Gray Hair: Case Closed?

Last night I was looking in the mirror. It had been a few days since I shaved, and I noticed a number of gray hairs in my goatee. Of course my brain did what it always does when when I’m about to get some sleep- it chases down tangents armed with silly questions.

What is the average age a guy (or a girl, for that matter) goes gray? That precise time in Joe Average’s life when the hair goes from salt-and-pepper to white and black mixed in equal parts. Of course I’m probably not Joe Average (somebody has to be, theoretically), but I’d nice to have a ballpark figure. And then there’s the why. Why does hair go gray? Are the resources assigned to mass producing hair color downsized or put to new tasks, say, growing ear hair?

And so the internal dialog went until I decided to write a post on this. But before I got to it I saw that a group of cancer researchers had answered the why question in this article the day before. I think I’ll take this as sign that my delusions of grandeur are not completely delusions. (It’s either that or be mad a cancer researchers for stealing my thunder.)

The simple answer from the article is: “…the loss of hair color to the gradual dying off of adult stem cells, called melanocytes, that provide a reservoir for the renewal of pigment-manufacturing cells.

Ok, that answers the why, but not the when. Googling “when does hair turn gray” returns mostly results for “why does hair turn gray.” Apparently my question isn’t a very popular one. I did however come across the statistic that 50% of Caucasians are 50% gray by age 50 on several web pages. What an unusual statistic. It cleverly says nothing at all but does so in a very quotable way. Ah statistics… I guess that was really all I was looking for anyway.

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1 Comment

  1. Lisa said,

    April 22, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    I did the very same search and found the same results. And when I put the “When does hair turn gray” in quotes and searched, yours was the only link I found. Even now. In 2010. That has to be noteworthy, I think. Kudos :)


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