Bebelyn says…I am 26, I have had greys since the age of 10! I had to start dying my hair by the age of 16 and now I am 80% grey on the crown of my head! Is their anything I can do to stop further greying?
The Right Brain responds:
Bebelyn’s question led to an interesting discussion in our Forum about grey hair. Unfortunately, grey hair is mainly a matter of genetics and according to the best science we have right now, there’s not much we can do about it. But according to one Forum member, grey hair is caused by a copper deficiency which can presumably be corrected with copper supplements. Is there any truth to this?
The link between copper and grey hair
Here’s a link to a site that makes a case for copper as the cause of grey hair. The article points out that copper containing enzymes (called tyrosinases) are essential for the biosynthesis of melanin, the pigment that gives hair and skin their color. So, it stands to reason that no copper = no tyrosinase = no more melanin produced = grey hair (and no suntan either, I presume.)
It’s also true that certain diseases which cause a copper deficiency (or inability to properly process copper) have been associated with the loss of skin pigment. For example, one study shows that copper sulfate applied directly to skin helped to re-pigment skin that has lost color due to the disease vitiligo. But having an effect on living skin is much different than dead hair fibers. (Plus, the analogy breaks down because vitiligo doesn’t cause white hair.)
Then there’s Menkes disease which affects copper transport and can cause hair to become very fragile. Supplemental copper has been shown to be helpful here as well but again we’re talking about a disease that affects how the body processes copper. We could find no data to suggest the hair of normal, healthy individuals turns gray or is otherwise affected due to a low copper diet.
There is a reference to a 1974 book that mentions one study showing that the wool of black sheep loses its color when the sheep are fed less copper. Unfortunately, there’s no indication of WHAT study was used to come to this conclusion. It’s certainly possible that eliminating copper from the diet entirely could interrupt melanogenesis. But that’s not the same as proving that adding more copper to a normal diet in a healthy individual will make hair darker. We were unable to locate this study or any others that corroborate that claim.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
While there’s a germ of scientific basis for connecting copper to hair color, we couldn’t find any studies that indicate that the hair color of a “normal” healthy individual could be restored by ingesting or applying supplemental copper complexes of any kind.
Image credit: http://images.comcorpusa.com/
Adams, R. and Murray. F.: Minerals: Kill or Cure? Larchmont Books, NY 1974.