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How To Reverse Grey Hair, According to Science

Get some color back on your scalp.

The 50/50/50 rule of thumb states that "at age 50 years, 50% of the population has at least 50% gray hair." According to recent research, between 45 and 65 years of age, 74% of people were affected by gray hair, with men harboring significantly more gray hair than women. While many people opt to treat gray hair with temporary fixes, like coloring every few months, a new scientific study claims there is actually a way to reverse gray hair for good. 

Researchers Found That Hair Naturally Re-Pigmented


A Columbia University study has found evidence of "natural re-pigmentation" – hair that grays can return to color. Researchers created a computer model of how hair graying happens with age and in response to stressful events, as stress is scientifically linked to hair pigment. 

They Analyzed Hair Proteins


Researchers started by identifying 323 proteins, which determined hair color at any point in history – gray, white, or colored. 

They Took Hair Snippets and Had People Record Stress


Using snippet samples from 14 participants, they also had them list and rate the stress in their lives over a one-year period. 

They Found That Some People Experienced Hair Repigmentation

Woman is looking at the mirror.

After matching the protein history of the hairs with the history of the owners, they found that some people with normal-colored hairs had actually been gray in the past year. However, once stress lowered, the hair pigment returned.  

A Vacation Had a "Strong" Impact on the Reversal of Graying


"I was not surprised by any of the stressors that correspond with graying; I was surprised to see how strong of an impact a vacation had on the reversal of graying," says Ayelet Rosenberg, lead author on the study. 

One Person Went on a 2-Week Trip and Their Hair Regained Color

Sad woman sitting on a plane near window

"One participant went on just a 2-week trip, and amazingly enough, five of their hairs regained color afterwards," she continued. 

However, This Research Only Applies to People Under 40


Don't book your next trip yet! The researchers note that more studies are needed to find out if this effect happens to those who are over 40, as it didn't for the few involved in their study. 

A Visual Change in Hair Means There Is a Change at Cellular Level


"Hair is unique, because it is a visible change that also indicates changes happening on a cellular level," Rosenberg says. 

Researches May Be Able to Use Hair Color as a Diagnostic Tool


"The ideal outcome would be for doctors to one day be able to use hair pigment as a diagnostic tool, using our method. If somebody did have a sudden onset of gray hairs, it would be worth looking at their stress levels that correspond to that point in their life," Rosenberg continues. "When you see it with your own eyes, I think people are more likely to care, and possibly make a change."

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There Are Other Possible Explanations


"The depletion of stem cells would imply that the graying is permanent, but this has only been shown in mice," Rosenberg says. Melanocytes may also be replenished by mystery visitors, she adds. "Some transient stem cells may come in, which could possibly be responsible for the re-pigmentation that we are seeing here." 

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