By: Brenna Gray

When humans age, our hair turns either white or gray. Redheads are always told that they will only go white. However, a Stanford University study is saying redheads could potentially turn gray too.

Gray hair is actually an optical illusion and is actually the product of colored hairs mixed in with white hairs. There are two pigments in the hair shaft: eumelanin and phomelanin. All hair colors whether blonde, black, brown or red have a combination of these pigments.

The more eumelanin in the hair, the darker the hair will be. The more phomelanin in the hair, the redder the hair will be.

A geneticist named Barry Starr at Stanford University concluded in 2015 that a blonde person has a little bit of eumelanin and little or no phomelanin, an auburn-haired person has a lot of eumelanin with some phomelanin thrown in, a redhead is all phomelanin with very little eumelanin, and so on.

Hair gets its natural color at the hair follicle. The particular mix of pigments that goes into your hair is a function of your genetics. Starr said there is not one hair color gene. This means that even us redheads are individually unique because not one of us has the exact same color red!

READ: The 6 Shades of Red Hair, Which Color Are You? 

Since your genes never change, your hair color will never actually change to gray or white. The hair follicles instead just simply stop producing pigment. You can still be a redhead even if you don’t have red hair on top of your head any longer because genetically you haven’t changed. That’s good news for us who love being identified as the redhead. My grandfather was a redhead when he was younger and everyone called him “Red”. It’s been a long time since he’s had actual red hair, but people still call him “Red” to this day.

Once all the hair follicles on your head lose their color completely, the hair will appear to be all white. This is called achromotrichia. This happens at different rates for different people — and sometimes, redheads face this sooner than most. But, this is why redheads will go white and some will go gray; or a mix of month in their lifetime.

Redheads actually retain their natural pigment a lot longer than other shades, so there is no need to panic about going gray or white. Natural red hair simply fades with age through a spectrum of colors of faded copper to rosey-blonde, then to silvery white.

No matter what your age and whether you go gray or white, always continue to Rock it like a Redhead because you always will be (deep down inside).. a redhead forever!