Do Supplements Work for Gray Hair? Here’s What Dermatologists Say

Key Takeaways

  • Gray hair can grow as you age, but other factors such as certain medications and health conditions also influence how white you look.
  • Multiple supplements on the market claim to be able to re-pigment gray hair.
  • There is no evidence to suggest this works, according to dermatologists.

Gray hair is a natural part of aging that is influenced by various factors. Certain medications, health conditions, and even vitamin deficiencies can affect when your hair starts to turn gray, as can your stress level.

When you develop gray hair can also come down to genetics, Jonathan Zippin, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, tells Verywell. In general, graying is definitely hereditary, he said. If your parents went gray early, chances are you’ll go gray early, though that’s not a hard and fast rule.

Although experts have identified some of the causes of gray hair, they still don’t have an effective way to slow or prevent it, says Michele Green, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist based in New York. to Verywell. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to stop the growth of gray hair, he said.

However, as supplements have become more and more popular in recent years, many anti-gray over-the-counter pills have become available. Some are marketed as having the ability to re-pigment gray hair.

Here, experts explain everything you need to know about anti-gray supplements including what’s in them, if there’s any evidence they work, and what you should know before you try them. one.

What Causes Gray Hair?

Gray hair is sometimes the result of chemical processes activated by aging, Green says. As we age, an enzyme is called into our body catalase becomes less efficient, he explained.

This enzyme helps control hydrogen peroxide levels in the body. As we age, our body can produce more hydrogen peroxide as catalase stops working as effectively as it does.

As hydrogen peroxide levels increase, melanin synthesis is inhibited, and hair pigmentation decreases, Green says. This means that, as we age, the process that gives our hair its color (melanin synthesis) is disrupted, causing hair to turn grey.

But this natural effect of aging is not the only thing that can cause gray hair. Genetics, skin type, stress, medical conditions, and diet are just some of the factors that play into how quickly a person turns gray, Green says.

Some autoimmune diseases and other health conditions associated with gray hair include:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Celiac disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Vitiligo
  • Alopecia areata
  • Some genetic conditions, including Werner syndrome, Louis-Bar syndrome, Waardenburg syndrome, and Griscelli syndrome

Being deficient in the following vitamins and minerals has also been linked to gray hair:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D3
  • Calcium
  • iron
  • brass

Eating a vegetarian diet and having an atopy condition that causes sensitivity to specific allergens can also contribute to gray hair growth.

Just as people do not age at the same rate, they do not develop gray hair at the same age.

Typically, hair begins to show signs of graying around age 35, although some individuals may show signs of graying earlier as a result of genetic factors, said Green. Individuals of African American descent are more likely to grow gray hairs later in life, because they usually have a higher production of melanin.

What Ingredients Make Up Anti-Gray Supplements?

Makers of some anti-gray supplements claim that their products can re-pigment hair. Some include one or more of the following ingredients:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B5
  • Biotin
  • Zinc
  • brass
  • Saw palmetto
  • selenium
  • para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Catalase
  • L-tyrosine

Some of these ingredients including vitamin B6, biotin, zinc, copper, and saw palmettoa are great ingredients for hair health and growth, says Green.

The purpose of including L-tyrosine and catalase in the formulations is to prevent hair discoloration and stimulate melanin production, he added. However, there is no current clinical evidence that catalase and L-tyrosine supplements can prevent or reverse the development of gray hair.

Selenium and vitamin B5, both antioxidants, help prevent oxidative stress, which causes gray hair to grow. But they, too, have not been linked to stopping or preventing the growth of gray hair.

Ultimately, Green said, there is no evidence to suggest any of these ingredients or anti-gray supplements, generally work. While their formulations may be beneficial for overall hair health and growth, these supplements will not prevent or reverse hair from turning gray, Green said.

Can [these] formulations reduce metabolic stressors in the body? Zippin said. maybe. But I don’t think there is any evidence that they are particularly effective [preventing] gray hair.

Because trials haven’t been conducted to test whether anti-gray supplements work, it’s impossible to say whether they’re effective and, if so, by what mechanism, Zippin added.

Until that research is available, supplements may not be worth exploring, he said. As a patient advocate, I am always concerned that patients are wasting money on certain things, he said. I can’t argue it isn’t effective, but we just don’t know.

Are There Other Ways to Prevent Gray Hair?

Just as there is no known way to stop gray hair from growing, there is no known way to prevent it, experts say. But targeting underlying conditions that can cause gray hair growth such as vitamin deficiencies may help some people who experience premature graying, Green says.

If your gray hair is the result of chronic stress, a thyroid disorder, or [a] B vitamin deficiency, your hair can return to its normal pigmentation after these issues are corrected, he explained.

Therefore, taking a supplement containing essential B vitamins can help, he added.

Additionally, there are no over-the-counter solutions to gray hair, but it’s worth talking to a healthcare provider about effective ways to manage stress and any other chronic health conditions you have.

Although gray hair research is advancing, the field is still relatively new, Zippin said. There have not yet been large studies in humans that could explain the basic questions about why some people develop gray hair while others do not and why some develop it earlier in life. , he added.

It’s helpful to target gray hair growth once you understand the type or types of physiological stress that influence it, Zippin adds. There is certainly a stress-related component, but no one knows exactly what stress is: whether its neurological stress, metabolic stress, [or something else] is not exactly clear, he explained.

What It Means For You

There are various anti-gray hair supplements on the market. Although supplements support overall hair health, dermatologists say there is no evidence to suggest they effectively prevent or reverse gray hair. If the gray hair results from a health condition, such as chronic stress, certain autoimmune diseases, and certain vitamin deficiencies, treating the underlying cause of the gray hair may contribute to re-pigmentation.

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