Premature graying is an important cause of low self-esteem, often interfering with socio-cultural adjustment. The onset and progression of graying or canities correlate very closely with chronological aging, and occur in varying degrees in all individuals eventually, regardless of gender or race. Premature canities may occur alone as an autosomal dominant condition or in association with various autoimmune or premature aging syndromes. It needs to be differentiated from various genetic hypomelanotic hair disorders. Reduction in melanogenically active melanocytes in the hair bulb of gray anagen hair follicles with resultant pigment loss is central to the pathogenesis of graying. Defective melanosomal transfers to cortical keratinocytes and melanin incontinence due to melanocyte degeneration are also believed to contribute to this. The white color of canities is an optical effect; the reflection of incident light masks the intrinsic pale yellow color of hair keratin. Full range of color from normal to white can be seen both along individual hair and from hair to hair, and admixture of pigmented and white hair is believed to give the appearance of gray. Graying of hair is usually progressive and permanent, but there are occasional reports of spontaneous repigmentation of gray hair. Studies evaluating the association of canities with osteopenia and cardiovascular disease have revealed mixed results. Despite the extensive molecular research being carried out to understand the pathogenesis of canities, there is paucity of effective evidence-based treatment options. Reports of repigmentation of previously white hair following certain inflammatory processes and use of drugs have suggested the possibility of cytokine-induced recruitment of outer sheath melanocytes to the hair bulb and rekindled the hope for finding an effective drug for treatment of premature canities. In the end, camouflage techniques using hair colorants are outlined.
Premature graying of hair. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2013 September