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Melanin: The colour pigment of our natural hair colour

Black, brunette, red or blonde: the pigments of the colour pigment melanin are responsible for our individual hair colour. The different versions of the respective colour are due to the various compositions of the pigments, and are genetically determined.

But at some point our body seems to lose its colourful radiance, particularly when it comes to the hair. They will turn grey or white, first individual hairs and finally your whole head – so what should you do to combat grey hair? But you don’t just have to put up with the loss of your natural hair colour without a fight. There are ways to lastingly maintain this: by supporting the natural production of melanin in the hair follicles. But to do so you need to understand what melanin is and which processes in the body contribute to its production.

What is melanin?

Melanin or melanins are pigments that occur in different colours, from black to dark brown and yellowish to red, and define people’s eye, skin and hair colour. In humans there are primarily two different forms of melanin: eumelanin with a dark, black-brown colour, as well as phaeomelanin, which is a yellowish red. These mainly occur in mixed types, and are also bonded with fats or proteins. The individual composition of these different mixed types of melanins defines a person’s respective skin type and hair colour. The lower the level of phaeomelanins, the darker the hair. The higher the level, the redder the hair.

In addition to defining the colour, melanin also has an important function to protect against the sun’s UV radiation. If the skin is exposed to the sun, melanin production is stimulated, which results in better protection from free radicals, and the melanin becomes visible due to the tanning of the skin.

How does melanin define the natural hair colour?

Hairs are a long thread that grows out of the hair roots, and is formed from keratin. This is how the hair is formed in the hair papilla, and directly over this are the melanocytes. The job of these is to integrate the melanins in the hair. During this process, the hair is pushed out of the roots, and becomes visible as soon as it penetrates the outer layer of skin.

Depending on individual genetics, the melanocytes supply different compositions of various melanins to the hair, which is what defines the natural hair colour. This can be changed by external influences such as the sun’s UV radiation or chemical processes such as colouring the hair.

How is melanin formed in the body?

In a healthy body in which particularly the cell metabolism is ideally functioning in the hair follicles, sufficient melanin is produced. It occurs by the enzyme tyrosinase triggering the conversion of monophenols to chinones. These highly reactive chinones then bond of their own accord to form melanin.

Interruption of melanin synthesis results in grey hair

As we age, our number of grey hairs generally increases. This is because the natural metabolic by-product hydrogen peroxide occurs in a higher concentration in the cells, which is what we call oxidative stress. Hydrogen peroxide damages tyrosinase, and inhibits further enzymes from repairing this. Thus, the body is no longer able to produce melanin. The melanocytes no longer have any pigments available to provide to the hair, and instead incorporate air bubbles in the hair. That is why it looks grey or white.

What should you do to lastingly maintain the natural hair colour?

In a healthy body, hydrogen peroxide is neutralised with the help of the enzyme catalase: the metabolism converts it to water and oxygen, and thus makes it harmless to the cell and tyrosinase. However, many factors have a damaging influence on a perfectly functioning metabolism. Toxins such as nicotine or alcohol, medications, illnesses, stress and a monotonous, imbalanced diet impair numerous metabolic processes. Consequently, the metabolism is unable to properly carry out its tasks, including the neutralisation of hydrogen peroxide.

So, to keep the concentration of hydrogen peroxide low, it is recommended to support the metabolism in general, as well as specifically in the scalp. Pay attention to a healthy and varied diet to supply your body with all vital nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Supplying the body with sufficient antioxidants helps to reduce free radicals such as hydrogen peroxide.

Furthermore, you should avoid stress or actively combat it. Ways to do this include exercise in fresh air, as well as scalp massages, which are relaxing and improve the scalp’s circulation. Cutting out cigarettes and excessive alcohol also has a positive effect on the health, and thus helps in the fight against grey hair.

For targeted scalp care to particularly support the melanin production where our hair colour is formed, in addition to scalp massages, we recommend the regular use of Elixir Anti-Grey by La Biosthétique. The active ingredient complex of the scalp lotion reduces the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the hair roots. This thus combats cell damage and the aging process. In addition, inactive melanocytes are reactivated, so that hair follicles, which are already producing grey hair, restore the hair’s shiny natural hair colour. The ideal supply of nutrients to the cells specifically supports the scalp’s metabolism, which lastingly maintains the natural hair colour.