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Gray hair is a common life occurrence that happens as we age. Different people handle the process in different ways. While some people eventually get to embrace it, others find ways to revert their hair to its original color. These days, there are different techniques of dying hair and they could be temporary or permanent. Disadvantages of this method are allergic reactions, scalp irritation, and hair damage.
The process of hair pigmentation can be described as a complex chemical process involving various body enzymes, mainly melanin. Melanin is found on the skin and hair of human beings. Enzymatic factors cause the production and release of melanin. The absence or dysfunction of these factors reduces the amount of melanin produced. The amount of melanin-producing cells called melanocytes also reduces.
Graying is a natural process, however, premature graying could occur as a result of various factors like genetics, medical conditions like thyroid disease, vitamin deficiency, and stress. The optimal treatment would be methods and techniques that reverse graying.
Graying reversed after using medications
Some scientists have opined that there is nothing we can do to stop hair graying, however, others have suggested that there are medications that can halt and reverse the process.
Katerina Yale, a dermatologist, and her colleagues carried out a review to identify various medications linked with repigmentation. They evaluated various studies and identified 5 classes of drugs: vitamins like calcium pantothenate, anti-inflammatory drugs like psoralen, thalidomide, and adalimumab.
They also identified stimulators of melanogenesis like tamoxifen, imatinib, erlotinib, and latanoprost, drugs that accumulate in tissues like clofazimine, and drugs whose mechanisms are not known yet like captopril.
Psoralen has been recorded to reverse hair graying in the presence of ultraviolet light in people with premature gray hair. In a study, 46% of participants experienced total repigmentation with this remedy.
Melanocyte-stimulating drugs like imatinib, erlotinib, and latanoprost were recorded to have induced repigmentation in patients taking them for metastatic cancer and open-angle glaucoma respectively.
In a study, 7% of patients taking imatinib for chronic myeloid leukemia (CLL) were recorded to have regained their former hair color 2 to 24 months after the commencement of treatment. In another study, patients taking latanoprost for open-angle glaucoma experienced repigmentation after 3 years of initiation of treatment.
The use of vitamin supplements has been proven to be effective against hair graying. A follow-up study carried out on 2 female participants who received 200mg of calcium pantothenate recorded repigmentation one month after treatment.
Clofazimine which was used to treat adults with leprosy showed effectiveness in increasing skin and hair pigmentation. A patient on the anti-hypertensive drug, captopril, experienced hair repigmentation a year after adding the drug to his regimen. This particular mechanism is unknown.
A list of Drugs that can reverse Gray Hair
|Medication (Generic / Brand)
|Thalidomide / Thalomid
|Cancers, skin conditions
|Lenalidomide / Revlimid
|Multiple myeloma, syndromes
|Blood clots, marrow suppression
|Adalimumab / Humira
|Infections, liver damage
|Acitretin / Soriatane
|Teratogenicity, liver toxicity
|Etretinate / Tegison
|Teratogenicity, liver toxicity
|Prednisone / Deltasone, Rayos
|Weight gain, osteoporosis
|Cyclosporin / Neoral, Sandimmune, Gengraf
|Kidney damage, infections
|Cisplatinum / Platinol
|Interferon-α / Intron A, Roferon-A
|Viral infections, cancers
|Flu-like symptoms, depression
|Psoralen + UVA / Oxsoralen, Trisoralen
|Skin cancer risk
|Latanoprost / Xalatan
|Eye color change, irritation
|Erlotinib / Tarceva
|Lung, pancreatic cancer
|Imatinib / Gleevec
|Fluid retention, cramps
|Tyrosine kinase inhibitor
|Tamoxifen / Nolvadex, Soltamox
|Blood clots, cancer risk
|Levodopa / Sinemet, Rytary, Duopa
|Calcium Pantothenate / Supplement
|Diarrhea (high doses)
|Coenzyme A precursor
|PABA / Supplement
|Clofazimine / Lamprene
|Captopril / Capoten
|Cough, kidney problems
*Disclaimer: The typical dosages are highly variable and dependent on individual patient factors and the specific condition being treated. This table is for general informational purposes only and should not be used to guide treatment decisions. Always consult a healthcare professional for accurate dosage information.
The review successfully shows that hair graying can be reversed. The studies all show promising results. Stimulating melanocyte production and inhibiting inflammation might just be the key to reverse hair graying. The success of these studies sheds light on possible treatment options in the future.
In as much as the results are promising, physicians should be worried about drug toxicity. Some of these drugs are given in high doses and this could predispose the patients to organ failure.
Also, there are numerous anti-graying supplements out there in circulation. These supplements contain unknown ingredients that could be harmful to the patients while also draining them financially.
Gray hair is a natural phenomenon experienced by everyone. Despite this, risk factors for premature graying could be avoided by targeting predisposing conditions like vitamin deficiencies and stress.
Katerina Yale, Margit Juhasz, Natasha Atanaskova Mesinkovska; Medication-Induced Repigmentation of Gray Hair: A Systematic Review. Skin Appendage Disord 21 January 2020; 6 (1): 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1159/000504414