Help me get to the root of the problem
July 20, 2012 2:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm a man in my early 40s with a full head of hair. In its natural state, my hair is completely gray. So why is it turning orange all of a sudden?

Over the past several months my naturally gray hair has taken on a weird brassy-orange tinge, mostly on top. I haven't colored my hair for years. The stylist who cuts my hair every month says he doesn't think it's from any of the products I'm using — Aveda control paste, Invati — and suggested that perhaps it was related to my medication — namely Adderall and Effexor. I've read tons of anecdotes about medication turning hair gray, but not the other way around.

I considered the possibility that there are discoloring minerals in my water supply, but if that was the case I think this would have started happening years ago.

(Possibly related: my hair is also breaking off — not falling out or thinning, but breaking — after about an inch, also on top. Weird.)

Has anyone else had such an experience? I'm bewildered.
posted by Ratio to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I seem to remember that hair spontaneously turning orange - even when it's naturally grey - is a sign of hypothyroidism. Hair breaking off is definitely a symptom. I recommend asking your doctor to check you out for it. Good luck!
posted by daisyk at 2:41 PM on July 20, 2012 [11 favorites]

Do you have well water?
posted by argonauta at 2:45 PM on July 20, 2012

Response by poster: No, I don't have well water. Thanks!
posted by Ratio at 2:46 PM on July 20, 2012

(I feel bad for just dropping that in there with no cites to back me up, by the way, but I'm on my phone. I have found several pages that refer to orange colouration of the skin as a symptom of hypothyroidism. The hair colouration is something that my mother mentioned to me years ago. We have both had thyroid troubles and she used to be the secretary of an endocrinologist so, if it were me, I'd consider it worth ruling out at least.)

At the time I was ill, I was dying my hair red anyway. I always sort of hoped I'd get that "naturally" ginger look as a side benefit but it never happened for me!
posted by daisyk at 3:03 PM on July 20, 2012

There is a possibility of there being a source of rust/iron in the pipes leading to your place of shower, or iron being otherwise infused into your hair.

Because it is mostly on top, it is very probably only occurring on hair that is longer, and therefore generally older. Prolonged slight iron colouring is consistent with this, as it would be most noticeable on hair that been treated with longer iron exposure. Whereas a health related issue is more inconsistent with this fact, as we would then expect a more uniform distribution of the colouring.
posted by Algebra at 3:10 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have someone check the whites of your eyes to make sure they're not turning orange also.
posted by aryma at 4:28 PM on July 20, 2012

What is your original hair color? Incidentally, I've been having the opposite problem, in that my dark brown hair is slowly turning gray. However, the strands that go gray, before they do, they turn a really obnoxious shade of bright red/orange. Frighteningly bright.

I did some research into this a while ago and found it had to do with the melanin/pheomelanin process...I had found a link that explained this more or less precisely, but alas, it's somewhere tucked into a vast corner of internet that I can't seem to find anymore. Anyways, to sum, it may be a part of the natural hair chemical changy process and not something to entirely worry about. Perhaps somebody with more knowledge can expand on this.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:28 PM on July 20, 2012

It could be the water. I have light blonde hair and when I was living in a different area my hair suddenly started turning rust red. I used a special shampoo (Sheer Blonde by John Frieda) and it removed the minerals or whatever it was from my hair and also seemed to keep them from settling again. Not sure if this would work for you, but it could be worth a shot just to see.

However, since others have indicated that this could be indicative of a major medical issue, I'd get that checked out too.
posted by Temeraria at 5:01 PM on July 20, 2012

Check all the medical stuff for sure, but in the mean time, you can get some color correcting shampoo at any hair salon or drug store. There's a bunch of different brands out there, though they always seem to be in a silver bottle. Which ever one you get, it should say that it's specifically for grey or light blonde hair, and the actual shampoo should be a really dark purple. That should help get your hair color back to normal.
posted by peppermind at 5:10 PM on July 20, 2012

Doesn't the Invati product contain turmeric? Often used as a yellow orange dye?
posted by Malla at 5:32 PM on July 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Has anything changed in the last few months? Have you moved, changed hair products, begun spending more time in the sun, had recent health changes?

Are you using the Aveda Invati shampoo? It contains salicylic acid, and 2 of the 4 Makeup Alley reviews mention badly dried hair. I've used a salicylic shampoo a handful of times and it really did awful things to my hair.

A quick google search shows me that gray/white hair going yellow or brassy is a really common problem. It apparently shows picked-up pigments (hair care products, water components, etc.) pretty easily.
posted by moira at 6:13 PM on July 20, 2012

Confirming that the Invati shampoo does contain tumeric.
posted by moira at 6:18 PM on July 20, 2012

Turmeric (fyi, fwiw)
posted by infini at 5:00 AM on July 21, 2012

Is the hair growing out that color, or is it turning that color after it grows out grey?
posted by gjc at 5:04 AM on July 21, 2012

Back to say that if you think it is damage and color from the shampoo, the tip to use a purple color-correcting shampoo is a good one. Considering the amount of damage, I'd avoid using any kind of bleach just now.

To help stop the breakage, you would probably also benefit from a conditioner. You can experiment with one that contains oils (fatty alcohols such as cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol also act as good moisturizers) vs. one that contains proteins. You might even find a purple shampoo/conditioner combo work well for both color and moisture.
posted by moira at 8:08 PM on July 21, 2012

Response by poster: Is the hair growing out that color, or is it turning that color after it grows out grey?
It's turning that color after it grows out.

What is your original hair color?
Dark brown.

Has anything changed in the last few months? Have you moved, changed hair products, begun spending more time in the sun, had recent health changes?
I started on Invati a few months ago because of the breakage. It hasn't really helped much in that regard.

I'm still puzzled about the breakage, but I'm beginning to think Invati is the culprit for the orangey color.
posted by Ratio at 10:18 AM on July 23, 2012

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