A Guide to Melanin and Hair, Its Effects, Increasing, Replenishing and More

Compared to 7% in the 1950s, nearly 70% of American women now regularly dye their hair. 

Hair dye has become a convenient way for women to express their style or retain youthful appearances, but even if you rock a natural look, your hair color is still totally unique to you. This is all because of one tiny pigment: melanin.

Exactly how does melanin affect hair? Is there any way how to replenish melanin in hair? Can you prevent gray hair from popping up too soon? 

Read on to learn more about the fascinating role of melanin in your hair’s health and hue. 

How Does Melanin Affect Hair?

Melanin determines the color of your skin, hair, and eyes. Typically, people with less melanin have light hair, skin, and eyes, while people with more melanin have dark hair, skin, and eyes.

In hair follicles, melanocytes produce two types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin creates brown and black pigments in the hair, while pheomelanin makes hair appear more yellow or red. 

Each person’s unique hair color is determined by a combination of eumelanin and pheomelanin:

  • Black hair contains large amounts of eumelanin
  • Brown hair contains slightly less eumelanin
  • Blond hair contains very little eumelanin
  • Strawberry blonde hair contains very little eumelanin and some pheomelanin
  • Red hair contains mainly pheomelanin

Albinism is a rare genetic condition that causes people’s bodies to produce very little or no melanin. As a result, people with albinism typically have very pale, white, or nearly translucent hair. 

Melanin doesn’t just make us all appear unique and beautiful; it serves an essential purpose in our hair. Melanin protects the hair and the scalp from sun damage, preventing dryness and breakage. More melanin generally offers better sun protection. 

Melanin and Gray Hair

As we age, melanocytes slow down and eventually stop producing melanin. Some people may notice stray gray hairs as early as their late teens or 20s. For most people, about a quarter of their hair will turn gray by the time they are 50 years old. 

Some other common causes of premature gray hair include: 

  • Genetics
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Sun damage
  • Harmful chemicals
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Some autoimmune conditions

Gray hair is beautiful and certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but some people would prefer to delay its onset. Gray hair can generally make people appear older. Plenty of folks choose to dye their hair to mimic natural melanin to keep up with a culture that values youth. 

Of course, some people prefer to avoid the chemicals and upkeep involved in dying their hair. Are you wondering how to increase melanin for gray hair in a more natural way? Eating melanin-rich foods or taking melanin supplements may be the perfect solution. 

Pigmented Hair, Gray Hair

Which Foods Increase Melanin in Hair? 

Overall, staying hydrated and eating a healthy, balanced diet will result in hair health. Some foods support the natural production of melanin in your body, which may delay the onset of gray hairs. To encourage more melanin in your hair, ensure you get enough of these essential nutrients in your diet.

Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Antioxidants protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals and play a role in your body’s melanin production. Eating plenty of antioxidants will also keep your hair follicles healthy, increase circulation to your scalp, and create smoother, healthier hair. 

Some great food sources for antioxidants include:

  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Goji berries
  • Pomegranates
  • Dark chocolate
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Artichokes
  • Pecans


A melanin deficiency is often a sign of a vitamin deficiency. Healthy, vitamin-rich hair is better at resisting UV damage, heat damage, and breakage. Vitamins can also make you feel better inside, reducing your daily stress and preventing gray hairs from popping up on your head. 

For healthy, robust and gray-resistant hair, ensure you consume plenty of vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C. Vitamins B6 and B12 are also very important for hair health. They’re proven to boost melanin production. B6 and B12 deficiencies are common in vegans and vegetarians, so be sure to take supplements if you avoid eating meat.

Sources of Copper

Copper may seem like an unusual element in the human body, but it plays a crucial role in energy production, cell metabolism, and red blood cell health. Copper is also a necessary element for producing melanin, and it stimulates the hair follicles to keep them healthy.  

Some great sources of copper include:

  • Spirulina
  • Leafy greens
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lobster and crabmeat
  • Liver and organ meats
  • Oysters
  • Dark chocolate

Melanin Supplements

Both oral and topical concoctions claim to replenish melanin in the hair. Although the scientific research on these supplements is limited, many claim that these supplements have restored some hair color or improved their hair’s health. 

The FDA does not verify most supplements, so it’s essential to do your research and read customer reviews before purchasing. Plenty of products claim to offer a “miracle” remedy to gray hair, but the best solution is to nourish and protect your hair just as it is!

If you are interested in trying a supplement or topical, look for a product with these beneficial ingredients: 

  • Probiotics
  • Lycopene
  • Lutein
  • Astaxanthin

Can Taking Melanin Reverse Gray Hair?

Taking melanin as a supplement can prevent early graying, but it’s not likely that you’ll be able to restore color to your already gray hair. However, remember that melanin is also responsible for protecting the hair and scalp so it may offer other benefits.

As we age, a lack of melanin can lead to increased dryness, brittleness, and breakage in the hair, which can contribute to an older appearance. Hair dye won’t remedy these issues, but melanin supplements and supporting foods can create healthier hair.

One newly emerging gray-coverage option is synthetic melanin-based hair dye. This new hair dye mimics natural human pigmentation and is generally safer to use with fewer chemicals. 

Every Hue Is Beautiful

So how does melanin affect hair? Melanin is the tiny molecule responsible for every person’s unique hair color. By consuming plenty of vitamins, antioxidants, and copper, you can encourage melanocytes to keep producing melanin and prevent gray hairs from appearing early in your life. 

Do you want to embrace and enhance your natural hair color? Or are you ready to switch it up with a new hue? Schedule your next visit to the Public Image Ltd. salon to discover the best version of you!