Once you reach a certain age, your follicles start producing less melanin, the pigment that gives your hair its natural color. As a result, your hair starts turning white, gray, or silver. While this process usually doesn’t begin before the age of 35, many people notice the first signs of graying in their early twenties. This is typically determined by genetics, but some health conditions can also lead to premature graying.
Even though gray hair is completely normal, many women and men find that it ages them. To achieve a more youthful look, they search for ways how to get rid of gray hair and restore their natural hair color.
The Risks of Dyeing Your Hair
As soon as they spot their first grays, many decide to cover them up with hair dyes. However, dyeing your hair isn’t as safe as you may think. For one, the combination of ammonia and peroxide lifts the cuticles that protect your hair from damage and strips your strands from their natural protective oils. The longer you leave hair dye on your head, the more damage you cause to your hair – and that’s not all.
Regular use of hair dyes can have a negative effect on all aspects of your health, not just your hair. According to a 2001 study, women who dye their hair once a month are considerably more likely to develop bladder cancer than women who don’t use hair dyes. In addition, hair dyes contain resorcinol, a chemical that disrupts normal hormonal function and causes a number of health problems as a result.
Hair dyes contain several other potentially harmful chemicals. These include formaldehyde, PPD, coal tar, and eugenol. All these ingredients have been linked to allergies, cancer, and impaired immunity.
To avoid the risks associated with the use of hair dyes, many people look for more natural ways to get rid of grays. They either opt to tweak their diet or use one of the many tried and proven home remedies to achieve the desired result.
How to Get Rid of Gray Hair with Nutrient-Rich Foods
While most people don’t notice gray hairs until their mid-30s, many will have to face this problem at a younger age. Nutritional deficiencies are among the most common causes of premature graying. A 2015 study found that a lack of key vitamins and minerals can strip your hair of its natural color.
Furthermore, the study suggested that you may be able to restore your hair’s original color through supplementation, but only in the early stages of graying. To try and reverse the graying of the hair, you should increase your intake of foods that are rich in the following five nutrients.
1. Folic Acid
Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, helps keep your hair healthy and strong. Insufficient quantities of folic acid in your body can cause several health problems, including gray hair.
Adults need about 400 micrograms of vitamin B9 a day, whereas pregnant women require an extra 100-200 micrograms per day. You’ll find folic acid in dark leafy greens, legumes, root vegetables, and avocados. Citrus fruits are also rich in folic acid, with one orange containing about 50 micrograms.
2. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is another nutrient that could help you get rid of gray hair. Adults need about 3 micrograms of B12 a day, whereas the requirement is slightly higher for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
You can find B12 in a variety of foods including beef, animal liver, and animal kidneys. Tuna, clams, trout, salmon, and sardines also contain high amounts of vitamin B12. If you’re vegan, you can get your daily dose of vitamin B12 from fortified cereal and fortified nutritional yeast.
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, is commonly used to reverse the graying of the hair. Although most people get enough biotin from their regular diets, some may need to use supplements to get the recommended 30 micrograms a day (35 if they’re breastfeeding).
If you want to add more biotin to your diet, animal liver may be the best choice as that’s where most biotin is stored. You will also find it in dairy, nuts and seeds, as well as egg yolks. Other good sources of biotin include avocado, yeast, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and salmon.
A 2012 study found that low levels of iron in the body can also cause premature graying. Adults between the ages of 19 and 50 need about 18 milligrams of iron per day, while pregnant women need 27mg.
You’ll find lots of iron in lentils, kidney beans, and spinach. Potatoes are also a good source of iron, as are prunes and prune juice. Raisins contain plenty of iron, as well, with 1.9mg per 100 grams of raisins.
The same study found that a copper deficiency may also result in premature graying. The recommended daily intake of copper varies – adults need 900 micrograms a day, pregnant women need 1,000, while women who are breastfeeding need 1,300 micrograms of copper each day.
Good dietary sources of copper include dark leafy greens, mushrooms, lentils, and potatoes. You will also find copper in dried fruit, sea foods like oysters and lobsters, as well as nuts and seeds.
How to Get Rid of Gray Hair with Home Remedies
For optimal results, you can combine a nutrient-rich diet with one of the following three home remedies for graying hair.
1. Onion Hair Mask
Process a small onion in a blender and use a soft muslin cloth to strain the juice. Apply this juice to your scalp twice a week and let it sit for half an hour before washing your hair. If you find the smell of onion too strong, you can mix in a tablespoon of olive oil and one egg to soften it.
2. Coconut Oil and Curry Leaves
The Indian traditional medicine Ayurveda uses coconut oil to treat many conditions, symptoms, and problems, including gray hair. In combination with curry leaves, it could also help darken your graying hair. Simply mix a cup of unrefined coconut oil with a 1/4 cup of curry leaves and heat until you see black residue forming. Let it cool, apply to your scalp, and leave it in for an hour. Repeat twice a week.
3. Rosemary and Sage Hair Rinse
Combine two tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves with one tablespoon of fresh sage leaves. If you’re using dried ingredients, go for one tablespoon of rosemary leaves and half a tablespoon of sage leaves. Add them to two cups of boiling water, cover the saucepan, and simmer for a few minutes. Strain the mixture to remove the leaves and pour the water through your hair while massaging it in. Leave it in for about 10 minutes before washing it off with a mild shampoo. Repeat this twice a week.
The Final Word
In addition to dietary changes and home remedies, certain lifestyle changes may also help you fight gray hair. These include quitting smoking, protecting your hair from the sun, and not exposing your hair to potentially harmful chemicals found in hair care products, soaps, and bleaches.
Before you decide to change your diet or start using any of these remedies, make sure that you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients they contain. If necessary, consult with your doctor first.