It’s a dilemma faced by most people of ‘a certain age’: let your hair go grey, or reach for the dye bottle?
Why we go grey
Our natural hair colour comes from a pigment known as melanin, produced by the hair follicles. As we age the follicles produce less melanin and this means our hair effectively loses its colour. The average person will spot their first grey hair in their 30s and most people will have noticeable grey strands by their 40s. By the age of fifty, fifty per cent of people will have gone grey.
The thickness of hair also alters as you age because the size of your hair follicles shrinks, producing smaller hairs. In the same way the oil glands in the human scalp shrink with age, resulting in brittleness and dryness.
Grey is the new black
If you are female, you may feel under greater pressure to keep up a youthful appearance. While women are often described as being ‘brave’ for going grey, men of the same age are given the flattering label of ‘silver fox’. But this situation may be about to change, as hip, young fashion icons such as Rihanna and Zayn Malik are now sporting faux grey styles as part of a growing fashion trend.
Why more of us are refusing to dye
It’s ironic that as young celebrities and their fans adopt grey hair as a fashion statement, an increasing number of older people are choosing not to use hair colourants. While there is no single cause for this trend, there are several reasons why the number of cheerleaders for being ‘grey and proud’ may be on the rise.
Is hair dye harmful?
Scare stories about the dangers posed by certain chemicals have continued to surface, despite a major re-think by manufacturers in the 1980s, when research revealed that substances used in hair dye at that time caused cancer in mice. Although no concrete evidence has yet been found to suggest that hair dyes are unsafe for regular personal use, the jury is still out on the risks faced by today’s consumers. Even that tiny seed of doubt may be enough to persuade some people to stop using colourants.
We can’t turn back the clock
As we age, our skin colour alters, picking up more yellow tones. This means that the hair shade we had in our younger days may not blend with our current skin tone. Combine this with the effects of chemical overload on aging hair and it’s no wonder that many of us decide it’s better to let nature take its course.
Role models lead the way
These days we’re surrounded by high profile figures sporting grey hairstyles – think of male celebritiess such as Gary Lineker, José Mourinho and George Clooney and female high rollers like Anna Wintour, Meryl Streep and Christine Lagarde.
Nowadays we are all living longer, in better health, and it may simply be that the trend towards accepting grey hair shows we are more relaxed about the aging process, living life to the full instead of hiding away. To quote celebrity hairstylist and founder of Twitter’s @thegreyglammovement, Cynthia Alvarez: “Grey is the new black. The colour has taken on an entirely new life and meaning – today grey is beautiful, sexy, chic, fabulous!”