Dr. Bishan Mahadevia's - Latest Tips and Resources

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gray hair, White Hair, Silver Locks, Achromotrichia or Canitis: Treatment and solutions

Gray or White hair at young age can be a distressing and annoying at times for many but for older people, gray hair can symbolize wisdom and maturity. Graying may make one look older. Good news is recently, scientists have found that graying hair might be protecting you from getting cancer.

You will observe the first grey hairs usually near the temples, then to the crown and then at the back of your head. The common belief that for every graying hair they remove, two will grow back up in place of the lost  one is a myth.

Hair color comes from a protein and a pigment called melanin. The cells in the hair follicles that make and store melanin are called melanocytes. The melanocytes also present in the basal layer of the epidermis that produces melanin under the control of the melanocyte-stimulating hormone






 The stem cells at the base of hair follicles produce melanocytes. Melanocytes are also present in your hair follicles right next to the dermal sheath, an area below the hair bulge where you can also find keratinocyte cells.  Working synchronously, melanocytes and keratinocytes are the building blocks of your hair
Hair color is the pigmentation of hair follicles due to two types of melanin,eumelanin 
and pheomelanin. Generally, if more melanin is present, the color of the hair is darker; if less melanin is present, the hair is lighter. Levels of melanin can vary over time causing a person's hair color to change, and it is possible to have hair follicles of more than one color. Pheomelanin colors hair red. Eumelanin, which has two subtypes of black or brown, determines the darkness of the hair color. A low concentration of brown eumelanin results in blond hair, whereas a higher concentration of brown eumelanin will color the hair brown. High amounts of black eumelanin result in black hair, while low concentrations give gray hair. All humans have some pheomelanin in their hair.

Gray hair results from a reduction of pigment. White hair has no pigment. Changes in hair color typically occur naturally as people age, eventually turning the hair gray and then white. This is called achromotrichia.

There is a pocket that houses melanocyte stem cells halfway up the follicle, above the bulb. These stem cells turn into melanocytes when old melanocytes die off. The death or inactivity of the melanocyte stem cells causes the onset of graying.



Aging: No available treatment – only solution is colour the hair.( white people will begin to gray in their mid-thirties and Asian people begin graying in their late thirties, but most black people can retain their original hair color until their mid-forties.) Your chance of going gray increases 10 to 20 percent every decade after 30 years. By age 50, most people can expect 50 percent of their hair to be gray. There are two theories of aging. The signs of aging are programmed in our genes or DNA. The second is that our cells and DNA wear out and get damaged over time eventually leading to aging and the end of life. If we can find damage to the DNA or cells dying as we get older, then maybe genes are not involved in aging. Some people believe as we get a little bit older we don't produce enough catalase and then the hydrogen peroxide cannot be broken down and that bleaches your hair from the inside out, turning it gray

Premature graying: This premature graying of hair is called canities in medical terminology How fast your hair turns grey really depends on the person's genetic predisposition and certain lifestyle factors that can directly influence the production of the pigment melanin. If you have a family history of premature grey hairs, the chances of your hair turning graying much earlier in life is far greater.
Genetic: No available treatment - only solution is colour the hair. Two genes appear to be responsible for the process of graying, Bcl2 and Bcl-w. Gene therapy may someday help us treat the signs of aging
Smoking: Smokers were found to be four times more likely to begin graying prematurely, compared to nonsmokers.
Lack of sleep and excess stress: Excessive stress is the principal creator of chronic free radical damage that can damage vulnerable cells like Melanocytes and influence melanin production.
Malnutrition:(certain Minerals cupper, zink  etc. and Vit B deficiency) is also known to cause hair to become lighter, thinner, and more brittle. The condition is reversible with proper nutrition.
Pernicious Anemia (Vitamin B12deficiency): Facing a deficiency in vitamin B especially B12 has been associated with less effective hair pigmentation
Thyroid deficiencies: Hyper or Hypo Thyroid status
Albinism: (a genetic abnormality in which little pigment is found in human hair, eyes or skin
Vitiligo (a patchy loss of hair and skin color that may occur as the result of an auto-immune disease.)
Werner Syndrome (premature aging disease that begins in adolescence or early adulthood and results in the appearance of old age by 30-40 years of age)

Apart from this spicy, oily, fast or junk foods, addictive foods like tea, coffee, alcohol and long illnesses, some medications etc are blamed to be the cause of premature graying.

