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No shades of grey here:

When, if ever, is it the right time to 'go grey'?
By Motherpedia
Date: February 20 2013
Editor Rating:

Hairdresser Judy Atkinson says as long as she has an ounce of strength in her body, a grey hair will never be seen growing out of her head.

"As long as I can reach up here," Atkinson says as she brings both hands up to her scalp, "I'll never be grey."

Many Hollywood celebrities aren't so adamant. In fact, some young actors have gone voluntarily grey. Kate Moss, 39, Kelly Osbourne, 28, Mary Kate Olsen, 26, and Pink, 33, have all been seen in varying shades of grey, with Osbourne sporting a striking, almost lavender, tint at the recent Golden Globes ceremony.

So we're not talking a dull grey, the shade of lead. New techniques and products can make sterling, pewter and pearl tones glimmer and shine.

According to hair care giant Schwarzkopf, young women who colour their hair grey love to attract attention, are trendy and confident.

The 69 year old Atkinson, whose salon is in Florida, says only about 25% of her clients who are grey actually stay grey, and those are usually older clients. That hasn't changed much in the 52 years she has been a hairdresser.

Louise De Witt, 56, who was getting her own grey touched up in a salon on the northern beaches of Sydney recently, is a public relations consultant who maintains that if you want to stay relevant in some industries you've got to get rid of the grey.

"The PR industry is overrun with women of all ages but absolutely none of them has grey hair," De Witt says. "People don't want you working on their PR if you look old and grey hair gives an impression that you're old."

Even if the boomers decide grey is for them and the world is topped with silver for the next 10 or 20 years, it could be the last time that ever has to happen.

The other hair care giant L'Oreal has spent years working on a grey-prevention pill, expected to come out in 2015. It will contain an undisclosed fruit extract that mimics the chemical tyrosinase-related protein or TRP-2, an enzyme that protects pigmentation production, the company said last year.

Bruno Bernard, head of hair biology at L'Oreal, explained that it is likely to be something to be taken for at least ten years before going grey to be effective.

"We intend for people to take it in the same way as a dietary supplement. It won't be expensive. Ideally you would take it for your whole life, but realistically we would encourage people to start using it before their hair goes grey because we don't think it can reverse the process once it has started," he said.

And for some that would mean starting to take the tablet while still in their teens.

Natasha King, a 37 year old office worker from Parramatta in Sydney and mother of two says she started to go grey at 23.

“I don’t mean just one single grey hair – that started in my teens – but full on grey. No one has any idea why.

“But I’ve been tinting my hair since then and I can’t imagine when or if I’ll stop doing so. Maybe when I’m in my 60s and finished work but not before then.”

Here are some facts about going grey:

  • Your chance of going grey increases 10 to 20% every decade after 30 years.
  • Hair gets its natural colour from melanin, a type of pigment.
  • Hair colour depends on the distribution, type and amount of melanin in the middle layer of the hair shaft.
  • Hair has two types of pigments: dark (eumelanin) and light (phaeomelanin). They blend together to make up the wide range of hair colours.
  • The pigment cells that make up melanin position themselves at the hair follicles, the openings on the skin's surface through which hair grows.
  • Each hair grows in three phases: the actively growing stage (two to seven years), a two-week transitional phase when growth begins to shut down and then the final stage in which growth has stopped and the hair falls out and a new hair begins to grow.
  • Each hair is on its own individual cycle.
  • With age comes a reduction of melanin. The hair turns grey and eventually white. It's not fully understood why the pigment production shuts down.
  • An average scalp has 100,000 to 150,000 hairs.
  • Hair is so strong that each hair can withstand the strain of 100 grams. An average head of hair could hold 10 to 15 tons if only the scalp was strong enough.
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