Do you know why your hair’s natural color is black, or brown? And why does it turn white as you grow older? The answer is melanin, a pigment that is responsible for your hair color.
Besides aging, certain factors cause reduced melanin production, which results in grey or white hair. Thus, if you want rich, dark colored hair for a longer time, then you need to know how you can naturally increase the production of melanin and avoid premature greying of hair. Read on.
Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks
‘’White hair occurs when air bubbles are accumulated in the medullary shaft, which inhibits the activity of tyrosinase. Whereas, grey hair occurs when there is progressive reduction in tyrosinase. In both cases, melanin production is affected.’’
Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix
What Is Melanin In Hair?
Melanin is made up of pigment cells called melanocytes that are present in every hair follicle of your scalp.
Your hair color is actually white before it pops out of your scalp. And it is made up of Keratin, a protein behind strong and shiny strands. As your hair grows, melanocytes deliver melanin into the cells, which carry keratin and give your hair its natural dark color.
In the anagen phase of the hair follicle, as few as 100 melanocyte cells can produce sufficient melanin that can intensely pigment a 1.5 meter length hair fibre.
What Determines Your Hair Color?
Melanocytes are of two types: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin is a dark pigment that gives hair dark black or brown color. Whereas, pheomelanin is a lighter pigment that gives hair yellow, red, or orange color. Your genes play an important role in determining your hair color. Melanocortin 1 Receptor(MC1R) gene instructs melanocytes to produce the type of melanin that finally gives your hair its color .
‘’Both the melanin types are synthesized from an enzyme called tyrosinase. White hair occurs when air bubbles are accumulated in the medullary shaft, which inhibits the activity of tyrosinase. Whereas, grey hair occurs when there is progressive reduction in tyrosinase. In both cases, melanin production is affected,’’ says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.
Why Does Your Hair Turn Grey Or White?
As you grow older, melanocytes decrease the production of melanin pigment naturally. This is why your hair color turns to white or grey
But there are other factors as well that could change the pigmentation of your hair color at an early age.
In Ayurveda, melanocytes are attributed as ‘The Bhrajaka Pitta’- a sub-type of Pitta dosha. Dr. Zeel Gandhi says, “Imbalance in Bhrajaka Pitta can reduce the production of melanin which can cause premature greying.”
Other factors that are responsible for premature greying as per Ayurveda are:
1. Hormonal Imbalance
According to Ayurveda, the three doshas - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha - regulate your body. Any imbalance in these doshas can cause diseases like thyroid. Changes in thyroid hormone levels can reduce the production of melanin in your body and lead to grey hair.
2. Genetic (Basic Prakriti) Defects
Every individual has a different Prakriti. If you are Pitta dominant in nature, then you have a default tendency of excess heat accumulation. So, it’s important to know your Prakriti to balance your dosha level.
Conditions like anger, stress, grief, and fear can easily imbalance Pitta dosha, which could make your hair lose its natural color.
4. Improper Diet (Aharaja)
Ayurveda suggests, your meal should have a proper balance of all the six tastes. Excess consumption of salt and spices can aggravate Pitta dosha. Also, the lack of nutrients like calcium, iron, vitamins D3 and B12 can cause grey hair.
5. Environment or Behavior (Viharaja) Change
When you change your habits like awakening during nights, overexposure to UV radiation from the sun, excessive physical exercise, smoking, fasting, etc. your Pitta-Vata dosha levels also change, which results in premature greying.
6. Excessive Use of Chemicals
Harsh chemicals like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) present in shampoos or conditioners can cause premature greying of hair.
Can Melanin Be Increased Naturally?
Yes, melanin can be increased in hair naturally without the use of chemical hair dyes. Ancient Ayurvedic texts list a number of natural color preservers like Ranjan, which can prevent and stop the progression of greying of hair.
How To Increase Melanin in Hair Naturally?
A. Herbal Remedies
Below are the Ayurvedic herbs that help to increase melanin in the hair:
Bhringraj or Eclipta Alba has hair darkening properties that are very useful in stopping premature greying of hair. Bhringraj can be used in the form of oil. You can also add its powder in your hair masks.
The seed oil of Vibhitaka or Bibhitaki is beneficial for preventing premature grey hair. The fruits of this deciduous tree are also used as one of the components of Triphala, a Tridosha Hara (balances all 3 doshas), commonly used for good health.
3. Mango seed
Mango seed is one of the largest fruit seeds that are rich in various vitamins and minerals, which can help to control greying hair. You can make a paste from its powder and apply it directly to your scalp. Mango seeds can strengthen hair follicles and prevent hair fall.
Triphala is full of iron and potassium. It helps to balance the melanin level and boost its production in the hair. Triphala can be used as an internal health supplement (with honey at bedtime) to prevent premature greying. Triphala churna works as a natural hair cleanser when mixed with warm water. You can also use Triphala powder in your hair masks to strengthen your hair roots.
Vedix Tip: To consume Triphala as a morning tea, add a spoon of triphala powder into a cup of warm water. Add a spoon of honey into it and drink it on an empty stomach in the morning.
5. Henna and Indigo
According to Ayurveda, Henna is one of the best herbs to bring natural color in the hair. You can make a hair mask by soaking the henna leaves in an iron utensil overnight and mix it with curd, eggs, hibiscus and Neeli herb for a better result.
Hibiscus is full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals required for producing melanin naturally. You can use its oil to massage your scalp twice a week. Also, you can make a hair mask from it by grinding 3-4 leaves and a flower in a cup of yogurt. Rinse the paste off with plain water after an hour. Hibiscus can also be consumed in the form of tea.
Amla is an exceptional Ayurvedic herb to cure premature greying of hair. It is rich in Vitamin C and has antioxidant properties that can increase melanin levels when used both internally and externally.
Foods That Increase Melanin
1. Iron-Rich Foods
Iron helps to boost the production of melanin in your hair. Foods rich in iron are dark green vegetables like spinach, legumes, broccoli, quinoa, tofu, dark chocolate, fish, bananas, tomatoes, soybeans, lentils, nuts, and seeds like cashew, peanuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
2. Copper-Rich Diet
Lack of copper can reduce the count of melanin in the hair. So, you should consume copper-rich foods on a regular basis such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, dark chocolate, avocados, etc.
Catalase is an antioxidant enzyme that prevents the growth of grey hair and helps restore the natural color of your hair. Catalase-rich foods are broccoli, onions, radish, cucumber, zucchini, red cabbage, apples, pears, grapes, peaches, sprouts, lentils, etc.
Side Effects Of Consuming Too Much Melanin
Excess consumption of melanin can cause side effects not only to your hair but also to the other parts of the body. For example, the presence of excess melanin in the skin cell can cause hyperpigmentation. It is one of the most common side effects of excess production of melanin. Hyperpigmentation is a condition that causes uneven pigmentation on the body, including face, hands, and legs. It darkens the skin color in the form of patches or spots.
The Last Word
A healthy diet rich in vitamins and the balance of Pitta dosha can actually help you to naturally increase the melanin level in your hair. There are supplements and pills available in the market that boost melanin production, but any synthetic molecule can pose a risk of side effects.
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