- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mystery solved, perhaps. Gray hair is not rooted in stress, diet, genes, sleep deprivation, fright, endocrine disorders, drug interactions, environmental damage or other causes debated in the scientific and medical communities over the years, according to research released Monday by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

It’s hydrogen peroxide produced by the body that bleaches dark locks silver, the researchers say.

They are cautiously suggesting that gray hair can be treated at the biochemical and molecular level.

“It opens new windows for the prevention and possible reversal of this process,” the study says.


The scalp is the crime scene. A “massive build-up” of hydrogen peroxide occurs because of the daily wear and tear on our hair follicles, ultimately blocking the production of melanin, our natural pigment.

“Not only blondes change their hair color with hydrogen peroxide,” says Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor in chief of the FASEB Journal, which published the findings.

“All of our hair cells make a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide, but as we get older, this little bit becomes a lot. We bleach our hair pigment from within, and our hair turns gray and then white. This research is an important first step to get at the root of the problem, so to speak,” Dr. Weissmann says.

Eleven researchers, who hailed from four British and German universities, dissected hair follicles from women and men alike, subjecting the specimens to assorted chemical treatments plus microscopic and spectrographic examination.

Though they said more research was in order, the researchers cited L-methionine, an essential amino acid, as a possible panacea that “could have great implications in the hair-graying scenario in humans.”

The substance already is widely marketed by specialty vitamin manufacturers and has been cited on a nonmedical basis to improve brittle hair. It occurs naturally in sesame seeds, soybeans, Brazil nuts, fish, spinach, potatoes and some dairy products, among other edibles.

Gray hair and the inevitable hair-dyeing ritual, however, remain a fixture in many lives.

Two-thirds of American women dye their hair, according to a survey by Procter & Gamble Co., though the “tyranny” of the practice has been criticized by silver-haired female journalists in both Time and Slate magazines. A poll of 1,530 Glamour magazine readers last month found that 40 percent found gray hair attractive on everyone; 42 percent liked the look at least some of the time.

Going gray has become a badge of honor in some baby-boomer circles. Meanwhile. Tom Jones, the 1960s heartthrob crooner, recently threw out his hair dye, to much publicity.

‘I’ve moved onto the next stage of my life,” Mr. Jones told the Daily Mail on Friday. “I may be gray, but I ]am still a sex bomb.”