Could the color of your hair as you age be determined by the color of your skin?
Yes, according to new research that suggests race plays a role in when and how your hair goes gray.
The scientists conducted a search of 69 publications to review what’s known about changes in hair as people age, focusing on the differences according to ethnicity.
They analyzed data on hair structure, aging characteristics and damage, and differences between races and ethnicities.
The researchers found that when hair starts to gray varies by race. The average ages are the mid-30s for whites, late 30s for Asian people, and mid-40s for Black people.
Whites and Asians typically experience damage to the distal hair shaft (the ends), while such damage in African-Americans occurs closer to the hair root.
Postmenopausal changes in women include fewer active or growing hairs in the frontal scalp, slower growth rates and smaller hair diameters.
Similar to skin, hair aging involves both intrinsic aging — natural changes that occur with time — and extrinsic aging, which are changes associated with environmental exposures and physical stress on the hair from daily grooming, the researchers explained.
“Despite a similar chemical composition, the structural properties of hair vary between different ethnicities and, consequently, the aging of hair differs as well. As the population ages and becomes more diverse, it is of greater necessity to understand the hair aging process in different types of hair,” said study author Dr. Neelam Vashi, an associate professor of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine.
Hair’s role in both protection and appearance make it important to a person’s physical and mental well-being, according to the authors.
“A thorough understanding of the unique characteristics of hair aging among different races and ethnicities is essential for the appropriate management of mature patients,” Vashi said in a university news release.
The study was published online recently in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.
The American Academy of Dermatology offers tips for healthy hair.
SOURCE: Boston University School of Medicine, news release, Jan. 21, 2021