- Pumping Irony -

PUMPING IRONY: Shades of Gray

A new pill purports to “cure” gray hair. But why should we care?

I was scrolling innocently through my emails this morning when I came upon this: “New Pill Promises to Permanently Cure Gray Hair”. Normally, I would just punch the “delete” key, but there was something about this pitch that intrigued me. It was from a company called Go Away Gray, and it featured a testimonial from someone named Elizabeth Skelly, who said she has been taking two of the miracle pills each day for about six weeks and, “now her gray hair is gone!”

My interest in this particular product is not practical or based on some vain hope of deliverance: There is no gray hair in my genes. My father died young (60), but with a full head of black hair. My mother carried but a few flecks of gray when she left us at 82. And her father lived to 93 without harboring even a few strands of gray at his temples. I don’t need this pill, but I have to admit I was a bit curious when the testimonials segued into some actual information about the biology of graying.

It appears that our body naturally produces a certain amount of hydrogen peroxide in the cells of our hair follicles, but it also pumps out some enzymes called catalase and tyrosinase that protect our natural hair color, breaking down the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, and producing melanin, the pigment that colors our hair. (This helpful piece in Science Daily explains it all for you.) As we age, however, some of us are less able to produce sufficient amounts of these enzymes to prevent the hydrogen peroxide from overrunning our follicle cells and essentially bleaching our hair from the inside out.

According to the people at Go Away Gray, their product boosts the body’s production of catalase and fends off attacks by hydrogen peroxide. There’s no mention of delivering a helpful dose of tyrosinase, which actually produces the pigment, but I’m no scientist and I’ve never been any good at PR, so what do I know?

Maybe it works.

And maybe it’s easy for me, the guy with no gray except in his beard (which My Lovely Wife says makes me look more distinguished than I really am), to wonder why anyone would worry about such things, but I’ve always thought that accepting the gray when it arrives is sort of a badge of honor. It says to me that you’ve been around the block a few times. You’re nobody to trifle with. You’re comfortable in your own skin — and the hair that covers part of it.

After all, when you hit your 60s, you’re not fooling anyone about your age. I was looking in the mirror the other day and amusing myself with the notion that shaving my graying beard would probably present a younger image to the world. Then I noticed the hair sprouting out of my ears. Now if there was a pill for that . . . .

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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