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Unless you’re willing to dye your hair, you can’t restore hair that’s already gone gray to its former color.

However, you may be able to preserve the rest of your color and delay the inevitable for a bit longer by making a few lifestyle changes.

Your overall success will ultimately depend on your genetics.

Most people begin developing gray or silver hair before the age of 50. What typically starts as a few stray strands may gradually increase over time to cover large areas of the hair.

Eating the right nutrients and taking other proactive measures may help preserve existing pigmentation, delaying overall graying.

People who begin to experience “premature” graying, which refers to graying before the age of 30, may be particularly keen to try these preventive actions.

Curious? Read on to find out what you should add to your diet, whether supplements can help, and more.

Although it’s mostly genetically driven, premature graying also has a dietary component.

Certain vitamins and minerals help ensure that your hair follicles produce the pigments (melanin) that the hair needs to retain its natural color.

Consider whether you’re getting enough of these nutrients in your diet.

Calcium

Calcium isn’t just important for your bones. It also promotes nerve, heart, and muscle health.

Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, are prominent sources of this mineral.

You can also find calcium in dark leafy greens, fortified cereals, and fish.

Aim for at least three servings per day.

Copper

Copper deficiency can interfere with energy production throughout your body, affecting your blood cells and connective tissues.

This mineral also helps your body metabolize iron and create new blood cells. Copper plays a role in melanin production too.

Getting enough copper in your diet can ensure that these processes remain intact.

You can find it in peanuts, almonds, and lentils, as well as beef liver, crabmeat, and white mushrooms.

Iron

It’s not uncommon to have low iron levels if you have premature hair graying.

Iron is an essential mineral that helps create hemoglobin in your blood cells. Hemoglobin, in turn, is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout your body.

You can ensure that you’re getting enough iron in your diet by eating meats, lentils, and dark leafy greens.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, make sure that you eat vitamin C-rich foods at the same time, as this helps your body absorb more of the iron.

Protein (keratin)

You may have heard about keratin treatments for hair straightening and smoothing, but internal keratin can also affect your overall hair health.

Keratin is a type of protein that’s present in surface cells. When keratin proteins break down in the hair follicles, this can lead to hair loss and pigmentation changes, among other issues.

You can’t eat keratin, per se, but ensuring that you get enough protein in your diet can allow your body to extract amino acids and turn them into keratin.

Vitamin B-5 (pantothenic acid)

Vitamin B-5 is an essential nutrient that helps your body produce energy from the foods you eat. It also helps make red blood cells.

Although studies in mice have shown that vitamin B-5 can reverse graying fur, there aren’t any clinical studies to show that such effects can happen in humans.

However, getting enough vitamin B-5 can ensure that your body is properly converting food into energy.

Foods rich in vitamin B-5 include fish, beef liver, and yogurt.

Vitamin B-6

Vitamin B-6 is important for both your metabolism and your immunity.

If you don’t get enough vitamin B-6, you may develop symptoms like dry hair, cracked lips, and fatigue.

The good news is that you can get vitamin B-6 from a variety of different foods, including fish, poultry, potatoes, and non-citrus fruits.

Vitamin B-9 (folic acid)

Vitamin B-9 (folate or folic acid) helps your body metabolize amino acids. It’s also important for metabolic and DNA functions.

When you’re not getting enough vitamin B-9 in your diet, you might experience hair, skin, and nail pigmentation changes.

Examples of folate-rich foods include beans, asparagus, leafy greens, and citrus fruits.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 deficiency is one of the most common causes of prematurely graying hair.

Researchers have noted that vitamin B-12 deficiencies are often concurrent with folic acid and biotin deficiencies in people whose hair has started to turn gray early.

Vitamin B-12 is another nutrient that’s essential for your metabolism, DNA production, and overall energy levels.

You can ensure that you’re getting enough vitamin B-12 by eating foods like meats, dairy products, and fortified cereals.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for bone health. It also helps your body absorb calcium more efficiently.

Research has found that people with prematurely graying hair also tend to have vitamin D deficiencies.

This finding suggests that the nutrient also affects melanin production in the hair follicles.

You can get vitamin D from moderate sun exposure, and it’s also in foods that include eggs, fatty fish, and fortified products.

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that’s responsible for protecting your cells and DNA from invaders, which is why people often tout it as a cold remedy.

It also helps your body make protein. Zinc deficiency may affect your hair health.

The mineral is widely available in beans, whole grains, red meat, and oysters.

If you’re not getting enough of the above nutrients in your diet, taking one or more supplements could help.

