There are quite a few reasons your grey hair can turn yellow or get dull and dingy.
It is helpful to get a basic understanding of grey hair to understand why it yellows. Melanin is a pigment in the skin, iris of the eyes, and hair. When we produce dark melanin we have dark skin, dark eyes, and dark hair. The lighter the melanin you produce the lighter your hair, skin and irises can become. White hair is the last drops of melanin available to color the hair shaft. It is not the complete absence of melanin, which means you can have a bit of color to that white. This is why if you laid your whitest hair on a pure white piece of paper the hair would still appear slightly yellow. At some point (for some of us as early as 10 years old) we start seeing hair that appears white, it has lost most of its pigment, the clearer the hair becomes the more it reflects light off the surrounding hair. Some of us appear to have a platinum blond white, while others with a lot of light hair grouped together have white streaks, and some have salt and pepper as the clear hair is sparser. This process of aging is called achromotrichia; there are many reasons we lose pigment, aging, vitamin deficiencies, genetics, stress, etc.
There are just as many shades of grey. I like using this demonstration because it gives a good visual of the different tones of grey. These are all my color pencils that are labeled grey, the yellowish ones in the middle are called French Greys. Notice even the white is not totally white.
This is all to say that your hair color may not be pure white to start with; it will largely depend on what your hair color was before you started greying. Trying to achieve snow-white hair may be as futile as covering the grey was. There is help, though, for yellowing caused by external factors.
External influences of yellowing grey hair:
- Sun: Because white hair still contains pigment, that pigment can be bleached by the sun and the natural molecules that contain more blue are removed leaving the molecules with more yellow to become more prominent.
Solution: Wear a hat when in the sun and protect your hair and your scalp from sun damage. Violet and purple shampoos can help here, because they deposit that opposite color from yellow helping to neutralize it. Once you wash again, though, that purple pigment is gone.
- Water: Minerals in your well and some city water, and chemicals in swimming pools can deposit and attach to the hair shaft.
Solution: Some minerals can be removed from the hair with specialty mineral or well water clarifying shampoos (just make sure they are safe for your white or grey hair). Others need to be filtered out with a shower attachment filter. And specialty swimmers shampoos will help with swimmer’s yellowing. Wash your hair less, many of us shampoo every day, in most cases this is not necessary.
- Hot Irons and Hair Dryers: Not everyone with grey hair will have trouble with irons and dryers causing grey hair to turn yellow. Heat damage can be caused by reactions to the minerals in your water, or ingredients in your hair products reacting to the heat.
Solution: Lower the temperature on your iron or dryer to the lowest needed to obtain your styles. Towel drying your hair with a microfiber towel prevents frizz, removes water rapidly, and lowers your drying time. Switch your products out and see if one of them might have been the cause. Or ditch the dryer and hot irons all together, if you can.
- Air pollution: Where you work (places that allow smoking, bars, restaurants, factories, and etc.) and your air quality where you live may influence the deposits of yellowing on your grey hair.
Solution: To deyellow use a clarifying shampoo once a week at least. Keeping your hair moisturized will also help prevent yellowing in these situations; dry hair is more prone to the elements.
- Smoking: Smoke has tar in it, among other things, and it will discolor your hair, skin, nails, and clothing.
Solution: Obviously, if you smoke, stopping smoking is the ideal solution. I do have a couple of customers that found the QuickSilverHair Clay to remove much of the dinginess created by smoking.
- Hair Products: Check your products, if they have silicones and sulfates, those can cause some of the discolorations. Silicones bind to the hair and with repeated use will build up over time. That build up will alter the reflective colors in your hair and may become dingy, dull, or yellowy.
Solution: Use all natural products if you can, as with your food the less ingredients the healthier it probably is. Make sure your product is not a really dark or yellow color. If you prefer salon based products just check the ingredients try for sulfate, parabens, and silicone free brands.
- Hair Accessories: Believe it or not, your hair ties, leather bun wraps, and headbands could be dyed with chemical dyes that when you sweat or put your hair up wet will then transfer that color to your hair.
Solution: Hand wash your hair accessories with warm water and shampoo regularly. If you notice a particular accessory is bleeding dye into your wash water…ditch it.
Internal influences of grey hair turning yellow:
Internal Influences that cause you to go grey can also cause your hair to go darker again, while there are no solutions that will deyellow your grey hair if this is the case, I felt they were worth mentioning before you chase around looking for ways to enhance your grey hair.
- Medications: Malaria and chemotherapy drugs can change your hair color. Some report their thyroid and hormone medications have also changed their hair color.
Solutions: Limited, it may be that you have to wait out your treatment before you know what is going to happen with your hair color.
- Supplements: Some supplements are reported to change grey hair or decrease it; among them are biotin, pantothenic acid, iron, and PABA.
Solutions: find alternatives to these supplements if possible, or embrace what the nutrition is doing for your melanin levels.
Aging, hormonal levels, illness, vitamin imbalances, genetics, stress, trauma, childbirth, menopause, and our environment all have an effect on hair thickness, density, texture, pattern and color. Our hair changes as much as our lives do.
I created the QuickSilverHair products to help you get the best out of your hair. The clay will help you if you have some of the above-mentioned external factors going on. I created the products to have as much organic ingredients available, all natural, no bleach, and the clay is white, there is nothing in it that could further discolor your hair, which does happen for some with the popular deyellowing solution using apple cider vinegar.
The clay is meant to be extra cleansing…a step beyond clarifying. The oil is meant to grab a bit of nourishing moisture for those of you with course dry grey or for the curly silver hair that craves moisture to retain healthy curls. The clay will add volume and your hair will feel very clean. Both products soften and brighten your silver hair.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share.
Remember it is about so much more than the hair.
P.S. What about purple shampoo? Should you use it? Check out my post on Purple Shampoo.
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