There are two things I discovered while researching this piece. The first is that if you’re a man, going grey isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are on the wrong side of 30. The general consensus, especially among the women that I spoke to, seemed to be that a salt and pepper-flecked mop scores way higher on the sex appeal scale than a jet black one (also, it helps if you have a face like George Clooney or Richard Gere).
The second thing is that this doesn’t hold true if you start greying before you hit your quarter-life crisis (although it still helps if you have a face like Clooney or Gere) – or are still in school, as was in my case. Having the history teacher interrupt a Dandi March lesson to squawk “Goodness, you have grey hair!” as I was sitting in the first row, has to feature in the top 10 most embarrassing moments in my life. She was concerned enough to bring it up in the PTA meeting, which freaked Dad enough to hang me head down, legs up, five times a week in a shirshasana pose to “make the blood flow to my head”. Then, he’d quietly slink off to dye his own locks.
Mom bought enough bottles of coconut hair oil to last a year.
I don’t think it worked. At 21, I had resigned myself to shocked gasps from practically every person I met about how very visible my grey hair was. “What do you think so much about?” asked a distraught aunt at a wedding. The truth is that being a young person in 2012 – when every magazine and movie demands that you be impossibly buff, complete with six-pack abs – is rather tough when you look like Harry Potter’s scrawny twin with a shock of grey. It’s mildly irritating and extremely frustrating to be constantly offered tips and advice from every second person you meet when you’ve just about made peace with the fact that there’s nothing you can do about your hair short of colouring it (I’ve been down that road and have no desire – and no money – to be tied to a decade of dye jobs, root touch-ups and treatments).
My colleague, Aasheesh, who went through the colour spectrum from pepper and salt to salt and pepper to completely salt by 32, offers his sympathies. “But the best thing is that you get a seat in the Metro!” he declares. I give him a glare.
I’m still hopeful, though. I read a few days ago that L’Oreal is developing a pill that prevents grey hair as long as you start taking it before you go grey (darn, there’s always a catch!).
This magic pill may be available by 2015 (which probably means that I should schedule daily shirshasana sessions over the next three years to save as much of my black strands as possible).
Last week, however, I was in for a surprise when, after a mushy movie-watching spree, the girlfriend looked me in the eye, smiled, ruffled my hair and said: “You know how mature your grey hair makes you look?”
I think I’ll skip that pill after all.
Grey is good (when you’re old, that is)
If you are going grey, don’t worry. These celebs aren’t exactly young, but the women out there still find them drool-worthy!
At 52, ‘Dr House’ is still a dish
The Silver Fox is still working it at 50
How many people can be sexy at 62?
We find the 55-year-old chef hot. Et tu?
Question? Trichologist Dr Arvind Poswal, Director, Dr A’s Clinic, New Delhi, spells it out in black and white
What causes premature greying?
One of the most important reasons for premature greying is the presence of synthetic materials in the food we eat today, not just in processed food, but vegetables as well.
The other reason for premature greying is the increased use of sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) in shampoos. This is the same chemical present in car washes and detergent bars used for washing utensils. Harsh shampoos damage melanin cells, which ultimately strips hair of its natural colour.
What is the earliest you can start going grey?
I’ve seen it in children as young as 14! And over the past decade, I’ve seen it becoming a more common condition.
Is going grey early a symptom of some kind of deficiency? Does it say anything about your overall health?
No, it is not necessarily a reliable indicator of your health in general. The human body is a very complex system. But yes, you can go grey if you are vitamin or mineral deficient or if you go on a crash diet. This, however, is reversible. Your hair will go back to normal when you improve your diet.
What about stress?
Oh yes, of course. Constant and severe mental stress can result in a condition called telogen effluvium, which results in rapid hair loss and greying. If you are under stress, you can go grey in as little as three months. Shah Jahan is said to have suffered from this after the death of Mumtaz Mahal.
This is also a common complaint with a lot of women after childbirth.
Does colouring your hair make it grey faster?
It absolutely does. Most artificial hair colours contain chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and ammonia, which are harmful for hair. In fact, hydrogen peroxide is used to whiten teeth. If you have to get your hair coloured, use colours that are hydrogen peroxide and ammonia-free.
So what can you do if you’ve started greying earlier than normal?
Not much, sadly. Don’t eat too much processed food – and grow your own vegetables!
“I’ve had enough, this is my prayer, that I’ll die livin’ just as free as my hair” – Lady Gaga in her song, Hair
From HT Brunch, May 13
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