Do you know why your hair’s natural color is black, or brown? The answer is melanin, a pigment that is responsible for your hair color. With age, the melanin production in your hair reduces, thus turning your hair grey.
If you are wondering how to increase melanin in your hair naturally, it is important to know what kind of foods to consume, the right kind of oils to use and the supplements available for improving melanin production. Read on to find the answers.
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 a progressive reduction in tyrosinase. In both cases, melanin production is affected.’’
Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix
What Is Melanin In Hair?
Your hair color is actually white before it pops out of your scalp. As your hair grows, melanocytes deliver melanin into the cells, giving 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 long hair fiber .
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 a 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 a 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 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 are:
1. Hormonal Imbalance
Changes in thyroid hormone levels  can reduce the production of melanin in your body and lead to grey hair.
Conditions like anger, stress, grief, and fear can promote oxidative damage in the hair cells, which could make your hair lose its natural color.
In a study conducted in China in 2017, researchers found that psychological stress causes lower melanin production in hair follicles.
3. Improper Diet
Ayurveda suggests that your meal should have a proper balance of all six tastes. Excess consumption of salt and spices can aggravate Pitta dosha. Also, the lack of nutrients like calcium, iron, and vitamins D3 and B12 can cause grey hair.
A study in 2007 found that a decrease in melanin levels in hair is associated with periods of malnutrition during childhood.
4. Environment or Lifestyle Change
When you change your habits like awakening at night, overexposure to UV radiation from the sun , excessive physical exercise, smoking, fasting, etc., oxidative stress increases in the body, resulting in premature greying.
5. Excessive Use of Chemicals
Harsh chemicals like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) present in shampoos or conditioners can cause premature greying of hair.
A study conducted by Korean scientists revealed that luteolin-7-sulfate reduces melanin synthesis by inhibiting tyrosinase expression.
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 to 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.
To consume Triphala as a morning tea, add a spoon of triphala powder into a cup of warm water. Add a spoon of honey to 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 to the hair. You can make a hair mask by soaking the henna leaves in an iron utensil overnight and mixing 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.
4. Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Consuming foods loaded with high amounts of antioxidants helps in improving melanin in hair while protecting your scalp and hair stem cells from oxidative damage . Foods such as beans, blueberries, leafy greens, artichokes, dark chocolate, etc. are rich in antioxidants.
5. Foods With Vitamins A, C & E
Vitamins A, C & E are quite essential for the production of melanin in your hair. Researchers found that vitamins A, C, and E are very useful in protecting your skin against UV damage.
Cheese, oily fish, milk, eggs, yogurt, meat, etc. are some of the good sources of vitamin A.
You need to consume citrus fruits, broccoli, brussels sprouts, berries, pepper, leafy green vegetables, etc. regularly to boost vitamin C levels in the body.
Also, nuts, seeds, plant-based oils, wheat germ, and other healthy grains, etc. are loaded with vitamin E.
6. Foods With Vitamin B6 & B12
Vitamin B6 contains pyridoxine. This triggers the chemical reactions in your hair follicles to produce enzymes that promote melanin cell and keratin regeneration. Vitamin B6 is found in foods such as milk, oats, banana, peanuts, pork, poultry, soya beans, etc.
Also, researchers found that premature grey hair is associated with pernicious anemia caused due to vitamin B12 deficiency. Also called cobalamin, vitamin B12 increases blood cell production, which promotes healthy and stronger hair growth. Foods such as poultry, eggs, dairy, fish, meat, etc. are high in vitamin B12.
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 the face, hands, and legs. It darkens the skin color in the form of patches or spots.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does Melanin Decrease With Age?
As you age, the number of melanocytes producing melanin per unit surface area on the scalp decreases by 10-20% every decade. Thus, melanin levels in your hair drop with age .
2. Does Vitamin D increase Melanin?
Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients that stimulate melanogenesis (melanin production). Studies show that vitamin D deficiency is associated with vitiligo, a condition characterized by loss of natural pigment in hair and skin.
3. Are Melanin Supplements Helpful In Restoring The Lost Hair Colour?
Scientifically, there has not been sufficient research and proofs about melanin supplements being useful in reversing premature greying of hair.
However, please consult your doctor before taking any melanin supplements for your hair. Also, reading customer reviews about their experience with melanin supplements can help you gauge the efficiency of the product better.
The Last Word
- The reduction of melanin pigment turns your hair grey or white.
- Factors such as aging, stress, hormonal fluctuations, poor diet, etc. can take a toll on your hair health, causing low melanin production.
- Simple home remedies using herbs such as bhringraj, vibhitaki, mango seed, triphala, henna, etc. can be very effective in increasing the melanin production in hair.
- A healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals can also 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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6.Disruption of the Melanin-Concentrating Hormone Receptor 1 (MCH1R) Affects Thyroid Function (Dec-2012), Endocrinology
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11. Therapeutic effects of amla in medicine and dentistry: A review (2015), Journal of oral research and review
12. Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair (Jan-Jun-2009), International Journal of Trichology
13. A morphometric and immunohistochemical study of melanocytes in periorbital hyperpigmentation (2015), Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology
14. Variations in melanin content with age in the human substantia nigra (1977), Biochemistry and experimental biology
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