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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences pigment

Dear Dr. Universe: Why does hair turn gray?

Dr. Universe examining a hair follicleHair comes in lots of different colors. There’s black, medium brown, auburn, light brown, strawberry blonde, and copper, to name just a few. But in the end, almost everyone will have hair that’s gray or white.

I decided to visit my friend Cynthia Cooper, a biologist and researcher at Washington State University, for help answering this question from Darae, age 10.

Ever since you were born, different cells have been working on your hair. Each hair sprouts from a follicle, a sort of little hair-making factory under your skin. Here, some of your cells are making your hair and others are coloring it. » More …