Fulham Scalp and Hair Clinic

greying hair

Greying Hair: Should You Use Dye?

You may have noticed that a recent trending hair colour is an ashy platinum shade – and it looks fabulous!

This is an interesting twist when you consider that people have been covering up grey hair for so many years. In fact, most of the population – both men and women – will have some experience of greying hair around the age of 50, and may try to “fix” it using hair dye.

 

However, we have many years of first-hand experience in the results of “fixing” grey hair. Our team are acutely aware of the impact that long-term exposure can have on both our hair and our health. 

 

Before deciding to colour away your grey, we’d like to encourage you to discover more about the science behind these processes. You may be surprised by some of this information which is not openly shared with the public – but really should be! 

Hair Colour Basics

Our hair, much like our skin, is coloured by melanin. This pigment defines the shade of our hair and serves to protect the hair shaft. Our genes determine the colour of our hair and depend on the levels of eumelanin and pheomelanin in our bodies. 

 

Higher levels of eumelanin give hair darker colours while pheomelanin is responsible for lighter shades. Healthline tells us, “Dark hair is more resistant to UV rays and decay than light hair because of the higher photostability of eumelanin compared to pheomelanin.”

What Causes Greying Hair?

As we age, our melanin levels drop which results in less colour deposited within our growing hair shafts. Melanin deficiency can result from gradual depletion in our bodies due to age, or damage to melanocytes, which are the cells that create and store melanin. 

 

Melanocytes may suffer damage from trauma, stress or illness which stops their normal function. Some autoimmune diseases, such as vitiligo, affect these cells in both skin and hair. Likewise, oxidative stress caused by poor diet, smoking, alcohol, medication or pollution can negatively impact the hair follicles and melanocytes.

 

However, the most common cause of greying hair is due to the melanocytes reaching the end of their lifecycle. The average person will have around 11 hair cycles (around 35 – 40 years) before the production of melanin ceases.

 

In the absence of melanin, the hair shaft is colourless, which we see as grey or white. It also tends to be more prone to UV damage without the protection of melanin, which is why grey hair can sometimes feel more difficult to manage. 

Colouring Options

One of the reasons that the beauty industry is awash with a dizzying array of hair colouring options is because grey hair is often linked to ageing. And in a society obsessed with youth and Instagram beauty, many feel pressured to reach for the dye.

 

Yes, we have many ways to colour our hair, but the question remains – should we

 

Whether you’re choosing permanent or temporary colouring options, it’s a good idea to be aware of the impact that they will have on the condition of your hair. 

 

Permanent hair dyes offer long-lasting coverage. They do this by creating a chemical reaction that lifts and penetrates the protective cuticle around the hair shaft and depositing a large pigment within, resulting in a change of colour. 

 

Changing the structure of the hair in this way may add a pop of colour, but can also result in weathering along the hair shaft and a greater tendency for breakage, reduced hair strength as well as a roughened outer layer. This can make hair brittle and resistant to styling. 

 

Temporary or semi-permanent colours are certainly gentler on the hair, but they don’t last as long. These options either leave colour on the outside of the hair strand or allow pigment to move easily into the shaft without damaging the cuticle layer (however they can also move out of the shaft too), and most don’t penetrate into the deeper layers of the hair. A harsh grey root of regrowth is less evident, but the colour will wash away and require reapplication frequently. 

However you look at it, colouring your hair will leave it weathered and brittle over time, especially when combined with other styling procedures such as straightening, perming, or chemical relaxing. 

Health Considerations

Once you start down the road of dyeing away the grey, you’re signing up for more frequent visits to the salon for regrowth colouring. It becomes a cycle that is difficult to exit. We may already know of or have experienced hair damage through dyeing, but there are health matters to take into consideration too. 

 

Take a look at some of these comments from external sources.

“More than 5,000 chemicals are in hair dye, according to the National Cancer Institute.

In 2004, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit environmental research and advocacy agency, rated 117 personal-care hair dyes, and found about 80 had chemicals that might pose a cancer risk.” (Source)

 

“Compounds in hair dye could get into our bloodstream. That’s potentially worrisome because a lot of the chemicals in hair dye are known or suspected to be linked to health issues. One common precursor is paraphenylenediamine, or PPD, which is derived from petroleum. Because it gives a long-lasting colour that has a natural look, it’s used in a lot of hair dyes. It often triggers allergic reactions, and it’s associated with blood toxicity and birth defects.” (Source)

 

“Ammonia is also known to cause allergic reactions, skin burns, dermatitis, and trigger respiratory problems too.” (Source)

“Asthma is one of the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction to hair dyes. Continued inhalation of the chemicals in hair dyes can lead to coughing, wheezing, lung inflammation, throat discomfort, and asthma attacks.” (Source)

 

The long-term effects of colouring away the grey may simply not be worth it.

Prevent and Accept rather than “Fix”

Greying hair is a part of life. And we feel strongly that, instead of taking on the risk to our health and the quality of our hair, more of us should embrace the transition. This will enable us to take more and better care of ourselves by focusing on our overall wellness instead of a quick fix.

 

Consultant Trichologist, Eleanore Richardson, has this to say: “There are some things we could all do to improve our chances of reducing premature greying: reducing our alcohol intake, stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, checking and treating nutrients/mineral deficiencies and managing our psychological and emotional stress.”

 

She adds, “As a trichologist, I am frequently encouraging my patients to embrace their grey hairs where possible to improve the overall health and manageability of their hair.”

 

There are times, though, where greying hair can cause psychological problems or act as a trigger for deep-seated insecurities. If this is the case, then it would be wise to talk to a qualified professional who can assist you with the most suitable choices for your hair. 

Please feel free to contact us for more information or for a consultation. We look forward to being of service. 

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