Going grey at 21 – why me?

For many people, both men and women, that first troublemaking grey hair on their once colourful crown triggers a similar, if not slightly overdramatic, thought that it’s all going to go downhill from here on out. I admit to being one of them, having already been victim to a small number of stubborn strands.

Our hair colour is all down to a chemical called melanin, a pigment common to most organisms, which is also responsible for our skin and eye colour. As we get older, the pigment cells in our hair follicles begin to die, which means that the melanin content in each strand gradually falls until we’re left with a full head of translucent hair. It appears grey or white due to the reflection of light. While the association between grey hair and old age may seem obvious, the same cannot be said for the appearance of grey hair amongst the younger twenty-somethings today.

Let's embrace grey hair like Gaga!

Let’s embrace grey hair like Gaga. Image by Tinacute

So why am I and so many other unfortunate souls going grey early and not in our 40s or 50s? The general consensus is that we should blame our parents’ genes. If they or our grandparents were sprouting those first silver wisps when they were a lot younger, then it’s more than likely that you will too at that godforsaken age. YAY!

To add to my distress, men have also been shown to go grey before women. Check with your parents to get a heads up on when to expect your flowing grey locks to arrive. Aside from genetics, there are other factors which can cause you to grey prematurely. One of these is smoking, which halts the production of melanin. This may also be the result for those suffering a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Today, we continue to be drawn to hair dye in an effort to hold onto our youthful hair, with the global hair colouring market worth billions of dollars each year. Maybe I should simply take a page from Lady Gaga’s book and just get the gradual, painful experience of going grey all over and done with (minus the blue highlights…perhaps).

If you’ve found yourself looking in the mirror and spotting a grey hair, stay calm—you are not alone! Let us know if you’ve already panic-bought hair dye or if you’re out, grey and proud.

Over to you:

  • Are you suffering from youthful grey hair? If so, do you embrace it?
  • Did you start going grey at the same age that your parents did?

Cover image courtesy of firexbrat

About Jack Harris

After graduating in Chemistry from The University of Edinburgh, Jack worked in Hong Kong for a year before moving to Australia. He is currently involved in teaching at The University of Adelaide. Follow him @harrisjack4

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