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Natural Grey Hair Guide: Plus What Is ‘Grey Blending’

The Instagram account, Grombre, which is dedicated to the “radical celebration of the natural phenomenon of grey hair,” has seen a renewed impetus, with over 193 thousand followers (and counting) and hundreds of posts of women of all different ages and ethnicities sharing photos of their hair in all its natural icy glory.

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To understand a little more about greys, we called on Anabel Kingsley, top trichologist at Philip Kingsley and leading hairdresser Michael Van Clarke to shed light on what causes grey hair and how best to look after it.

What is grey hair?

“Grey hair is simply hair that lacks pigment (melanin). In fact, there is actually no such thing as ‘grey’ hair – the hair is white, but simply looks grey when it is interspersed with pigmented hairs,” explains Kinglsey.

What causes grey hair?

“When you go grey is largely down to genes. If your mother or father started getting white hairs at a young age, it is likely that you will as well. On average, most people’s hair is 50% white by the time they turn 50 years old,” says Kingsley.

“Certain medications and health conditions can also cause hair to turn white. For instance, Vitamin B12 deficiency, pernicious anaemia and thyroid disorders can cause premature greying. When hair initially grows back after Alopecia Areata, it often comes in white, and then usually reverts to its usual pigmented colour. Stress has also been linked to premature greying,” she adds.

Can a grey hair become pigmented again?

“No – unless your hair has temporarily lost its pigment due to a health condition or medication,” says Kingsley.

Does hair turn grey or grow grey?

“White hair is caused when a protein in the base of the hair follicle triggers a switch-off in the production of melani. There is no gradual fading of colour for that hair – it changes from fully coloured to white,” says Van Clarke. Since our hair goes through different cycles (it grows, sheds and grows again), the grey will begin to grow through with a new hair cycle.

Why do some people’s hair not go grey?

“It is primarily down to genes,” says Kingsley, “but environmental factors may also play a role.”

Will greys show up in some hair colours more than others?

“The ratio of white hairs to coloured hairs on the head gives the overall tone of grey,” explains Van Clarke, “it’s why blondes and redheads do not appear to go grey, just gradually whiter. They also turn white the slowest.”

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