Gray hair is one of the first signs of aging and can add years to your appearance. Thankfully, there are products to combat graying hair which can and do provide temporary solutions for those who prefer to cover up their graying locks. Unfortunately, many of these solutions include hefty maintenance costs, damage to the hair follicle and shaft and often an unnatural appearance.
Permanent Hair Color
Dyeing one’s hair is a very common practice and while, it is effective in masking gray strands it is extremely destructive to the overall health of your hair. A 2002 study published by the International Journal of Cancer showed that using dyes more than once a month doubled the risk for bladder cancer and using dyes for 15 years or longer tripled that risk. Permanent hair colors are designed to penetrate the cuticle and deposit the new color on the cortex. The new pigment is the result of the chemical reaction of the dye. This wrecks havoc on your hair because not only are the chemicals harsh resulting in dry, dull hair and tons of breakage, it also has to be done periodically as new gray hair grows from the roots. The further problem with permanent dyes on gray hair is that gray hair is often thicker and more coarse so its cuticle is more difficult for the color to penetrate. Stylists have to allow the permanent dye to sit on gray hair longer than the rest of your hair.
Semi/Demi Permanent Hair Color
Semi and Demi Permanent hair color doesn’t contain ammonia (but still often contains peroxide), does not penetrate the cuticle and can be applied straight from the bottle. The color is only deposited on the outside of the hair and in the pores. Semi permanent lasts about four to six weeks and demi permanent lasts about 15-20 shampoos because the color molecules are very small and are gradually washed out from the cortex.
Progressive Hair Color
Progressive hair coloring is a gradual process that allows for a more natural look. They are extremely easy to apply on your own in your home and their effectiveness is based on how little you wash your hair. They replace the missing pigment in gray hair with a synthetic substitute. However, you have to apply it repeatedly and there are only a few shades available which may not be complimentary to men and women of all ethnicities.
For those who wish to refrain from using harsh chemicals like lead, peroxide and ammonia on their hair to mask graying, there are alternative, natural solutions that are non-carcinogenic. A more holistic approach might include a change in diet and lifestyle but does provide more lasting results in the hiding grey hair and having an overall more youthful appearance. Hair is one of the mirrors of health so maintaining good nutrition and care of your hair with natural products free from harsh chemicals can do a lot to improve the look of your hair.
Traditional Chinese medicine says that hair reflects the strength of the kidneys and the quality of one’s blood. It is believed that certain foods can help strengthen the kidneys and the ingredients in the blood and can help premature graying. Graying is a part of the natural aging process so consuming foods that counter premature aging like carrots, green peppers, lettuce, bananas, strawberries, apples, peas, onions, cucumbers, sprouts and green tea can help the appearance of gray hair. Foods to avoid are excessive meat, salt and dairy as well as saturated fats, sugars and processed refined foods.
Hair vitamins specifically for gray hair are now available and they work to delay the onset of graying hair. In order for hair follicles to continue to produce melanin, which is responsible for the color of hair a complex B vitamin called Para-Aminobenzoic Acid is recommended. Vitamin B-5 is also good because it stimulates vitamin utilization and releases energy from food to contribute to the hair and skin. Combine pantothenic acid with folic acid to help restore the hair’s natural color.
Henna Hair Dye
Henna hair coloring is another natural option for coloring grey hair, however it is not recommended for use on hair that is more than 40 percent gray. So while henna is a great way to add saturated color, it would result in a orange or other unsightly tint on gray hair.