Certain nutrients can ensure that your hair follicles are producing pigmentation as they should, especially in the case of premature graying.

Talk to a doctor or another healthcare provider before taking any of the following supplements. These professionals can help determine whether you’re truly deficient in these nutrients and advise you on any next steps.

Vitamin B-6

Vitamin B-6 deficiency tends to be more prominent among people who don’t eat meat.

Certain autoimmune and kidney conditions can also change how your body takes in vitamin B-6.

The daily recommendation for most adults is 1.3 milligrams (mg), but older adults and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding require slightly more.

Vitamin B-6 is available as a standalone supplement. Alternatively, many multivitamins contain this nutrient.

Shop for vitamin B-6 supplements.

Vitamin B-9

In terms of hair health, vitamin B-9 can ensure correct pigmentation. If you aren’t eating enough folate-rich foods, you might wish to consider supplementation.

The daily recommendation for most adults is 400 micrograms (mcg).

Not all multivitamins contain vitamin B-9, so it’s important to read product labels carefully. Your doctor may even recommend a separate folic acid supplement.

Shop for vitamin B-9 supplements.

Vitamin B-12

Research has found that many young adults with gray hair may also have a vitamin B-12 deficiency.

Vegetarians and vegans are more prone to B-12 deficiencies because the nutrient primarily occurs in animal products.

The daily vitamin B-12 recommendation for most adults is 2.4 mcg.

If you don’t get enough vitamin B-12, your doctor may recommend supplements, injections, or a multivitamin.

Shop for vitamin B-12 supplements.

Fish oil or copper

Fish oil supplements could be another option if your doctor suggests taking them.

One study found that participants with prematurely graying hair had higher cholesterol levels. Taking fish oil supplements could potentially be one way to address this.

Shop for fish oil supplements.

Copper can also be present in seafood. The daily recommendation for most adults is 900 mcg.

Your doctor may recommend copper supplements if a confirmed deficiency has affected your blood cells and energy production. These effects could result in gray hair and other noticeable symptoms.

Shop for copper supplements.

Biotin

Many people believe that biotin supplements can make hair thicker and stronger.

Research also suggests that biotin deficiency may play a role in premature graying.

The daily recommendation for most adults is 30 mcg.

Shop for biotin supplements.

Catalase enzyme

Catalase enzymes are responsible for breaking down hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.

Some people have a condition called acatalasemia, which causes low levels of these enzymes. Over time, these low levels can cause toxins to build up in the body.

Catalase supplements are only helpful if your body is low in these enzymes. Your doctor will be able to make this diagnosis.

Shop for catalase supplements.

To improve overall hair health, some people turn to herbal remedies.

For example, people have used a Chinese herb called Polygonum multiflorum for alopecia (hair loss), as well as for liver disease, diabetes, and heart disease.

However, research shows that this popular herb might do more harm than good by damaging your liver.

Therefore, use herbal remedies for gray hair and other health concerns with caution. When in doubt, consult a doctor or another healthcare provider.

Herbs can be just as powerful as conventional medications and may interact with any drugs or supplements that you’re already taking.

It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health. It may even contribute to premature graying, especially before the age of 30.

If you’re ready to quit, talk to a doctor or another healthcare provider. They can advise you on how best to go about this and connect you to helpful resources.

Joining a smoking cessation group can provide extra support, which can also be helpful.

The association of high stress with sudden hair whitening is questionable.

There’s even some debate over whether there’s really an established link between long-term stress and premature graying.

If stress is indeed contributing to your gray hairs, better stress management could help. Plus, a less stressful lifestyle certainly doesn’t hurt!

You may be able to manage your stress better and improve your overall health by using the following tips:

  • Prioritize your commitments so that you’re not cutting time out of your home life.
  • Work on saying “no” to extra tasks if you already have a full plate.
  • Set aside time each week for your favorite hobby.
  • Practice meditation or deep breathing exercises every day, even if it’s just for five minutes at a time.
  • Exercise daily to help minimize stress and boost serotonin in the brain.

While diet and an overall healthy lifestyle can help minimize gray hairs, there’s only so much that you can do to control the natural loss of melanin in your hair follicles.

There’s also a significant genetic component to graying hair. If your parents dealt with premature grays, the chances are that you will too.

Still, this doesn’t mean that you can’t try to slow down the graying process.

Just remember that if a supplement or alternative treatment sounds too good to be true, then that’s probably the case.

You should address any concerns about premature grays or hair loss with a doctor.