What makes hair turn gray?

There is no sure sign that you’re getting old quite like your hair turning gray. We’ve done some digging and found the top reasons commonly thought to cause gray hair as well as some of the science behind why our hair turns gray.

Allow us to break it down for you.

Why does hair turn gray?

How does your hair actually turn from colored to gray?

geneticists recently examined the DNA of more than 6000 people in an attempt to uncover some of the hidden truths behind hair. They were able to find specific genes that influence things like baldness, beard thickness, hair curliness, and even the “unibrow.”

Unsurprisingly, the hottest issue and the finding that got the most attention was the gene that was tied to causing hair to turn gray. The gene involved is known as the “IRF4” gene.

Finding this graying variation in the gene could, at some point, help scientists to create products to slow the graying process, speed it up, or possibly stop it all together!

Hair always starts out gray

We kind of all start out gray, in a way…

before hair reaches the surface of the scalp, it is completely colorless and pure white. It is only when the hair reaches the scalp that it combines with the chemicals it needs to come out looking for your natural hair color.

How does hair get its color?

There are a group of pigment molecules called melanin. The same melanin that determines your skin tone and eye color. When talking about hair, we have eumelanin which creates darker shades of hair, and pheomelanin, which produces lighter browns, blondes, and reds. It is the proportion of these two forms of melanin that will dictate your hair color throughout your life.

The hair follicle is where these colors make their way into your hair. every hair follicle in the scalp contains cells called melanocytes. These cells produce melanin. As your hairs grow inside the follicles, melanocytes inject melanin pigments into the hair cells that contain keratin.

When does hair start losing its color?

Over time, our melanocytes start to gradually produce less and less pigment. Because of this, our hair starts to lighten as we get older.

The role of hydrogen peroxide in gray hair

We all know that peroxide is used to dye hair bright blonde, but it also turns out to be one of the reasons our hair wills tart to turn gray as we age.

Some level of hydrogen peroxide is normal. We actually make our own as a byproduct of melanocytes coloring our hair. Enzymes; specifically catalase, are responsible for keeping those levels of hydrogen peroxide in check.

As we age and our follicles get older, they cannot generate enough catalase. Because of this, the now higher levels of hydrogen peroxide begin to attack tyrosinase, one of the most important enzymes in melanin production.

Some of the factors that lead to gray hair

Genetics is a strong contender

If you are going gray, it is probably happening around the same time as it happened to your parents. Genes that carry this effect are transferred to you from them when you are born.

But what about other factors?

Can smoking lead to gray hair?

Recent studies have found that smoking cigarettes can increase the likelihood of developing grays.


A lot of researchers have suggested that emotional stress can lead to early onset of grey. Just look at the presidents. Most of them go in with youthful vibrant hair and come out looking like old men. Could high-stress levels lead to hair turning gray faster?

Some researchers say that emotional stress could accelerate what they call oxidative stress – damage caused by reactive oxygen species like hydrogen peroxide. Many argue that there isn’t any solid scientific evidence proving this to be true, so stress causing gray hair remains to be proven (or disproven) once and for all.

Going gray shouldn’t stress you out

Regardless of why we go gray, you shouldn’t worry about it. Not only do many people very successfully flaunt the look, but there are tons of products (like 4RootZ) out there to help you cover it up.

Get in touch with us and let us know what YOU think causes gray hair to sprout up! We would love to hear from you.

Until next time,
4RootZ Team