocytes associated with hair follicles function with the hair cycle; that is, when the hair is in its growth stage, called anagen, it is producing the melanin that pigments the hair. However, when the hair is dormant (i.e., telogen phase) melanin is not produced. Melanin is always produced by melanocytes in normal skin.

The Number of Melanocytes in the Hair Follicles Decreases with Age

When melanocytes are lost in the hair follicle there is less melanin produced and less pigment in the hair. This is what leads to graying of the hair. This process tends to occur in the scalp earlier than in the beard and in body hair in men.

The average age of hair graying depends on an individual’s gender, race, and family history. For example, Caucasians tend to start graying the earliest, in their mid-30s. The cause of early graying is not yet clear, though it may have something to due with the production of inflammatory free radicals in the body, like what causes skin changes associated with aging, chronic sun exposure, and tobacco use.

Trust Your Face to a Facial Plastic Surgeon

It is important to seek a fellowship-trained specialist in plastic surgery of the face and neck when you have concerns about your hair.

Request a Consultation

Request a consultation with Dr. Harmon at Harmon Facial Plastic Surgery in Cincinnati. Visit our clinic. You will learn more about Dr. Harmon’s credentials, style, and approach. Build a relationship with our dedicated team. Do not stop at searching “plastic surgery near me.” Get in touch with us to learn more!

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Blume-Peytavi U, Tosti A, Whiting DA, Trueb R, eds. Hair Growth and Disorders. Springer Publishing; 2008.

This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute direct medical advice. It is essential that you have a consultation with a qualified medical provider prior to considering any treatment. This will allow you the opportunity to discuss any potential benefits, risks, and alternatives to the treatment.