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Say Goodbye to Dyes: Scientists Find Way to Reverse Gray Hair

Update Date: May 03, 2013 01:28 PM EDT

For years, men and women alike have attempted to cover up their gray hairs, for fear of looking old. As a result, hair dye manufacturers, in particular, have grown very prosperous. New research indicates that we may be approaching the end of the era of hair dye to combat gray hair though. A study found that the gray color in hair follicles could be reversed, bringing hair back to its original hair color. The researchers found that the same technique could also be used in people who suffer from the skin disorder, vitiligo, which is not life-threatening but which changes skin pigmentation in the people who have it.

The researchers explain that hair becomes gray because of a build-up of hydrogen peroxide inside the follicle of hair. That build-up causes the hair to bleach itself from the inside out, a result of extreme oxidative stress. The researchers say that process can be reversed by the application of a treatment called PC-KUS, a modified pseudocatalase.

The technique could also work in the fight against vitiligo. The researchers came to their conclusion after performing an analysis of 2,411 people around the world who had vitiligo. Of the entire group, 57 people, or 2.4 percent, were diagnosed with strictly segmental vitiligo. Another 76 people, or 3.2 percent of the group, were diagnosed with non-segmental vitiligo. The researchers found that both of these groups' skin symptoms were the result of the same oxidative stress that causes hair follicles to become gray.

"For generations, numerous remedies have been concocted to hide gray hair," Dr. Gerald Weissmann, the editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, in which the study is published, said in a statement, "but now, for the first time, an actual treatment that gets to the root of the problem has been developed. While this is exciting news, what's even more exciting is that this also works for vitiligo. This condition, while technically cosmetic, can have serious socio-emotional effects of people. Developing an effective treatment for this condition has the potential to radically improve many people's lives."

It is not clear when the treatment will be available to the public.

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