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Onions have gained a lot of popularity as a hair care ingredient and are widely used in both home remedies and commercial hair products. They help nourish, protect, and repair the hair to promote healthy and faster hair growth.
This article will focus on yet another hair benefit credited to onions, which is fighting premature graying. (1)
Onion Juice to Fight Graying of Hair
Onion juice contains the following nutrients that can help slow down graying of hair:
- Antioxidants such as vitamin C and quercetin (a flavonoid) that help neutralize free radicals to reduce the destruction of melanocytes at their hands. Plus, these antioxidants help lower the production of hydrogen peroxide within the hair follicles.
- Sulfur, which facilitates the production of a strong antioxidant enzyme called glutathione, which helps boost catalase synthesis. More catalase means easier breakdown of hydrogen peroxide within the hair follicles. Less hydrogen peroxide means less damage to melanocytes.
How to Use Onion Juice
Follow these steps:
- Blend some freshly chopped onions (ideally red or purple) to make a paste.
- Run the paste through a strainer or muslin cloth to separate the onion juice from the mulch.
- You can mix the onion juice with Indian gooseberry juice for added hair benefits, but this is completely optional.
- Apply the juice to your scalp and hair.
- Gently massage it into the scalp for a few minutes so that it gets properly absorbed.
- Let it sit for about 30 minutes to an hour. Wear a shower cap to avoid dripping.
- Rinse it off using a mild shampoo and water.
How Does Hair Lose Its Color?
Hair follicles contain specialized cells called melanocytes that secrete a pigment compound called melanin, which gives your hair its natural color.
However, the activity and concentration of melanocytes within the hair follicles decline as one grows older, (2) mainly due to two factors:
1. Onslaught of free radicals on melanocytes
Free radicals are unstable reactive molecules present in the environment, diet, water, medication, and other toxic substances that you consume. They build up inside the body and progressively damage healthy cells, including melanocytes, to make them less functional or inactive.
This loss of melanocytes leads to reduced melanin production within the hair follicles. Less melanin means your hair gradually loses its color and turns white or gray. (2)
2. Accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicles
The cells inside the hair bulb produce a small amount of hydrogen peroxide as a by-product while building the hair shaft. An enzyme called catalase then breaks down this compound into water and oxygen. (3)
However, with advancing age, catalase production progressively reduces. As a result, hydrogen peroxide builds up inside the hair follicles and damages the melanocytes. (4) The destruction of melanocytes leads to lesser melanin, which triggers graying of hair.
Premature Hair Graying: Definition and Causes
Graying of hair is a natural part of aging, but some people tend to get their first gray when they are rather young. This is known as premature graying of hair, and many different factors contribute to it. What is considered premature may vary from race to race.
Here are some of the major factors that speed up the process of melanocyte degeneration within the hair follicles and thus make your hair turn gray before its time:
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking
- Poor diet that leads to nutritional deficiencies, especially in vitamin B12, iron, and copper
- Thyroid disorders
- Excessive use of coloring dyes that are laden with bleach
- Side effect of certain medications, such as chemotherapeutic and antimalarial drugs (4)
- Taking too much stress
- Overexposure to harmful ultraviolet rays
- Genetic predisposition to premature graying of hair
Can Graying of Hair Be Reversed?
Once your hair loses its color, there is nothing you can do to restore it. (4) Many people use hair dyes to conceal the grays, but the artificial color is purely topical and will wear off over time.
But there are things you can do that may help delay graying of hair. These include consuming enough hair nutrients, leading a healthy lifestyle, and proper hair care, among other measures.
However, there have been some instances where hair that turned gray prematurely due to certain medications regain its color naturally, (5) but this is extremely rare and without much scientific evidence.
Which variety of onions should be used for onion juice extraction?
It’s best to extract the juice from red or purple onions as they have a higher sulfur content (2) than white onions.
Can onion juice be used on the hair daily?
Onion juice could be used daily with no trouble if it does not irritate your scalp. But the continuous hair wash could harm the hair. So, it would be better to use it on alternate days.
Onion juice has emerged as a popular remedy for gray hair, but there isn’t enough scientific data to gauge how effective it is in that regard. The significant anecdotal support suggests that this remedy has worked for a lot of people, but more rigorous and broad-based studies are needed to properly determine its true potential.
At best, you can expect onion juice to slow down the process of hair graying rather than stop or reverse it. Consulting a dermatologist is highly recommended, especially in cases of inefficient results or unwanted side effects.