Natural Ways To Combat Graying Hair

One thing that's pretty much unavoidable in life is that most of us will get gray hairs at some point in our lifetime (even celebs like Kelly Ripa, who doesn't appear to age). In fact, according to WebMD, approximately half of us will have a head full of silver strands by the time we turn 50.

So, what causes this unavoidable reality? Long story short, each hair follicle contains pigment cells full of melanin. As we get older, the cells begin to die. When this happens, our follicles no longer produce pigment, which leads to hair that appears gray, silver, or white (per WebMD).

And, while it's true that things like genetics, certain illnesses, and medications can certainly trigger premature graying, the reality is that lifestyle habits can also cause us to "go gray" sooner than we'd like — or even have to.

The good news is there are simple and effective ways to combat gray, if that is something you desire to do. The great news? The following tips are all-natural, backed by research, and easy to implement.

Take a Vitamin B and D supplement

Some signs you may need more Vitamin B12 in your system include fatigue, constipation, nerve tingling, heart palpitations, and memory loss (per WebMD). Indications of a lack of Vitamin D include a weaker immune system, tiredness, back pain, and depression.

The interesting thing about both of these nutrients is that when you don't have enough of either one, you also could end up with more strands of gray hair, which grow at a much faster rate. That's right. Several studies indicate that a lack of Vitamin B12, folic acid, and biotin (all forms of Vitamin B) can hinder your hair follicles from producing more melanin. Meanwhile, a lack of Vitamin D can trigger premature graying.

For all of these reasons, it's a good idea to take a multivitamin on a daily basis and to eat foods that contain both nutrients. Foods that contain lots of Vitamin B include eggs, dark leafy greens, and organ meats like liver (per Healthline). Foods and beverages high in Vitamin D, as noted by Harvard School of Public Health, include salmon, fortified milk, and orange juice.

Increase your copper intake

Copper is an essential mineral we all need. Medical News Today shares that it helps to keep your bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune system running just as they should. So, what are some strong indicators that you may need to up your copper intake a bit? If you're exhausted a lot, you keep getting sick (and don't understand why), or you suddenly have an unexplained sensitivity to cold temperatures — this could all point to a need for more copper in your system (per Healthline).

Seeing more gray hairs popping up is another sign of copper-deficiency. The reality is that copper helps to reduce the amount of oxidative stress in your body. This is good news, because the less stress you have, the easier it is for your system to produce melanin — which includes the melanin for your hair follicles.

Since foods like turkey, sunflower seeds, potatoes, avocado, and dark chocolate are all loaded with copper, why not treat yourself to one (or some) of these today?

Load up on antioxidants

Antioxidants — which are not easily defined and explained — are substances that help to prevent cell damage. Since every part of your body is made up of cells, you can probably see why consuming antioxidants on a consistent basis is such a wise thing to do. According to Medical News Today, foods full of antioxidants include blueberries, raspberries, artichokes, dark leafy greens, and grapes.

A study published to a Karger medical journal helps to explain why antioxidants can be beneficial for combating gray hair: They help your system produce melanocytes, which are cells that help to make melanin. Two other roles of antioxidants are to boost immunity and to reduce stress (including oxidative stress).

Since antioxidants are so effective for keeping stress at bay as well as producing melanin, your hair needs loads of them so it can maintain its natural color for as long as possible.

Have some blackstrap molasses

Whether you opt to use blackstrap molasses as a sweetener substitute or you choose to put a couple of teaspoons into a cup of hot water (to make a coffee substitute), you'll do your body a lot of good. Healthline shares that blackstrap molasses are good sources of protein, iron, calcium, and magnesium. This is beneficial because these types of nutrients can work together to prevent anemia, boost bone health, and supply your system with antioxidants.

If you're wondering just how in the world blackstrap molasses can help prevent gray hair, remember that these types of molasses are high in iron and that some studies even indicate a link between iron deficiency and premature graying. Since a lack of iron is also tied to hair loss, blackstrap molasses can serve as a remedy to fight gray hair (and keep your hair healthy) on a myriad of levels.

Apply sunscreen (to your hair)

You might not think that putting sunscreen on your hair is all that necessary, but it really is. Laura Dyer, a stylist at Antonio Prieto Salon in New York, shared with HuffPost in 2019 that the sun can actually lift the top layer of your hair's cuticles. This can cause "moisture and even melanin to be removed. The result is dry, frizzy hair, and faded salon color or lightened natural color." This is why, if you don't have any products that contain SPF, now would be the time to get some.

Considering that UV rays can lighten natural hair color and that gray hair is already fragile from its lack of melanin (via WebMD), you have yet another reason to apply hair products with sunscreen to your gray strands. This will also help keep them moisturized and prevent them from looking yellow and dingy (while the sunscreen also prolongs the rest of your hair from turning gray in the process).

Try hair products that contain Vitamin C

Since antioxidants are good for slowing down gray hair growth, it should come as no surprise that Vitamin C does the same thing, since it's a nutrient full of antioxidants (per Everyday Health). However, this particular point is more about why you should put Vitamin C on your hair, not just in your body.

