We spot people with ‘salt and pepper hair’ and either call it fashionable or consider it a natural part of aging. But many of us are not fans of gray hair and wonder how to increase melanin in your hair and get rid of gray hair.
Of course, hair does not stay the same color throughout life. As time advances, your hair can continue to change with age. For instance, you must have noticed a child with platinum blonde hair end up being a brunette as an adult.
Or we think the dreaded white or gray hair is genetic. But we fail to acknowledge the fact that gray strands are due to the lack of melanin in the hair. By increasing melanin in hair, you can slow down the graying process, or even better, reverse the graying.
Here’s an aide on how to increase melanin in your hair and get rid of gray hair.
How Can I Increase Melanin in My Hair?
Let’s start from the beginning. Did you know that hair color is the pigmentation of hair follicles due to the presence of melanin? If not, here’s a quick reality check. Hair color is produced by pigment cells called melanocytes (1) within hair follicles. Your hair color is white before it grows out of your scalp.
As it grows, melanocytes produce melanin into the cells that carry keratin — a protein behind shiny and strong hair — and give your hair its natural dark color.
When there is no melanin left in your hair, the color of keratin peeks through. Since melanocytes are cells naturally produced by your body, these cells emit melanin which is stored in the cortex in the middle of the hair follicle.
The purpose of melanin is to provide your hair with its natural color. Meaning, as hair grows the pigment or color continues to form creating a full head of blonde or mop of dark hair.
The Presence of Melanin in Hair Follicles
Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) gene instructs melanocytes to produce the type of melanin that gives your hair its color. While genetics play a huge role in which type of melanin you are born with, your hair color is conditioned by the type and concentration of melanin in your hair(2). In other words, the color is determined by the type and amount of melanin in your hair. There are two types of melanin present namely eumelanin and pheomelanin.
Eumelanin is a dark pigment that gives the hair dark black or brown color. On the other hand, pheomelanin is a lighter pigment that gives hair red, orange, or yellow color. Normally, if more eumelanin is present, the color of the hair is darker and if less eumelanin is present, the hair is lighter in color.
What’s more, melanin plays a vital biological role in hair. It protects hair against sun rays and ultraviolet radiance you and I get damage from. Dark hair with more eumelanin present is more immune to UV rays and decay than light hair. Because eumelanin has higher photostability compared to pheomelanin.
Since the halt of melanin is part of the aging process, over time melanocytes become less active and eventually stop producing the color which results in white or gray hair. According to Women’s Fitness Magazine, 50 percent of women have half a head full of gray strands by the time they are around the age of 50.
Generally, men start graying around the age of 30 while women begin graying around the age of 35. Anyhow, as graying symbolizes growing older, people opt for dyeing or bleaching. But what if there is an alternative to such measures you normally opt for? What if you can boost melanin production and restore your natural color? Keep reading!
What are the Causes of Gray Hair?
Before you ask the question how to produce melanin in hair by yourself, another significant question must arise. How can you prevent graying hair? The answer could be by addressing the issue before it arrives. That is to say, knowing the causes of gray hair and preventing it, or more importantly, not adding more to the already graying process. Aside from the halt of melanin production, several other factors contribute to gray hair.
Gray hair and catalase enzyme
One such interesting factor is gray hair and catalase connection. In a 2009 study, researchers discovered that graying is due to a buildup of hydrogen peroxide in hair particles, which in turn bleach hair from the inside. Yes, the same hydrogen peroxide is used in bottles for the bleaching effect. However, it is also a chemical that your hair cells naturally produce(3). What is so interesting about this? Well, an enzyme called catalase normally breaks down hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water.
But unsurprisingly, catalase production starts to slow down as you get older. As a result, your body starts to get affected by hydrogen peroxide. Hence, researchers have concluded that gray hair is nothing less than a reflection of one of the potent antioxidants’ reduction.
Another potent antioxidant that can turn hydrogen peroxide into water is glutathione peroxidase which is produced by the liver. But unfortunately, it also lowers with age. This is why you can take supplements to get more glutathione in your body.
Gray Hair in Children
The reason for premature graying which occurs in children remains uncertain, but factors like autoimmune problems or illness are considered as the cause. In addition to that, graying can be caused due to diabetes, thyroid disorders(4), vitiligo, abdominal and intestinal surgeries, early menopause, and smoking. How to increase melanin in Ayurveda is accompanied by the following factors that are responsible for graying hair:
“According to Ayurveda, the three doshas named Vata, Pitta, and Kapha regulate your body. Any imbalance in these doshas can cause diseases.”
Recent studies have shown that stress hormones promote the migration of melanocyte stem cells from the hair follicles. When that happens, your hair’s color pigments get consumed and your strands turn gray. If you are feeling anger, stress, grief, or fear, the chances of your hair turning gray are pretty high. Stress is unavoidable in today’s life, but practices like yoga and meditation can help you reduce stress.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Graying is linked to vitamin B12 deficiency, also known as pernicious anemia. Researchers found that about 55 percent of the patients with vitamin deficiency experienced gray hair before the age of 50.
