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Going Gray or Going Bald, Which is Worse?


Men in Britain fear going gray more than they fear going bald, according to a new survey. Fifty percent of British men say they are unhappy about going gray.

Men's Hair Going Gray

Two thousand men were surveyed for the study, which was conducted by consumer analysts Mintel. Going bald came in a rather impressive second place to going gray, with 40 percent of men worrying about thinning hair or hair loss. Third on the list was unwanted hair in the ears and nose (38%), while being overweight was a fear for 37 percent of men.

In men, having gray hair is often seen as a distinguishing feature, yet for men themselves, it appears to be much less so. “The physical changes associated with aging can act as a catalyst to mid-life crisis,” says Vivienne Rudd, Mintel’s head of beauty research. She notes that their research indicates that “men become less content with their appearance after the age of 45.”

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Why Hair Turns Gray

One reason for their discontent may be found in the results of another recent study, which named an enzyme called catalase as a primary culprit for causing graying hair. Production of catalase enzyme declines with age, preventing hair follicles from producing the pigment that colors hair, called melanin. A catalase deficiency allows hydrogen peroxide to accumulate, which bleaches hair to gray and then white.

In another study, this one from Kanazawa University, researchers discovered that hair follicles can suffer a stress similar to that which damages DNA. The investigative team found that the loss of hair color is associated with the gradual dying of stem cells, which ensure a continuous supply of new melanocytes, cells that give hair color. The investigators concluded that “hair graying can be triggered by the accumulation of unavoidable DNA damage and DNA-damage response associated with ageing.”

From the age of 45, men become increasingly more unhappy about their appearance, and it appears that going gray tops the list of worries. In fact, 26 percent of men age 45 to 54 say there are four factors of their appearance that concern them, compared with just 13 percent of men overall. Men who worry about going gray can turn to the same solution women have used for millennia: hair dye.

Telegraph UK, August 4, 2010
Telegraph UK, June 11, 2009