For one thing, Vitamin C can help protect your skin and hair from sun damage. And, since gray hair is more vulnerable to sun damage (because it contains less melanin — per HuffPost), hair products that include Vitamin C can make you less worried about hair damage as you enjoy your time basking in the sun's rays. Another perk of Vitamin C is its ability to help your system produce more collagen — the more collagen in your hair, the less oxidative stress it will experience. Healthline also states that Vitamin C helps your system to absorb iron, which helps decrease your chances of premature graying.

So, the next time you're out shopping for hair products, look at the labels to see if any include Vitamin C as an ingredient — the more Vitamin C, the better!

Use henna and amla oil

There are countless reasons why you should consider using henna for your hair, whether or not you're trying to combat grayness. According to Healthline, henna contains some pretty potent astringent and antifungal properties that can help fight dandruff, prevent excessive shedding, and, yes, even slow down the hair-graying process. The reason why it's so effective for hindering premature graying? The tannins in it help to promote healthy-looking color.

As far as amla oil goes, it contains Indian gooseberry. This is helpful because the properties in this particular fruit can help to moisturize your scalp, prevent damage caused by UV rays and hair-processing chemicals and pollution, and hinder premature graying, as The Health Site noted.

So, if you've got a wash day coming up and you want to treat your hair to something that will deep condition it and reduce the amount of gray strands on your head, combining henna with some amla oil might just be the pre-shampoo ritual you've been looking for.

Or DIY an oil from curry leaves

Curry leaves come from a citrus tree in regions of India. That's why it makes sense that curry is such a popular ingredient in many traditional Indian dishes, as noted by WebMD. Health-wise, curry is good for you because it contains some pretty powerful medicinal properties: ones that can help to strengthen your immunity, protect against neurodegenerative conditions, balance blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and keep harmful bacteria within your body at bay (per Healthline).

According to Healthline, the awesome thing about curry is that it can work in your favor on many different levels. Curry can help heal your scalp, promote hair growth, reduce frizz, and, yes, even help fight gray hairs. The belief is that the antioxidants and Vitamin B found in curry can help feed your hair follicles, so they can maintain melanin for a longer period of time.

If this has piqued your curiosity, you can find curry oil extract available online and at many health stores. Or, if you'd like to make your own oil out of curry leaves, the YouTube channel Hebbars Kitchen has a pretty simple recipe.

Massage your scalp with ghee

What exactly is ghee? It's a form of butter that's been prepared in a way that removes all of the water it contains. When it comes to using it as an ingredient for your meals, you may wonder if it's better than traditional butter. According to Healthline, as far as fat and calories are concerned, there isn't much of a difference — but, if you factor in things like being lactose-intolerant or wanting something with a much higher smoking point, ghee is certainly the way to go.

But just what does this have to do with gray hair? Craig Ziering, a board-certified dermatologist featured in a HuffPost article about how to reverse gray hair, shared that being low in Vitamin E is one such vitamin that can help accelerate gray hair growth. Ghee is rich in Vitamin E. This means that it can help to slow graying. Plus, it can even make your scalp healthier and your hair softer, while helping your hair to appear fuller.

Ghee doesn't get enough praise. Give it a shot. It just might pleasantly surprise you.

Reduce your stress level

There's no time like the present to intentionally reduce your stress level. There are a billion reasons why you should. Aside from the fact that stress can cause all sorts of anxiety and emotional uneasiness, WebMD shares that obesity, diabetes, heart disease, headaches, and even shortened longevity are all directly linked to stress-related issues.

Something else that stress can do is accelerate the aging process, and your hair is not exempt, either. What's interesting about your hair, though, is that additional research cites that, just as stress can lead to gray hair, the effects of stress can also be reversed when it's better managed (via Scientific American).

Although all of this research is still in the early stages, for the sake of your overall health and well-being, it can't hurt to be intentional about reducing stress. You can do this by eating healthy, exercising, journaling, meditating, and spending quality time with your friends, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Stress is something that happens to all of us at some point. Just remember that managing it is always a good idea — for the sake of your health as well as your appearance.

Get your thyroid checked

Your thyroid, as the Cleveland Clinic explains, is the part of your body that is specifically designed to both release and regulate the hormones that help to control your metabolism. This is crucial because metabolism is what helps to turn the food you eat into energy. Signs that your thyroid may be a little off (and that you should see a doctor to get it checked) include tiredness on a regular basis, an irregular heartbeat, changes in your menstrual cycle, sweating (that you can't account for), and fluctuations in weight (via WebMD).

Noticing more gray hairs on your head is another indication that your thyroid may not be working at its best. That's because, according to a study published to the Journal of of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, certain forms of thyroid disease can even change how your hair follicles function.

Since approximately one in eight women will develop some kind of thyroid issue over the course of their lifetime, if you happen to notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible — not just for the sake of your hair but for your overall health.

Don't smoke

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is a really bad idea for several reasons. For starters, did you know that more people die every year from smoking than from HIV, substance abuse, and motor vehicle-related accidents combined? In addition, smoking can increase your risk of heart disease and cancer and impair fertility — it's even linked to type 2 diabetes and tooth loss.

As if all of these aren't enough reasons to avoid or stop smoking, WebMD notes that smoking can also lead to premature aging, of which premature graying is a part (especially if you are under the age of 30). While your physical health should be the main reason to put cigarettes down, the fact that smoking can also make you look older than you are should be seen as the "final straw" to never smoke... or to finally stop. For good.