In the intersection of culture and science, there are three ways we currently deal with gray hair: embrace the gray (gray pride), color the gray, or take a pill to reverse and keep the gray away.
The dietary supplement industry wants us to believe this. We can prevent and reverse gray hair by taking the necessary nutrients. Imagine, no messy hair color up-keep, and non of the toxic ingredients in the dyes.
Research and Findings
A research study from the Department of Dermatology, University of California, Irvine, provides important insights if you’re thinking of using supplements for gray hair. Below are points to consider.
First, not all gray hair growth can be treated the same. For example, age-related graying might be harder to treat than premature graying. To make matters more complex, premature graying happens differently depending on race and ethnicity.
|When Does Premature Graying Happen?||Race & Ethnicity|
|Before the age of 30||Africans|
|Before the age of 25||Asians|
|Before the age of 20||Caucasians|
Second, the paper distinguishes between medication and supplements when it comes to re-pigmentation. For supplements, Vitamin B and pantothenate or potassium PABA show some positive results. However, these studies have a very small sample size, with the largest comprising of fifty participants and some as low as seven.
Third, success, measured by color change, ranges from 6% to 29% of participants, so results can be inconsistent.
The paper concludes that the “evidence is still low” when it comes to re-pigmentation. However, certain medications are promising and may guide the development of further treatments. These medications reverse graying by inhibiting inflammation and stimulating melanogenesis.
Aside from academic papers, brands conduct studies of their own products as well. Arey, which currently sells a supplement and serum, provides qualitative studies of their products. For instance, a study with thirty participants show that 90% saw less hair gray growth after three months of Arey supplement use.
Why Do We Gray?
One hypothesis: we gray when the cells that produce and distribute melanin, melanocytes, decrease. Why do the melanocytes decrease in number? Oxidative stress.
Our knowledge of why we gray powers the idea behind supplements.
Currently, we don’t have large-scale clinical studies establishing a causal relationship between supplements and preventing gray hair. However, studies show associations between premature graying with diet, stress, smoking, alcohol, and obesity. All considered a consequence of oxidative stress.
The hope would be to have large scale clinical studies tracking prevention overtime.
Lastly, it’s important to note that supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).