Changes in hormone levels can reduce the production of melanin in your body and lead to gray hair. Hormones, particularly sex hormone imbalances (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, etc.) can cause gray hair.
Your diet is essentially what your body gives you as a result. If your diet is improper, it can cause graying. For this, Ayurveda suggests your meals have a perfect balance of all six tastes — sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. However, excess spices and salt can aggravate your Pitta dosha (body heat). Not to mention, the lack of nutrients such as iron, calcium, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D3 can cause gray hair.
The harmful sun rays not only harm your skin but also your scalp and hair strands as well. It can aggravate the melanocytes left in graying your hair strands. Or worse, cause them to become damaged and die. The UVA and UVB rays can thin your hair while severely affecting your scalp.
Excess Use of Chemicals
Of course, you must have already guessed this. Using chemicals itself does more damage to your hair than you think. But excess use of chemicals, particularly harsh chemicals like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), may even cause premature graying. SLS chemical is present in shampoos and conditioners.
If your parents had premature gray, it’s bad news for you. You can expect your hair strand to start graying sooner without the question of how and when.
Change In Your Habits
Besides exposing your hair too much to the sun rays to the point of damaging it, certain changes in your habits can cause gray hair. For instance, excessive physical workout, fasting, awakening during nights, smoking. Because according to Ayurveda, changes in habit also changes your Pitta-Vata dosha levels.
How To Restore Melanin In Hair Naturally?
Increasing melanin production in hair will certainly help restore your natural color and vitality. You can either increase melanin naturally or take melanin supplements for hair. There are home remedies to increase melanin in your hair as well. For example, massaging your scalp with coconut oil and massaging with blended onion juice for 30 minutes can help your hair.
For this, the first step is taking care of your diet, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. Because every cure starts with what’s going inside your body. Eating well-balanced meals for hair will certainly promote good health and boost the vitality of hair. Your diet should have foods that can increase melanin, especially foods with the following:
As melanin deficiency is linked with vitamin deficiency, you can enrich your meals with foods with vitamins. Especially foods with vitamins A, C, and B12 as they are important nutrients responsible for restoring melanin. Animal and plant-based foods that contain vitamin A and fruits with vitamin C (raises glutathione in red blood cells) is a great start.
Here are a few: citrus fruits, kiwi, oranges, mangoes, grapefruit, pineapple, melon, strawberries, papaya, apricot, potatoes, carrots, red peppers, green peppers, green vegetables, vegetable oils, dried beans, soybeans, raw seeds, molasses, whole grains, eggs, rice, milk, fish, liver, turkey, chicken, and red meat.
How to increase melanin in your hair: Iron
Iron has proved to increase melanin in your hair. Foods that are rich in iron are dark green vegetables, broccoli, spinach, legumes, tofu, quinoa, fish, bananas, tomatoes, soybeans, lentils, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds like cashew, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, etc.
Lack of copper has all the chances to reduce the count of melanin in the hair. So, you can add copper-rich foods to your diet and they include leafy green vegetables, lentils, nuts and seeds, almonds, peanuts, crabmeat, white mushroom, beef liver, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, dark chocolate, avocados, etc.
How to increase melanin in your hair: Antioxidants
Foods that are rich in antioxidants will help you increase melanin production. Additionally, antioxidants help defend your cells from the harmful effects of free radicals.
It includes dark chocolate, blueberries, beans, pecans, artichokes, and leafy greens.
As it is an important antioxidant enzyme that prevents the growth of gray hair, you should add catalase-rich foods.
They are onions, cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, kale, radish, red cabbage, celery, lentils, sprouts, apples, pears, grapes, peaches, etc.
How to increase melanin in your hair: Melanin Supplements for Hair
Hitherto, there hasn’t been enough scientific research to prove that taking melanin supplements can help you prevent or reverse gray hair. Plus, many such supplement products often aren’t approved by the FDA. For instance, Melanin Food Supplement for Hair Pigmentation hasn’t been approved by the FDA. But many customers loved it, according to the reviews on Amazon.
Talk to your doctor before you take any supplement because not everyone’s body is going to react in a good way. Thus, you need to read the labels carefully and take the recommended dosage. Since there is no overnight reversal of gray hair, you need to be patient and understand that the results will be different for everyone.
Vitamins To Prevent White Hair
You can take daily supplements of the following vitamins if you don’t get enough vitamin from food:
Being a great aid in the production of healthy sebum (an oily substance produced by sebaceous glands), vitamin A can help your hair strands. The DRI for vitamin A is 700 mcg for adult women. Perhaps, eat a meal that contains some fatty acids for your body to absorb the nutrients.
