Hair Turning Gray? Here Are 5 Healthy Reasons to Embrace the Change

Keeping your hair natural can help it stay strong and shiny.
Image Credit: Silke Woweries/The Image Bank/GettyImages

Many of us dread the day our first gray hair pops up on our scalp. Let's face it: With so much age-related stigma and glorification of youth, going gray isn't exactly celebrated as a rite of passage.


Instead, we spend a lot of time and money dyeing our hair to hide our grays. But there are plenty of reasons to embrace silver locks, and the aging process in general. In fact, transitioning to a full head of gray hair can have a positive effect on your health.

Video of the Day

Video of the Day

While it's OK to keep dyeing your hair — we understand it's ultimately a personal preference — learn some reasons why embracing your gray hair could benefit the longevity of your locks.

1. It Can Strengthen Your Hair

By definition, dyeing your hair causes damage to it.

"To add pigment, a chemical with a very high pH is used to disrupt the structure of your hair," says Lauren Ploch, MD, MEd, a board-certified dermatologist in Georgia. This includes the protein structure and architecture of your hair cuticle and cortex — i.e., the middle layer of the hair shaft, she says.


Problem is, a weakened hair structure can make your hair more prone to breakage. And coloring your hair removes most lipids (or oils) from your strands, too, which can make your hair dry, Dr. Ploch says.

These effects are even more likely when you're lightening your hair (think: dyeing it blonde or getting highlights), she adds.

The takeaway? "Allowing your hair to turn gray can lead to more hydrated, shiny and less frizzy hair that is less prone to breakage," Dr. Ploch says.



Sometimes, gray hair in general can feel drier and coarser. This is because your hair follicle does not produce as much oil to hydrate your hair. But using certain products like deep moisturizing masks can help. And if you're worried about yellowing gray hair, you can use something like purple shampoo, color depositing shampoo (shampoo with pigment) or gloss.

2. It Can Improve Your Scalp Health

Coloring your hair can wreak havoc on your scalp.

"The chemicals in hair dye are major causes of allergic contact dermatitis," Dr. Ploch says. Contact dermatitis happens when your skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant, per the Mayo Clinic.


"This leads to red, scaly and itchy rashes on the scalp," Dr. Ploch says.


A contact dermatitis rash may also present in the following ways, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Reddish purple or darker than your natural skin tone
  • Swollen, hive-like or elevated from the skin surrounding it
  • Bumpy with a small cluster of pimples or blisters
  • Oozing fluid or pus
  • Painful with a burning or stinging sensation
  • Flaky skin


"Over time, irritants on our scalp skin can damage our hair follicles and potentially lead to hair loss," Dr. Ploch says. Irritants can also affect the skin around your scalp, like your forehead, neck and ears.

All this to say, letting your grays grow could help preserve your scalp.

3. It Can Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

In the late 1970s, manufacturers stopped using certain chemicals in hair dyes that were thought to potentially be carcinogenic (or cancer-causing), according to the National Cancer Institute.


"Now, most ingredients in hair dye are generally safe when used as directed," Dr. Ploch says. But they are still chemicals that can cause side effects.

For example, one ingredient called paraphenylenediamine (PPD) is a known skin irritant and allergen that cause the following effects, per the National Capital Poison Center:

  • Redness
  • Sores
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Swelling of your face and neck


Some substances found in hair dyes can also worsen asthma, Dr. Ploch says.

And while some smaller studies in animals have found certain substances to be toxic in high amounts, there is no definitive evidence that hair dye can cause chronic diseases like cancer in humans, she adds. More studies are needed in order to confirm a link between the two.


Bottom line: Keeping your hair natural could lower your exposure to potentially damaging chemicals.

4. It May Lessen Your Stress Level

While this may not seem like it's entirely connected, "people who've stopped dyeing their hair often report reduced stress," Dr. Ploch says.

This is because "hair salon visits can be time consuming and expensive," she adds. And even if you dye your own hair, the costs of buying box dye can add up.

Making the decision to keep your natural hair could free up your finances and schedule — two things that could go a long way for lowering your stress level.

5. It’s More Eco-Friendly

Apart from our hair, dye is used in a lot of everyday products like clothing, food, cleaning and personal care products. Indeed, roughly 700,000 metric tons of dye are produced globally each year, per the University of Washington.

But these dyes can be harmful to the environment. "It's important to think about the ‌environmental‌ effect of the chemicals in hair dye, too," Dr. Ploch says.

When dye is manufactured, about one-tenth (70,000 metric tons) of it bypasses the wastewater treatment process and ends up polluting lakes, rivers and holding ponds. And even small amounts of this dye can throw off an underwater ecosystem, per the University of Washington.

The same thing can happen when you pour hair dye down the drain. Sure, one person doing this is not a huge deal, but millions of people doing the same thing? A bigger problem for our planet, Dr. Ploch says.

On top of that, certain chemicals in personal care products like hair dye have been labeled "contaminants of emerging concern" by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These chemicals may act as hormone disruptors in fish and other aquatic animals, per the EPA.

So how does this affect your health? While not a concern right now, eventually, these negative effects can lead to contaminated fish, which can throw off food supply.

Ultimately, using less dye may help decrease the negative environmental effect it has.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

Report an Issue

screenshot of the current page

Screenshot loading...