Anderson Cooper, Emmylou Harris and Toni Morrison are among famous faces known for striking silver tresses. But many Americans -- celebrities and non-celebs alike -- are more than eager to make their gray go away.
Targeting these consumers is a relatively new category of over-the-counter supplements containing a mixture of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, touted as an easy, natural alternative to hair dyes. According to the pitches, these products not only restore your locks, they also prevent them from ever turning white.
Even beauty-industry titan L'Oreal has shown interest in the idea. Last year, Bruno Bernard, head of the company's hair biology group, told the United Kingdom's Daily Mail newspaper that it was working on an anti-gray pill that it expected to be in production by 2015. This summer, New York Magazinereported that the company had filed a patent application for what it called a "secret potion that will prevent gray hair. Forever."
Company spokeswoman Suzie Davidowitz told USA TODAY, "Although we have chosen not to unveil further information, we can affirm this discovery underscores the importance L'Oreal places in its advanced research."
The Enzyme Catalase Is Key
But smaller companies already have anti-gray pills with such names as Go Away Gray, Get Away Grey and Grey Defence.
Cathy Beggan's Go Away Gray claims to "permanently cure gray hair" in as little as eight weeks by delivering the enzyme catalase to the hair follicle.
Beggan, a former real-estate executive, says her anti-gray pill was inspired by a 2009 study that found catalase counteracts the body's production of hydrogen peroxide, which, over time, bleaches hair of its natural color from the inside out.
It showed that with age, "we produce less catalase, preventing the hydrogen peroxide from being broken down," she says.
Go Away Gray ($29.99 for a 30-day supply of 60 pills) puts catalase, a plant derivative, back in the body to break down hydrogen peroxide and stop graying, she says. The product affects only new hair as it comes in, she says.
Robin Duner-Fenter, an entertainment and media marketing executive in Charleston, S.C., developed similarly named Get Away Grey after also reading about catalase.
"One capsule, taken two times a day directly after a meal, is the best way to metabolize (it) into the bloodstream," he says.
As dietary supplements, these products do not need to register with the Food and Drug Administration nor receive approval before hitting the market.
Although the ads make the science of erasing gray hair sound as easy as popping a pill, most hair science experts remain skeptical. (continued...)
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