Grey Hair Treatments

Given the currently available treatment options, it appears that the greying process cannot be effectively reversed. There is no scientific evidence at the moment that any existing medicine, diet, herb, supplement or natural product can prevent or reverse greying hair. The only current option that delivers satisfactory results is changing the colour of your existing hair. You can either use regular hair dyes or try progressive hair colorants. Unlike regular hair dyes, progressive hair colorants only affect your grey hair and not your non gray hair, changing its colour gradually and unnoticeably. It makes their hair look more natural, as they do not have to cover up all their grey. One interesting point about gray hair is that it is thicker and usually grows faster than normal, pigmented hair, which makes it more visible and difficult to cover with colour.
Gray hair may temporarily darken after inflammatory processes, after electron-beam-induced alopecia, and after some chemotherapy regimens. However, French scientists treating chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML).  patients with a new cancer drug Gleevec or Glivec noted an unexpected side effect: some of the patients' hair color was restored to their pre-gray color.
Nonetheless, there are some traditional and commercial products that claim to be effective in preventing and reversing graying hair.
Some of them are:

Topical liquid, cream or foam, foam, oil, lotion or spray

Oral Tabb or powder

Beggan's pills
Go Away Gray

Active Substances Used in these products are:


 FO-TI or He Shou Wu (polygonum multiflorum)a Chinese herb also known as Chinese knotweed or flowery knotweed, There is no clinical research available supporting the claim of its efficacy

PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)  is often referred to as vitamin BX or B10 and it is believed to be an anti-aging and anti-grey hair vitamin.

FOLIC ACID is another member from the group of vitamins B (B9)
An average healthy person is unlikely to register a change in the colour of their hair as a result of the extra intake of these two vitamins. Their administration can only be beneficial in rare, grey hair conditions caused by the deficiency of any of these two vitamins.

Amla or Indian Gooseberry
An Indain Fruit known as 'Amla'. You can make gooseberry oil and apply it to the scalp. To make the oil, you need to heat some amount of coconut oil with few pieces of the Indian gooseberries. After the berries turn dark, turn off the heat and let the solution cool down. Remove the berries and apply the oil to your hair.

Blackstrap Molasses

Molasses is made out of sugarcane or sugar beets juice. The juice is boiled at high temperatures which crystallizes the sugars. When the left over liquid is heated up two more times, blackstrap molasses is formed. Blackstrap molasses also contains such as calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium etc.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR - its water solution applied topically. It is an old wive’s tale assumed to work in a similar fashion to the metallic-based, hair colorants, gradually changing the colour of white hair. Its mechanism of action and potential efficacy are unknown.
 SAGE TEA is another traditional natural remedy Strong sage tea should be applied to the hair and left to dry, then rinsed with water and dried. This therapy should be repeated weekly until the desired shade is achieved. It is conceivable that the strong sage tea could stain and colour.

Wheat grass (contains all essential minerals the body needs)
Sea weeds (kelp, nori, dulse)
Catalase:  It is believed by some that as we get a little bit older we don't produce enough of enzyme called catalase and then the hydrogen peroxide cannot be broken down and that bleaches your hair from the inside out, turning it gray. Products like Go away gray and Beggan Pills have this as a main ingredient
Emu oil: supposed to moisturize and preserve the hair nutrients like Omega3 and Vit B12

Other Treatments:
RUBBING THE NAILS an old technique from India against each other is said to help circulation (as nerve endings are located under the finger nails

Henna (Mehdi) :Dried Henna powder from henna leaves of the plant has been used traditionally in India as temporary body decoration or tattoos.  It is also used to color the hair. It gives brownish red colour. Benefit is believed to be it is a natural product and there is no synthetic pigment. One of the ways to use is: Henna is okay if you don’t have clorinated water, or go into swimming pools as it will turn green or purple with the chemical reaction. It builds up and does exactly what i told you henna will when exposed to chlorine. A temporary hair color does a good job, and covers all the hair. The bonus is it will give shine, and make the other hair more lusterious conditioning also.
Usage of henna powder is also one the effective methods for gray hair treatment. Prepare a mix of henna powder (2 tbsp.), yogurt (1 tsp.), fenugreek seed powder (1 tsp.), coffee (3 tsp.), basil juice (2 tsp.) and mint juice (3 tsp.). Use this mix to massage the scalp and let it stay for about 3 hours. Thereafter, get your hair washed with a mild shampoo

Hair color Dye or Colour

Covering or colouring Gray Hair
Although dyes are a simple and fast solution for grey hair, using it too often can be a potential health hazard for you. Conventional hair dyes are laden with synthetic chemicals and carcinogens that can do more harm than good in the long run. Bear in mind that dyes that are darker in color can contain significantly more damaging chemicals like Phenylenediamine (PPD) than those with lighter shades.

