50 Shades of Premature Gray

Donna Kim-Brand November 2014

I’m sure you know the phrase ‘the autumn of your years’ and just maybe you’ve heard of the lyrical piano piece ‘Autumn Leaves’ with rills which capture the feel of swirling fall foliage. They evoke a scent of maturation and a sense of ‘winding down’ perhaps, but not without a dazzling display of color and character.

We all know that premature means ‘early’ or ‘sooner than expected’, which is the case for my own hair. Even as I hide my own creeping gray a bit longer, (who wants to be mousy gray, after all?!), I am entranced by the kaleidoscopic range of grays and whites sported on the heads of so many people around us, very few of whom would consider themselves to be ‘winding down’. And to be clear, I’m referring to the shade of their hair, not their hats!

What causes someone to go gray? While half of us begin to gray up by age 50, it’s the depletion of color producing melanin that drains hair color. While this is a natural ageing process, premature graying can be caused by genetic factors (check out your grandparents and parents…), as well as by vitamin B12 deficiency, general prolonged poor nutrition or problems with your thyroid or pituitary gland. While research hasn’t confirmed stress as a direct correlation to going gray, all you have to do is look at past presidents to decide for yourself. What is confirmed, however, is a relationship between early gray and lower bone density in later life. Knowing this allows you to take steps to address it with supplements before hollow bones become a serious problem.

A friend laughed heartily when she recently came across this description of a 61 year old seeker on a relationship site: ’50 shades of premature gray’. A pretty clever way to intimate that he might really be (or act) younger than he looked in his photo, owing to a crop of white hair on his head and beard. I owe this article title to him. (And yes, she made contact!)

Sometimes, like with me of course, the gray comes sooner than our years might warrant, or simply sooner that we care to admit. But looking at all the options, going gray isn’t the sentence of perceived old age and decrepitude it once was considered. Don’t you think so? Let’s take a look at the various ways gray or white show up in the hair gallery, and notice your feelings evoked towards the people mentioned in regard to their hair color.

Let’s start with snow white hair, fluffy, light and pure, a harbinger of angelic character or maybe a playboy in our midst. First Lady Barbara Bush and former President Bill Clinton come to mind.

There’s blond-white, as sported by model Kate Moss and actress Dame Helen Mirren, who by any account are both elegant and full of spunk. Or think Gary Busey, the toothy actor full of ‘piss and vinegar’. You can never quite tell where these grays fall on the age range, and that’s just how they like it.

There’s also the classic salt and pepper gray, which could either be a transitional color, as for our stressed leader President Obama or your own natural color as for actor Sean O’Connery or musician Mick Jagger.

Then there’s the silver and charcoal grays, either light or deep hues, rich and smooth either way. Think of journalist Anderson Cooper, actor Harrison Ford or that silver fox Jamie Lee Curtis.

We are also treated to gray or white at the temples, natural or by design, reeking of distinguished, debonair and elegance a la George Clooney or mischievous like Whoopi Goldberg and television host Jon Stewart.

Nowadays, rather than gray hair sentencing you to ‘old-fogey-dom’, it opens you sooner to a range of possible looks, feelings and reactions. Even young stars Kelly Osborne, Lady Gaga and Rihanna have dramatically played with gray. So if you are experiencing premature gray, why not just go with the flow? Or, just choose a hair or hairpiece color and look that captures or co-creates the essence of character you want to express and rock it! If it doesn’t quite fit the real you, choose another shade of gray, white, silver or color and strut your stuff!

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