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Surprise! There is more than one reason why our hair goes grey.

Of course! Our body is very complicated and any publications explaining why something happens will always be a partial explanation. This is particularly true for aging (so many things go wrong) and with stem cells, because they are so flexible.

In the past, I posted the news that two enzymes crucial to the synthesis of melanin were affected in the hair follicle making grey hair. The following is from my book

Following the discovery that follicles lacking in two crucial antioxidant enzymes make gray-white hair, we added these two enzymes to our Hair Care Serum that should help protect your scalp and prevent the loss of hair color.

Gray hair happens because there is little or no melanin incorporated in the hair as it is being formed in the follicle. It has been known for some time that oxidants were implicated in the damage and death of the melanocytes in the follicle, and new evidence shows that hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) accumulates in the hair shafts of gray-white hair. Two enzymes are involved in the prevention and repair of oxidative damage: catalase and methionine sulfoxide reductase. In gray hairs, these two enzymes are almost entirely gone.

Catalase breaks down hydrogen peroxide, preventing damage to the cell’s DNA and membrane lipids. On the other hand, methionine sulfoxide reductase (MSR) repairs protein damage. For example, MSR can fix a damaged (oxidized) amino acid in tyrosinase, the key enzyme of melanogenesis. Another way of preventing damage of tyrosinase by hydrogen peroxide is to have L-methionine in the environment.

But, of course, there is more to gray hair than a couple of enzymes going “bad”.

We know that stem cells can mature and differentiate into different types of cells found across the human body in response to signals and the environment. When a hair falls out, the stem cells that will produce melanocytes receive signals that trigger their maturity their progress into melanocytes, which will then migrate into the hair bulb and inject pigment into the hair shaft as the new hair grows. In some circumstances, and this may happen as we age, melanocyte stem cells may become “stuck”, physically,  in the bulge of the hair follicle. If this happens, the stem cells can’t progress into maturity and they can’t return back to their original location – the germ compartment.  With the melanocyte stem cells “stuck”, the hair, missing the melanin produced by the mature melanocytes will go grey.

I was not surprised to learn of this alternative cause but let’s not forget the proven loss of function of the two enzymes we discussed above, catalase and methionine sulfoxide reductase, especially because we have a way of counteracting this loss of activity.

We can choose whether to enjoy our grey hair (and the false impression of wisdom it gives!) or use the hair serums Skin Actives makes for us. It’s our choice, but looking after your hair is always a good thing. With age expectancy increasing in our country (they say 90’s is the new 60’s), skin care, hair care, nail care, etc., are always a good idea.

Let’s go for a hundred and twenty with nice hair! Or as my mother would have said: Biz hundert un tsvantsik!

ביז הונדערט און צוואַנציק



Sun Q, Lee W, Ogawa T et al. De-differentiation maintains melanocyte stem cells in a dynamic niche. Nature. 2023. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-05960-6

Zhang, C., Wang, D., Wang, J. et al. Escape of hair follicle stem cells causes stem cell exhaustion during aging. Nat Aging 1, 889–903 (2021).

Wood, J. M., Decker, H., Hartmann, H., Chavan, B., Rokos, H., Spencer, J. D., Hasse, S., Thornton, M. J., Shalbaf, M., Paus, R., Schallreuter, K. U. (2009) Senile hair graying: H2O2-mediated oxidative stress affects human hair color by blunting methioninesulfoxide repair. July 2009 The FASEB Journal vol. 23 no. 7 2065-2075.



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