People have different hair colors like black, brown, blonde, or red. But they all turn white due to drop in melanin! How to increase melanin in hair naturally to prevent early greying? Read on to know!
Do you often wonder what gives your hair this colour? Do you wonder why people around the world have different shades of hair colour and not the same?
Well, what if I told you that we can sum this up in one word – melanin!
Related: How To Reverse Premature Greying
Yes, we owe it all to the simple yet powerful pigment that makes each of our hair colors different from another giving an individual the specific hair colour shade they have.
This article will talk about what melanin is, how it affects your hair colour, how it decreases over time and how you can increase its production.
What is melanin?
Every human being has a natural skin pigment called ‘melanin’ that is produced in the body, that gives the hair, skin and eye the colour it has.
Melanin is produced by ‘melanocytes’, which are special skin cells.
Each individual may have the same number of these skin cells or melanocytes in their bodies, but the amount of the pigment melanin that these cells produce will vary from person to person.
Therefore, the more melanin produced in the body, the darker the hair colour and the lower the amount of melanin produced the lighter will be the hair colour.
Melanin comes in two types based on our genetic composition – eumelanins (present in people with darker hair shades) and pheomelanin (present in people with lighter hair shades).
For people who begin to grey prematurely, it means that the melanin levels produced by the melanocytes have decreased.
How does melanin affect your hair colour?
As we age the melanin production in our body naturally decreases and people begin to get grey hair.
Those with naturally darker hair shades begin to get affected by premature greying more easily compared to people with lighter hair shades.
Another way melanin can affect your hair colour is by pigmentation changes over time.
A quick question may arise and that is – can hair colour change over time? The answer is, yes, it can!
Apart from genetics, other internal and external factors too can cause a change in one’s hair colour as we age.
Internal factors like age, hormonal changes and puberty, stress can decrease or increase melanin in hair.
Some external factors like climate changes, water, and pollution, type of diet, use of hair products (as the harsh chemicals can react with the melanin pigments in your hair), exposure to sunlight, etc, can cause this change in hair colour.
Why is melanin important for your hair?
When the levels of melanin are low, which also can mean higher amounts of pheomelanin in the hair, it can cause the hair to get damaged more easily making it dry and brittle.
Apart from hair vitality and hair texture, melanin also helps protect the hair from the harsh ultra-violet (UV) rays of the sun.
Therefore, higher levels of melanin in the body (more amounts of the eumelanin to be precise) will help provide more protection against sun exposure, compared to those with more levels of pheomelanin in their bodies.
How to increase melanin in hair 2021
#1 – Natural or Ayurvedic products:
Certain herbal oils like coffee oil, bhringraj oil, amla oil, etc are well-known for their properties of promoting better hair color.
These oils can have natural hair dyeing properties that can help naturally make the hair darker, and stimulate the production of melanin in the scalp.
The hair oils achieve this by promoting better blood circulation and activating the dormant melanocytes towards producing melanin.
#2 – Change in diet:
It is important to eat the right types of foods that can help increase melanin production in the body.
Consuming foods loaded with minerals like copper and iron is helpful in increasing melanin production in the hair.
Low levels of iron and copper are associated with decreased melanin levels and can often lead to premature greying.
Here are foods rich in iron and copper:
– Green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard, kale, cabbage, beet greens, lettuce
– Dark chocolate
– Nuts like cashew nuts, pecan nuts, walnuts, peanuts
– Seeds like flax seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds
– Fruits like berries, avocados, guavas, pineapples, kiwifruit
– Vegetables like potatoes, beans, peas
#3 Consuming More Antioxidants
Antioxidants are very essential for the body because it helps the body fight free radical damage.
Free radicals are those unstable molecules that affect the healthy cells in the body.
Therefore, without antioxidants, the melanocytes that can get damaged in turn lighten our hair color over time.
