"Drinking bleach is my way of winning." - The Dead Milkmen
Everyone has agreed that human hair turns gray due to a lack of pigment, but the mechanism by which this comes about was not understood, until now. A team of European scientists have discovered the mechanism by which our hair turns gray, and believe it or not, it has to do with hydrogen peroxide, the same chemical used to bleach hair at salons.
Going gray is caused by a massive build up of hydrogen peroxide due to wear and tear of our hair follicles. The peroxide winds up blocking the normal synthesis of melanin, our hair's natural pigment.
"Not only blondes change their hair color with hydrogen peroxide," said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "All of our hair cells make a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide, but as we get older, this little bit becomes a lot. We bleach our hair pigment from within, and our hair turns gray and then white. This research, however, is an important first step to get at the root of the problem, so to speak." - ( Science Daily )
The researchers found that hair follicles also create an enzyme called catalase that breaks up the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, but as we age, that enzyme is produced less and less, leaving the hydrogen peroxide to bleach the hairs from within. Not only that, but once this catalase enzyme is no longer produced, it also inhibits the production of a second enzyme, tyrosinase, which promotes the production of melanin in the hair. Melanin is the pigment compound that gives our hair and skin it's infinite variety of colors, and is missing in people with vitiligo, a skin disorder which leaves patches of non-pigmented skin.