Grow old without going gray


In this youth-obsessive era, people fight ageing with every fibre of their being. From cosmetic procedures to ‘lift’ the eyelids, to ‘wiping off’ of crow’s feet from the corners of the eyes and the mouth, not to mention breast augmentation, etc., many people would do anything to remain youthful-looking.

While we may succeed in rejuvenating the skin around the face and neck with costly body creams and surgical intervention, the hairs in the body usually refuse to cooperate. As such, by the time the average person is 35 years old, gray hairs would have started sprouting up in some parts of the head.

For sure, it’s not only the hairs on the head that go gray, as the hairs on the arms, eyelids, the brows, legs and… (you know where else) gradually lose their natural shine and lustre, turning unattractive and becoming hoarse as they turn grayish.

Researchers say your chance of going silvery increases 10-20 per cent every decade after you hit age 30. In essence, therefore, we all have a date with hoary head; only that gene, stress levels and other factors predispose individuals to when they develop gray hair.

But then, imagine getting older without developing leaden hair! This is the assurance coming from English scientists who studied 2,411 patients by examining the activities of hydrogen peroxide in the hair.

In the new online research report published in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, researchers at Bradford University’s School of Life Sciences say those who go gray develop “massive epidermal oxidative stress” through the accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicle, causing their hair to bleach itself from the inside out.

Professor of cell biology at the University of Bradford in England, Dr. Desmond Tobin, suggests that hair turns gray because of age and genetics. He notes that genes regulate the exhaustion of the pigmentary potential of hair follicles. For some people, he says, the process occurs rapidly; while in others, it occurs slowly over several decades.

Scientists say various factors make hair grey. They include genetic defects, hormones, body distribution, age, climate, pollutants, toxins and chemical exposure.

To beat the gray, people resort to dying their hair. And, unlike other beauty treatments that are exclusive to women, both sexes indulge in the war against argentine head.

The hair dye industry is a multi-billion-dollar business globally, and the market is burgeoning with choice of various shades, which can be in form of powder, liquid or cream.

Experts say hair dyes may be temporary, covering the surface of the hair but not penetrating into the hair shaft. They generally last between one and two washings. Dyes may be semi-permanent, in which case they don’t penetrate into the hair shaft and typically lasts between five and 10 washings.

Permanent (oxidative) dyes cause lasting chemical changes in the hair shaft, and are the most popular among users because the colour changes last until the hair is replaced by new growth.

Hair treatment specialist and salon operator, Mrs. Tinu Oladele, says the dye “restores the hair’s original colour, makes it shine, while it also gives hair a kind of hitherto elusive fullness that makes you look younger than your real age.”

Well, cosmetologists may give hair dye thumbs-up, physicians say dying your hair poses certain health risks.

Professor of Anatomy and Consultant Endocrinologist, Oladapo Ashiru, says some of the ingredients in hair dyes can cause allergic reactions that may result in severe skin and eye irritation in some people. He notes that eye irritation can seriously affect vision and, very rarely, lead to blindness.

Experts also note that hair dyes can actually cause hair loss in some people. In addition, Ashiru says certain ingredients in hair dye could make users develop cancer of lymph tissue (Hodgkins disease), or cancer of plasma cells (multiple myeloma, affecting the bones, immune system, kidneys and red blood cell count).

Data from America’s National Cancer Institute suggest that the use of hair dye has an association with breast cancer, as the ingredient, para-phenylenediamine, found in nearly all hair colouring products, was shown to be carcinogenic to the breast.

The NCI data also claims that both men and women hair dye users are at “heavily increased risk” for bladder and other cancers.

As for women, using certain hair dyes shortly before pregnancy or while pregnant heightens the risk of cancer in their babies by as much as 10-fold, experts warn.

Experts also reveal that almost 70 per cent of the hair colouring products contain coal tar, which can be easily absorbed through the skin and trigger allergic reactions.

To save hair dye users from these health problems, the Bradford team says it has discovered that accumulation of hydrogen peroxide — which leads to graying — can be remedied with a proprietary treatment.

They describe the preparation as “a topical, UltravioletB-activated compound called PC-KUS (a modified pseudocatalase.” UVB is also used therapeutically for treatment of skin disorders like vitiligo that causes a loss of pigmentation.

Since the scientists have yet to tell us when their product will hit the market, the United States Food and Drug Administration advises people who want to dye their hair but are concerned about safety to follow these suggestions:

•     Consider delaying dyeing your hair until later in life when it starts to turn gray

•     Consider using henna, which is largely plant-based

•     Be sure to do a patch test for allergic reactions before putting the dye in your hair Do a patch test before every use

•     Carefully follow the directions on the hair dye package

•     Wear gloves when applying hair dye

•     Don’t leave the dye on your head any longer than necessary

•     Rinse your scalp thoroughly with water after use

•     Never mix different hair dye products, because you may cause potentially harmful reactions

•     Never dye your eyebrows or eyelashes



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