Everyone wants to look younger, and as a result gray hair remedies abound. Hair coloring is probably to most popular simply because it’s easy to use (but messy), and fast. However, it obviously doesn’t offer any kind of long term benefit or preventative measure. And in the worst case scenario dye ends up looking unnatural.
Next in line would be topical scalp treatments like serums or shampoos that “deliver nutrients to the hair follicle”. Certainly there could be some benefits there, but probably not much more than simply dying the hair. This is due to graying hair being a symptom of unhealthy cell function in hair follicles, or, more specifically, the lack of melanin (hair color pigment) production.
While there is no magic cure for graying hair, vitamin supplements can provide the possibility of a more far reaching solution than simple hair colorings or topicals. There are several compounds found in specialized gray hair vitamins that have the potential to slow or halt graying hair.
He Shou Wu (Fo Ti)
A widely used Chinese herb, He shou wu translates to “black-haired Mr. He” in Chinese. This name refers to a legend of an older villager named Mr. He who took he shou wu and restored his graying hair back to its youthful appearance. He Shou Wu is considered to be one of the most important of the Chinese herbal tonics and is widely used to help combat a number of common ailments, including thinning, graying hair. It is especially effective at normalizing liver and kidney functions which in turn can help treat prematurely gray hair.
An amino acid (protein) that that generates melanin. It is crucial in the formation of eumelanin and phaeomelanin which give the hair its color.
A phytosterol, ²-sitosterol reduces blood levels of cholesterol. Its close chemical resemblance to cholesterol enables it to block the absorption of cholesterol by competitive inhibition. Although beta-sitosterol is not well absorbed by the body (5-10%) when consumed with cholesterol it effectively blocks cholesterol’s absorption, resulting in lower serum cholesterol levels. Beta-sitosterol has also been shown to improve lipoprotein (HDL, LDL) profiles.
PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)
A form of folic acid, PABA’s primary benefit is improving how protein is broken down and used in the body. Since protein plays such a key role in healthy hair growth, PABA has recently been counted as a vital hair nutrient.
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that assists in the functioning of the skin. Niacin works synergistically when combined with biotin. Niacin helps dilate blood vessels in the scalp increasing the blood flow (circulation).
Biotin is essential for hair growth, and sometimes called vitamin H.