Every man eventually loses pigmentation in his beard as he ages, resulting in gray facial hair. Although this biological process has been taking place since the beginning of time, many men have no idea exactly how or why it happens. They just know that those grays start popping up, and before long, their entire beard has taken on a silver color.
So, can graying be stopped? And, what causes it in the first place? Today, we’ll be talking about the science behind a graying beard. We’re also going to get into some of the ways in which a graying beard can indicate an underlying health issue.
Why Beards Turn Gray
Before we talk about what you may be able to do to slow down the graying process, we need to get into the science behind gray hairs. Like we said, hair turning gray is inevitable, and it tends to begin somewhere during a man’s 40s. The speed at which hair turns gray and when it begins to occur varies from man to man, and has a lot to do with his genetics.
We know that as we get older, lots of bodily processes begin to slow down. Our muscles take longer to recover from injuries, our skin starts producing less collagen and we find that eventually, our mental activity slows down a bit as well. This happens with hair color too. Our hair color comes from a pigment called melanin, and it’s composed of cells called melanocytes. These cells are found in our hair follicles, and as we get older, our follicles stop producing as many melanocytes. This means that little by little, our hair loses its pigmentation.
When hair is gray, what you’re seeing is the hair proteins without any melanin, or pigmentation. In other words, the natural color of hair is gray as it lacks pigment.
Do Gray Beards Look Bad?
Before we go any further, we want to mention that a gray beard does not equal an ugly beard. We don’t mean to imply that having a gray beard is something that you need to be ashamed of, or something that you should make enormous sacrifices to conceal. Many men, in fact, find that a gray beard suits their personal style, and so they embrace it. This article is primarily to explain why beards turn gray, and what you can do if you wish to slow down the process.
Factors That Can Speed Up the Graying Process
It’s pretty rare that a man can completely reverse the graying process unless his hair has turned gray due to a temporary situation such as intense stress or chemotherapy, two factors that we will be getting into more later. However, it’s believed that certain factors can speed up the rate at which hair turns gray.
Smoking can disrupt your hair’s production of melanocytes because the toxins found in cigarette smoke damage the body on a cellular level. Many men who have been heavy smokers for years find that their hair goes gray prematurely and turns completely gray at a very fast rate. Needless to say, smoking damages the body in a multitude of ways besides causing hair to turn gray.
A diet lacking in proper nutrition can cause the hair to turn gray quickly. Our hair follicles require certain nutrients, such as B vitamins, so that they can produce melanocytes. We recommend having bloodwork done to determine whether or not you have any nutritional deficiencies.
Stress is a common cause of premature graying. In fact, just about every president of the United States leaves his term with a full head of gray regardless of how he looked when he first entered the Oval Office. Stress releases cortisol, a hormone that disrupts the production of melanocytes among other crucial chemicals that our body must produce so that we are in good health. If you’re going through a period of unusual stress, don’t be surprised if some silver strands start poking through your beard. Interestingly, however, many men find that when the stress dissipates, their grays don’t come back nearly as quickly.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that’s known for its abundance of side effects, and one of the most noticeable side effects is the sudden graying of hair. This is because chemotherapy actually alters the follicles’ abilities to produce melanocytes. Interestingly, many men find that once chemotherapy is over, their hair returns to its natural color.
A Chronic Illness
Certain chronic illnesses can interfere with the hair’s ability to maintain melanin.
There is a link between obesity and fast-graying hair, although the exact reason is unknown.
Possible Remedies for Graying Hair
Now, it’s time to get into the possible remedies for graying beard hair. Please note that none of these are guaranteed to work, but many men have found that one or more of these remedies has at least slowed down the process at which their beards have turned gray.
One of the most important changes that you can make is quitting smoking. Besides the fact that this will likely have a positive effect on the color of your beard, it will also benefit your health in countless ways.
Consume More B Vitamins
A deficiency in B vitamins can cause the hair to turn gray quickly, because B vitamins are required by the hair follicles so that melanocytes can be produced. If you don’t want to take B vitamins, you can receive them by eating more eggs and red meat.
Because there is a link between obesity and quickly-graying hair, you may want to consider losing weight through a healthy method like diet and exercise. This may help you not go gray as quickly.
Because stress is linked to the graying of hair, you should make an effort to reduce stress in your life. Besides the fact that it can stop your beard from prematurely going gray, reducing stress can have a tremendously positive impact on your life in a variety of ways.
It’s believed that melanin production can be disrupted by free radicals that enter the body. The way to combat these free radicals is to consume more antioxidants. Several food sources provide the body with antioxidants, including dark chocolate, red wine and olive oil.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Certain Chinese medicines may be able to help combat graying beard hair. Certain things like nettles, black sesame seeds and blackstrap molasses have been used for centuries by Chinese medicine practitioners as a way to stop premature graying.
Ancient Ayurvedic medicine is another option. Ayurvedic medicine aims to correct imbalances in the mind and body and does this by using a variety of plant-based products.
This is not necessarily a remedy, but it can be beneficial just the same. Bear in mind that every man will end up with a gray beard at some point in his life, and that it’s perfectly natural and okay. Accepting your graying beard can help you gain confidence.
Don’t Let Going Gray Damper Your Mood
A graying beard isn’t the end of the world, but if you feel that your facial hair is turning gray at an alarming rate, use this guide to diagnose and address the issue. Many men have found that natural remedies help prevent those grays from taking over their beard.