The Types of Hair Colouring

Semi-permanent hair color cannot lighten hair. Hair can only be lightened using chemical lighteners, such as bleach. Bleaching is always permanent because it removes the natural pigment. Select a hair color that is two shades lighter than your natural hair shade, so that it blends well with the gray hair strands.

There are many options for what you can do with your hair 1.Color/ Bleaching 2.  Highlighting/Lowlighting 3.Tinting 4. Re-Coloring
There are 5 types of hair color which are

Temporary Hair Dyes

Usually comes in the form of rinses, gels, mousses and sprays and majority of these products do not penetrate or modify the structure of the hair shaft. They work like surface paint as the molecules usually stay on the outer surface of the hair. In most cases, you can usually wash the color off immediately with a single shampooing. If you just want to experiment with a different hair color, or color for some occasion temporary hair dyes might be the safest and least harmful way to go for.

Semi Permanent Hair Dyes



A harsher but less invasive way to change your hair color is to use semi permanent dyes. Instead of staying on the surface of our hair, semi permanent dyes contain smaller molecules which will penetrate through your hair shaft and stay there for a longer period of time. Usually it will take around 6 to 10 shampoos to get the hair color out. Semi permanents do not require the use of oxidization agents like ammonia or paroxide and the color change is less impressive for dark colored hair.
Demi-permanent hair Dyes:  contains no ammonia but is mixed with the developer (peroxide) shortly before application. The developer helps lift the cuticle so that the colour can be deposited outside and inside the cuticle and on the cortex. The molecules of demi-permanent hair colours are very small and they are therefore gradually washed out from the cortex, lasting about 15-20 shampoos.

Permanent Dyes


Frequent use of permanent dyes is the harshest way you should treat your hair. There are a myriad range of strong chemicals found in permanent dyes that helps the color to stay in. Permanent hair dyes are divided into 2 categories
  • Oxidization Dyes
    To permanently change your hair color, you will require the use of dye intermediates like PPD and a developer containing hydrogen peroxide for oxidization. Both of these are mixed together before application and the chemicals will cause your hair cuticle to swell so that the coloring agents can easily penetrate through. Once inside your hair shaft, the agent will break up your original color pigments known as melanin and replaces it with the new color. In most cases, the color change is very permanent.
  • Progressive Hair Colorants or Dyes
    A progressive hair dye is another kind of permanent dye that changes your original hair color gradually by regular application. The dye contains metallic salts or organic compounds like lead acetate, bismuth citrate or  5,6-dihydroxyindoline which can easily absorb into your hair shaft and react with the structure of your hair. Over time, the lead will replace the color of your hair with the new color.

The Dangers in Hair Dyes

Para-Phenylenediamine (PPD)

The most common and potent ingredient commonly known to cause allergic reactions
well known carcinogen (cancer causing agent) after oxidation with the developer like Hydrogen Peroxide or Ammonia. non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Multiple myeloma, Breast Cancer, Leukemia,

Bladder Cancer

Coal Tar

allergic reactions

Lead Acetate

 used for progressive dyes that change your hair color gradually, is banned from cosmetics in the European Union and is a potential carcinogen. Lead is said to be able to disrupt the function of your brain's neurotransmitters and might also
  • Disrupts your heart activity
  • Causes blood clots
  • Reduces intelligence
  • Affects sensory and motor developments
  • Other neurological problems
If you are pregnant, then avoid lead products totally because it has been reported to be able to cross the placenta and the embryo that can lead to fetal mortality. That is why lead in the first place was banned from so many products like paint.

Other Health Risks in Hair Coloring

  • DMDM Hydantoin
    linked with causing immune system problems.
  • Ammonia
    Widely used in fertilizers, plastics and explosives, ammonia is toxic and corrosive. This chemical can cause running nose, coughing and respiratory problems if inhaled, skin inflammations.
  • Resorcinol
    used for oxidation and is an irritant and also a potential carcinogen.

Reduce Your Risk NOW

Ecocolors or some other natural hair dyes like henna that do not contain harmful chemicals.
Some high end salons also use high tech equipment like infrared to open up the hair shaft for the color to absorb through rather than using oxidizers like peroxides and ammonia.

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