Your hair follicles gain their glorious color from pigment cells that make melanin, the chemical that gives hair its color. At some point, everybody’s hair begins to turn grey. Genetics is the main determining factor in when that occurs, but lifestyle habits, hormonal imbalance (thyroid), how we handle stress, grief and fear, and also the harsh use of chemicals (sodium laurel sulfate in shampoos or conditioners) can also be contributing factors. While we can do our best to be in control of our habits and the way we respond to life and pressure, there is a belief there’s nothing we can do about genetics. My experience of over 35 years of clinical practice as a Traditional Naturopath is that with the right interventions, while we may not be able to stop genetics from being expressed, we can affect the timing and way those genetics are being expressed.*
Interestingly, hair is actually white before it sprouts from the scalp. Keratin is the structural protein of the hair that provides strength and shine to strands. As the hair grows melanocytes deliver melanin into the cells carrying the keratin, and this gives the hair its natural dark color. There are two types of melanocytes (this applies to skin as well), eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin is a dark pigment that provides black or brown color. Pheomelanin is a lighter pigment that provides red, orange or yellow color. Genetics determine hair color when the Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) instructs the melanocytes to produce the type of melanin that gives hair its color.
As we age, our pigment cells (melanocytes) start to die. As these cells die, new strands of hair grow in lighter and take on various shades of grey or silver, and eventually white. Once the follicle stops making melanin, the body will no longer make colored strands again. Melanin is a protection from ultraviolet rays from the sun, and is why your skin becomes darker when exposed to the sun. Your hair depends upon that same natural protection from water, ultra violet rays from the sun, humidity, chemicals, and heat styling. When we lose that protection, we are much more vulnerable to these destructive elements. Grey hair grows thinner than natural color strands because its cuticle has become thinner. Further, without its protective barrier, the hair loses water. Grey hair is dryer, more coarse and fragile than normal colored hair. We further exacerbate this more delicate condition when we try and put the color back in with harsh chemicals and dyes.
Our bodies function at optimum health when our daily habits adhere closest to the laws of Nature and the principles of Naturopathic medicine. The secret to all cell health is to oxygenate, nourish, hydrate, and remove the waste (detoxify). Adherence to these principles will allow us always to provide our cells with the ability to thrive and flourish. Ultimately, if we can follow a lifestyle founded on providing these principles in our daily habits, we can do whatever is within our own power to prolong our vibrancy of youth.
Neil Naturopathic formulas are founded on these principles and the practice of sacredness of self. The same nutrition that we would use to preserve and protect the integrity of our hair is provided topically in Neil Naturopathic products. Further, in order to increase or at least preserve melanin we can affect it by providing the proper nutritional intervention. There are so many ingredients in our products that provide the nutrients and the right interventions to affect the production of both keratin and melanin metabolism that promote the strength and color integrity of both growth and re-growth of the hair, but for the purposes of this blog I will talk about the most important ingredients which actually come from the kingdom of the sea and give our shampoo it’s distinctive color: kelp (seaweed) and spirulina (blue-green algae).
It has been scientifically proven that vitamin B6 and B12 increase and preserve melanin production by boosting the metabolism of the hair proteins keratin and melanin. Further, lack of vitamin B12 has been proven to stop hair growth and cause the color to fade away. It has similarly been proven that increasing antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals can also both preserve and augment similar metabolism of melanin and keratin as well as providing nutritive elements to stimulate the growth of the hair follicles. Kelp and spirulina are the most nutritionally dense plants and organisms on the planet, because the sea provides access to the most abundant source of nutrients and minerals on the planet. Further, they are the only plants that are rich in B vitamins.
Seaweeds and algae get direct sunlight, which allows them to make rich antioxidants including vitamins A, B, C and E, as well as protective pigments. Seaweeds produce chlorophyll, which is the number one contributor to oxygenation of cell tissue. Other important properties of seaweed is they contain high amounts of iodine, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and zinc all which have been shown to benefit the hair and stimulate growth. One of the most powerful properties of seaweed algae is their ability to promote scalp hydration and mineralization, allowing the hair to rebuild itself and grow stronger. According to an FDA, report in 2018, spirulina contains significant amounts of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and iron. It also has essential amino acids (compounds that are the building blocks of proteins). By allowing our product to sit on the hair and scalp, allows these valuable nutrients to absorb into the hair shaft and more importantly the scalp to feed the blood, hair bed, and root.
We may not be able to stop our genetic expression, which turns our hair grey, but by using Neil Naturopathic products we can provide the proper care, which ensures our best chance of preserving and delaying the loss of color to grey. If the hair is already turning or has turned grey then our products are the best chance to ensure the best health of the hair. We further recommend using our conditioners as a mask to counteract the coarseness and dryness of hair that has turned grey. Learn more about our conditioners: Why Neil Naturopathic conditioner is different from others
*Except for Vitiligo, a condition that destroys pigment-making cells in the scalp and Alopecia areata, a condition where, often colored patches of hair fall out suddenly, do not always lead to grey or white hair. Occasionally, when healed from alopecia, the body will regrow hair with its normal color.