Well, apparently it is now.
I subscribe to a lot of health and aging newsletters. You don’t hear about most of what I read because – as I think I’ve noted here in the past – they usually contain a lot of conditional words such as “may” and “might” and “could” which isn’t much use to us.
Last week, however, there was a definitive announcement in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology – whew, let’s just go with FASEB [emphasis is mine]:
”…the need to cover up one of the classic signs of aging with chemical pigments will be a thing of the past thanks to a team of European researchers.”
The full study is behind a paid firewall but the FASEB press release briefly explains the discovery and the treatment:
”…people who are going gray develop massive oxidative stress via accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicle, which causes our hair to bleach itself from the inside out…
“[M]ost importantly, the report shows that this massive accumulation of hydrogen peroxide can be remedied with a proprietary treatment developed by the researchers described as a topical, UVB-activated compound called PC-KUS (a modified pseudocatalase).”
(As it turns out, there is what I consider is a more important use – the same treatment works for the skin condition, vitiligo, to which Michael Jackson attributed his lightened skin color. You can read more about vitiligo here.)
The press release and abstract cover only the bare bones of the discovery leaving a lot of unanswered questions:
• How is the topical compound applied?
• How long is the treatment required? Is the change permanent or must it be used indefinitely to be effective?
• Is gray hair itself re-pigmented or does hair grow in with new color?
• What color does hair become – one’s original color or something else?
• Are there side effects?
And so on.
If I were Clairol or L’Oreal, I’d be working overtime to find out more about this discovery. There is not a single hair color commercial on television that does not prominently state that their product “covers gray completely.”
When I was a kid and through most of my twenties (I’m now 72), women who bleached or dyed their hair were a bit suspect. It was quite risque of me, in that third photo in my banner above, to bleach my hair nearly white when I was 18.
When hair coloring became acceptable, for a good while the idea was to have it look as close to natural as possible. Since at least the 1980s, all kinds of unnatural hair colors have become next to standard in some circles – green, blue, pink and any combination of them.
Nowadays, hair color is a playground of individuality, sometimes among older people as with young.
So until this new discovery is developed for commercial use (I doubt it will take long), we could speculate about how it might affect cultural attitudes toward hair coloring and old people.
Personally, I am much more interested in a cure for baldness than gray hair and even assuming the treatment is relatively easy, inexpensive and can be done at home, I don’t think I would bother.
What about you? Is this a breakthrough you’ve been waiting for?
Originally published at www.TimeGoesBy.net, all rights reserved.
Noraleigh Carthy says
I’ve had white hair since I was 18 & now at almost 47 my hair is about 70% white -it was midnight black naturally. I love my white hair & wouldn’t change it -ever.
I have some gray at 55, I do note that some times during stressful times, my hair gets more gray in areas. I have heard many older people say, “and when that happened his hair turned gray”. I know many people who feel gray hair is a sign of undesirable “aging”. My gray hair is the least of my worries!
Patricia Whitney-Jones says
No…..I love my grey(white) hair.
For most medical procedures, people think about the financial costs and health risks. IMHO, for hair color or any other youth-eninzing procedure, Bennett’s question about the social impact – the cultural cost – is equally important How much cultural capital do you get from not having grey hair? Is this procedure going to create an even greater difference between how old people in different socioeconomic groups are treated? And why do we think grey hair needs to be treated? Perhaps, in a post-“changing aging” world, people with grey hair will be valued for the amount of life experience they’ve had, and more 18-year-olds will follow in Bennett’s footsteps, bleaching away their “childish” natural hair color, trying to look more experienced.
Karolina Morris says
Everything new in the market cost a lot. Even if this is an easy treatment, it will be expensive.