The DRI for vitamin C for adult women is 70 mg per day. But if you are a smoker, an additional 35 mg of vitamin C is recommended. If you take it along with vitamin E, it will work more efficiently. For a smoker and someone who is exposed to harsh sun rays more frequently, taking a vitamin C supplement will be helpful for their hair. It is a well-known antioxidant that can protect the cells of your body from oxidation.
How To Increase Melanin in Hair: How To Increase Melanin in Hair: Vitamin B6 and B12
These are the two important B-Complex vitamins for gray hair reversal that help in healthy skin as well. As a matter of fact, they are proved to restore gray hair to its original color. You can take 4 mg of B6 (pyridoxine) daily to trigger the production of enzymes and chemical reactions that increase melanin and keratin in the hair follicles. Whereas, B12 or cobalamin increases red blood cells and promotes healthy hair growth.
Para-AminoBenzoic Acid (PABA) and Pantothenic Acid
Another part of B-Complex vitamins is these two with beneficial powers to increase melanin in the hair and postpone the graying process. You can purchase them both from pharmacies and health food stores. PABA may even halt hair loss. Also, when you take folic acid along with Pantothenic acid, you may reverse the grayed effect to your hair’s original color.
It is a supplement that contributes to scalp circulation and as a result, can nourish the hair follicles.
It is a carbocyclic sugar naturally found in your tissues. Its supplement can encourage the growth and overall health of your hair.
Vitamin H, also known as biotin, is another useful supplement that can produce keratin and prevent your hair from graying. You may take 300 mcg of it daily.
When it comes to the topic of supplements, there was an intriguing study in 2016 regarding graying hair and the possibility of restoring the natural color. It offered the plausibility of restoring hair color by targeting the molecular pathways that govern hair pigment.
Through studying stem cells in mice, a few scientists at Langone Medical Center of New York University found that a signaling pathway called Edn/EdnrB interacts with other pathways(5). Particularly the Mnt signaling pathway.
The purpose of the study was to find a link between these signaling pathways and hair and skin pigment. As a result, they concluded that the process of Edn/Ednrb interacting with the Mnt pathway creates more melanocytes.
Hence, the findings highly suggested that developing a drug or a therapy to target these pathways and triggers may help bring some color back to the grey strands.
How To Increase Melanin In Hair In Ayurveda?
According to Ayurveda, habits that provoke Pitta can interrupt the production of melanin even at a younger age. Hence, any imbalance in Pitta dosha causes premature greying of hair. So, it suggests using the following Ayurvedic herbs to produce melanin in your hair and prevent greying.
How To Increase Melanin in Hair: Bhringraj
It has hair-darkening properties that can immensely help in stopping hair from greying. It can be used either in the form of oil or add its powder form to your hair masks.
A powerful herbal remedy that consists of Haritaki, Bibhitaki, and amla. Since it is full of iron and potassium, it can help to balance and boost melanin production in the hair. You can consume it with honey, mix it with warm water to use as a natural hair cleanser, or use the powder form in your hair masks.
How To Increase Melanin in Hair: Vibhitaka or Bibhitaki
The seed oil of Vibhitaka or Bibhitaki is believed to be beneficial for preventing premature greying. Triphala uses the fruits of Vibhitaka as one of its components.
Another effective way to bring back natural color to your hair is by making a mask of henna. Soak the henna leaves in an iron utensil overnight, mix it with hibiscus, curd, eggs, and herb, and use it as a hair mask.
Rich in vitamin C and antioxidant properties, amla can increase melanin — when used both internally and externally.
How to Increase Melanin in Hair: Mango Seed
Being one of the largest fruit seeds that are rich in various minerals and vitamins, mango seeds can help control greying your hair. You can use it by making a paste from its powder and apply it directly to your scalp. Besides preventing grey hair, it can strengthen hair follicles and prevent hair fall as well.
Full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants required for producing melanin naturally, hibiscus can help you with grey hair. You can either use it by massaging your scalp with its oil or as a hair mask by grinding some leaves with yogurt.
There are many topical applications of melanin hair products available in the market. However, there hasn’t been enough scientific research on the effectiveness of such melanin hair products. Meanwhile, Northwestern University researchers have created a synthetic melanin-based hair dye.
It provides natural hair color by imitating human hair pigmentation and it is much gentler and safer on the hair than chemical-based dyes. Plus, if you buy products with lutein, lycopene, astaxanthin, and probiotics, melanin production is a promised benefit.
One important factor to consider before increasing melanin in the hair is the side effects of excess consumption of melanin. While increasing melanin in hair, your skin might as well darken along with your hair strands. Thousands of thousands of people worry about hyperpigmentation, which is one major side effect of consuming too much melanin. So, always think, consider, and choose any change that you are trying to bring to your body. Besides, spotting grey strands is also considered a sign of wisdom, right? Let your hair speak for the wisdom in you for a change!