#4 – Food Rich In Catalase
Catalase is a natural enzyme found in the body (in the liver) and low levels of catalase in the body have been associated with the greying of hair and lightening of hair color.
This enzyme helps break down the hydrogen peroxide molecules and decreases them.
If these hydrogen peroxide molecules build up in the hair follicles because of a lack of catalase to break it down, it will cause damage to the melanocytes (causing it to reduce the production of melanin).
Therefore, consuming foods rich in catalase like sweet potatoes, broccoli, turnips, green leafy vegetables.
Some fruits like apricots, bananas, watermelon, pineapple, cherries, peaches, kiwi, etc. can also help boost the production of catalase in the body.
#5 – Taking Collagen Supplements
Collagen is an essential protein naturally found in the body and can decrease as we age.
It has antioxidant properties that can help fight free radical damage that can otherwise cause premature greying of hair.
Therefore, consuming foods rich in collagen-like bone broths, fish and meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables or taking in oral collagen supplements can help boost collagen production in the body
#6 – Reduction of stress levels:
As mentioned above the higher the levels of stress, the more the chances of the damage to or death of the melanocyte cells.
Therefore, reducing stress levels is very essential through the practice of yoga postures and meditation techniques.
#7 – Consuming vitamin rich foods or supplements to increase melanin in hair
There are two ways to consume vitamins, either by the food you eat or by consuming additional vitamin supplements to provide the body with the essential vitamins which haven’t been got because of an imbalanced diet.
Here are some of the essential vitamins that can help boost melanin production:
Biotin or vitamin B7 or vitamin H: Biotin is a vitamin which is often associated with hair health but also well-known to help increase melanin production in the hair.
The lack of biotin can cause the hair to become grey prematurely.
Biotin is water-soluble by nature and therefore doesn’t get retained in the body and needs to be consumed through our diet.
This can be done through biotin-rich foods like eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds, meat, etc) or through biotin supplements.
Vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E: Consuming foods rich in vitamin A, C, and E or vitamin supplements containing these vitamins can help protect the hair from free radical damage and help increase the levels of melanin in the hair.
Vitamin A rich food like – cheese, eggs, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, milk, yogurt
Vitamin C rich food like – citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, etc, strawberries, broccoli, potatoes
Vitamin E rich food like – sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, avocadoes, mangoes, kiwi
How does melanin decrease over time?
Apart from ways to increase melanin, we need to consider certain other factors that can lead to melanin depletion:
This is an essential factor leading to melanin decrease over time. As we age there are two things that can happen.
Firstly, our melanocytes can begin to wear off and die. During our younger years, these dead cells get replaced with new cells and begin to produce melanin again.
But after a certain age (say over 50), when these melanocytes die, they won’t be replaced with new cells. Secondly, aging can cause a natural decrease in the melanin production in the melanocytes.
High levels of stress and anxiety can lead to damage or death of the melanocytes because stress can damage the stem cells from where the melanocytes are formed.
Without melanocytes, no melanin can be produced.
· Hair products containing chemicals:
The harsh chemicals found in the hair products like shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, hair styling products, etc can contribute to the decrease in melanin in the hair as these chemicals interact with the melanocytes.
· Genetic composition and hormonal changes:
Certain people are prone to premature greying as it might have been inherited from their parents or grandparents.
This factor is not usually reversible. Hormonal changes too can cause a decrease in the levels of melanin in the body.
· Overexposure to sunlight:
Overexposure to sunlight can cause permanent damage to the melanin production in the hair, reducing it and lightening the hair colour.
It is important to note that hair colour changes are normal and can occur to most people over time and as one ages.
This being said, melanin can be increased in various ways and can help restore the hair’s natural colour.
But there are certain factors like age and genetics that could have caused premature greying of hair and it is very unlikely that it can be reversed to bring the hair back to its original colour.
Therefore, using techniques to delay premature greying of hair (in case of aging and genetics) and other methods to increase the levels of melanin production in the hair is always advisable.