Whatever you think of the men with gray temples, whether you prefer them to the youthful heroes with the monochrome deep black or light blonde surfer hairstyle or not, is out of the question here. But one thing is certain: the gray, the mottled, the white hair is, even if not always rightly, a sign of mature age. The phrases "turn white overnight" and "grow old overnight" mean the same thing.
While men are more inclined to deliberately brag a little about the more mature masculinity of their gray hair, women are usually anxious to hide their first gray temples.
While men are more inclined to deliberately brag a little about the more mature masculinity of their gray hair - of course they do not admit this with masculine self-evident, just as they do not want to admit that they think anything of cosmetics - women are usually anxious to try their first to hide gray temples, even if they were not willing to have their hair colored until then.
Only younger women act the other way around now and then and, as an exception to the rule, have a single strand colored white, as it is hereditary in some families. But what exception would a younger lady not be granted if she was made beautiful?
Obviously, not only red or blonde, but also gray is a hair color that has a lot to offer, so that its secret is worth investigating. In contrast to skin color, the palette of human hair is rich in tones, colors, and nuances. Their quality depends on the pigment content of the hair cortex. The pigment is made up of special cells: its amount and type of distribution give the different color values.
The air content and surface structure of the hair shaft convey additional variations in shine, smoothness and shimmer. Only albinos, whom we recognize by their white skin, white hair, pink irises and deep red pupils, are completely unable to form pigment due to hereditary conditions.
However, this predisposition is rare, but often, also innate, different shades of color occur in different hair areas in the same person.
In general, hair growth proceeds in such a way that originally lighter hair first darkens towards the end of the growth period and only turns gray much later in each case. Darkening is most common to us with light blondes, but it happens just as much with brunettes and even with reds.
Even if the graying is largely regarded as a sign of age, its occurrence does not allow any binding conclusions to be drawn about actual age. Apart from personal differences, there are families in which every thirty-year-old is gray and others in which there is hardly ever a gray-haired person. Such observations illuminate the relativity of the relationship between age and graying and have led some researchers to reject graying as an obligatory symptom of old age.
The graying of the hair takes place gradually, regardless of age. Nevertheless, reports of sudden graying of hair appear again and again in connection with disasters, frightful situations and accidents. It is the unexpected emotional stress that is said to have caused the spontaneous whitening or graying.
In such narratives, one should not overlook the fact that the term "suddenly", which we normally use to describe a momentary event that takes place in a matter of seconds, is mostly used quite freely, referring to the experience of the narrator, which is used in closer detail During a whole night, one or several days. As a result, the process takes on a significantly different face in the eyes of the doctor, who has to think scientifically and critically if he does not want to succumb to charlatanism.
Even if the graying is largely regarded as a sign of age, its occurrence does not allow any binding conclusions to be drawn about actual age.
The reason is that so far no such event with regard to the "sudden" time factor has withstood criticism - scientific medicine today could find plausible both a sudden whitening and, in analogy to the mental causation of other illnesses, a sudden whitening from a mental cause.
It remains to be explained why the many misjudgments that keep feeding the legends or the reality of becoming gray or white overnight, which is still unproven to this day, come about. First of all, there are general illnesses with and without fever that not only lead to hair loss within a day, but also, especially in older people whose hair was already gray, the first thing that can affect the pigmented hair that is still present, so that only that one white residue remains.
The same can happen, if it occurs at an older age, with the well-known circular hair loss, so that the impression of a sudden whitening from a mental cause then intensifies. In many cases, the fright is not the cause, but the consequence of the hair disease and the greater the more hair is affected by it.
By the way, it is not uncommon for people to forget that, despite the restrictive term "circular", it can affect the entire head or the entire body. Finally, in the case of circular hair loss, the assumption of sudden graying due to psychological reasons is occasionally supported by the fact that this, as it sometimes happens, occurs for the first time after migraine attacks or circumscribed neuralgia.
Relatively new and important in the present context is the already mentioned observation that pigmented hair appears to fall out more easily and earlier than pigment-poor or pigment-free white hair. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that after circular hair loss, even in younger people, the hair often grows back white and sometimes remains white. The young woman with the white streak did not always have it colored or inherited it through generations.
Occasionally it is the result of the illness described, about the cause of which one can generally not say much more precisely than that it is still unknown.
Now that so much has been said about graying, silver hair and white strands, in the end it can no longer be concealed that we still don't know exactly how the individual hair turns gray. Either from a certain point in time only pigmentless hair grows back, or the hair gradually turns gray from the tip, or the hair shaft loses its pigment in more and more places.
Each theory has its supporters, but conclusive evidence is still pending for all three. In addition, graying is not only a question of the pigment present, but also of the shape and quantity of air bubbles embedded in the hair cortex. The more numerous these are, the more silvery the individual hair shimmers, and the more gray strands there are, the grayer and mottled the whole head looks.
The light reflex caused by the air bubbles can be so significant that even heavily pigmented hair appears silver-gray. This fact that, despite all the zeal and curiosity, science has not yet been able to fully fathom the graying of the individual hair, may comfort us that there is still no valid example of sudden graying either.
Understandably, medicine initially has a few more pressing concerns, especially since the graying of health in general does not affect health. Not only between heaven and earth, but also between top and bottom, there are things that are still closed to our school wisdom, Shakespeare should be added here. So the "men with the gray temples" remain a little shrouded in mystery.