Getting To The Root Of Going Gray

The reason behind why we eventually go gray has been analyzed and debated for decades, but medical experts have never come to a firm conclusion. Most believe that our hair simply produces less pigment as we get older. However, new research points to a more complicated cause.

Scientists have now pinpointed a natural buildup of hydrogen peroxide-yes, the same hydrogen peroxide used to go blonde-that leads to the graying and whitening of our hair. Furthermore, because of the reduction of a certain enzyme, our hair follicles can't repair this damage.

"All of our hair cells make a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide, but as we get older, this little bit becomes a lot," said Gerald Weissmann, MD, the editor-in-chief of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, where the findings were published. "We bleach our hair pigment from within, and our hair turns gray and then white."

Experts weren't completely off-base when they blamed reduced pigment production, however. In fact, the hydrogen peroxide itself plays a part in disrupting the enzyme that makes melanin in the hair follicle. The aggregate result of this domino effect is stubborn, silver strands.