Has science accidentally unlocked a medicine for grey hair color?

May 28, 2012 at 12:00 am in Fashion & Beauty by VN Editors

Physicians may have accidentally stumbled on a medication that can actually reverse grey hair color in heads that have already lost their pigment. In studying patients with leukemia, scientists discovered that a certain treatment course came with an unexpected side effect: it seemed to reverse grey hair color. Could they have accidentally found the cure that every cosmetics company would pay millions to understand?


If the cure for grey hair color has been unlocked accidentally, it won’t be the first time that serendipity has stepped forward to shape human destiny. Penicillin was discovered by mistake. The secret recipe for Coca-Cola was invented by a pharmacist who was trying to cure headaches. A scientist who was trying to cure malaria invented the very first synthetic dye. When accidents happen, they aren’t always bad.

A leukemia medication could end up being one of those famous accidental discoveries. Upon noticing the strange, hair color-reversing effects of the drug, scientists are now trying to isolate the specific component that seems to be affecting hair pigment. The effects of the drug are remarkable: they seem to reverse grey hair in patients to turn grey hair color back to its original pigment.

Doctors in France treated 133 cancer patients with the drug Gleevac. Of the group, 5 men and 4 women saw their grey hair color reverse back to its original color. The findings have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Currently, physicians who have used the drug are comparing notes to discover if anyone else has noticed the unusual effects. The full color restoration process took around 5 months in those patients who noticed the change.

Reversing grey hair color

The fact that the drug seems to have the ability to reverse grey hair color is what makes it so unique.  Grey hair color is something that occurs on a cellular level. Your hair follicles literally stop producing the pigments that give hair its natural color; much in the same way autumn leaves stop producing pigments as winter approaches. Re-activating these follicles is something that has eluded scientists, though numerous grey hair studies have been conducted and grey hair treatment therapies explored.

There are medicines that tout themselves as grey hair color cures, but in the main these are aimed at preventing grey hair color — not reversing it. If scientists can isolate the unusual side effect in Gleevac, the world is still years away from seeing it put in a safe pill-form for mass-market consumption…but it does offer new hope. The more science learns about grey hair color, the more options people will have for managing it.

Explore some of your grey hair color options in our free special report, Grey Hair After 50: 7 keys to styling, coloring, and caring for grey hair whether you choose to cover or embrace it.

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