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Finally, scientists have uncovered the secret of why hair turns white or gray during the golden years. According to research, free oxygen radicals that make hydrogen peroxide works to bleach out the hair follicle and inhibit the formation of melanin.
Scientists of the University of Bradford in Great Britain along with those of Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany have found the root cause of graying hair. Apparently, this process is started by the formation of hydrogen peroxide that inhibits the hair pigment melanin from forming.
According to these researchers, this substance comes into the hair by way of free oxygen radicals and builds up inside the hair follicle. When this occurs, the synthesis of the color is inhibited.

The chemical compound of hydrogen peroxide is H2O2, two parts hydrogen, two parts oxygen. This is a by-product of metabolism and it is produced in tiny amounts throughout our bodies. As we age, this product builds up in the human body and we no longer neutralize it by way of an enzyme catalyse. These scientists proved that inside the aging cells, this enzyme is still present, just in low amounts. Therefore, the hydrogen peroxide is able to do its work: bleaching and lightening, just as it does in a hair salon.

This is considered a molecular dynamic process by these researchers and they maintain that the key enzyme simply doesn’t do the work it once did in the younger years. So, going gray (or white, for that matter) is the result of bleach and lack of specific enzyme properties. These studies will not only serve to satisfy curious minds who inquire, but will open the door for future research and treatment of Vitiligo, a skin pigment condition, as melanin exists in the hair as well as the skin.

These studies were based on an evaluation of the actual cellular culture from human hair follicles. The follicles not only lacked in the enzyme catalase, the gray-haired people had fewer of the hair-repairing enzymes, too. Genetics were said to play a role, as well, with some people going gray earlier than others. Apparently this is a common occurrence in the Caucasian race when compared to the Asian race who kept their dark hair long into their golden years.
Basically, as hydrogen peroxide builds up in our bodies, we go gray and our skin will lighten. This makes researchers hopeful that there is a way to use this chemical breakthrough to keep color out of our hair to aid the hair-care industry. Some women want light hair and pay big bucks for it.

This information was published in the online journal, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.