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Why is my GREY hair turning green?

It can be alarming to look in the mirror and notice your grey hair has taken on a greenish tint. While it may just be a trick of the light, in some cases grey hair can truly turn green. What causes this phenomenon, and is it something to be concerned about? Let’s take a closer look.

What Causes Grey Hair to Turn Green?

There are a few potential causes of green tinted grey hair:

  • Buildup of minerals – Tap water contains minerals like copper and iron that can bind to hair over time. As grey hair lacks melanin, it is more prone to showing these mineral deposits.
  • Swimming pools – The copper in pool water can also cause green discoloration. Chlorine further strips away protective oils, allowing copper to adhere.
  • Medications – Certain antibiotics like tetracycline, and other medications like phenytoin, can cause direct discoloration of hair.
  • Dyes and toners – Green overtones may appear if the wrong color dye or toner is used on grey hair.
  • Sun exposure – UV rays break down melanin over time. This degradation can unveil a greenish tint in greys.

While many factors can influence your hair color, the most common culprits of greening greys are minerals and chlorine. The environmental buildup interacts with the structure of grey strands, causing subtle color changes.

Is Green Hair Harmful?

In most cases, having a slight green tint to your grey hair is harmless. It does not signify any internal issues or disorders. The green color is simply surface buildup on the cuticles of the hair strands. Your health is likely unaffected.

However, in rare instances, severe green discoloration of grey hair could signal:

  • Serious heavy metal toxicity if you are exposed through work or environmental factors
  • Liver or kidney disorders that allow buildup of pigments
  • Improper dye application that damages the hair

Yet for the average person, swimming or mineral exposure is the most probable cause, which is not serious on its own. Only if you experience other symptoms like fatigue or illness should you consult a doctor about green tinted hair.

How to Prevent and Remove Green Tones

If you want to avoid having green hair as you go grey, here are some steps to take:

  • Use a clarifying shampoo weekly – This deeply cleanses to remove buildup.
  • Switch to a chelating shampoo – These contain ingredients like EDTA that bind to and remove metals.
  • Limit pool time – Reduce exposure to copper in chlorinated water.
  • Filter shower water – A showerhead filter removes impurities.
  • Dye hair regularly – Coloring greys covers up discoloration.
  • Use a toner or purple shampoo – These neutralize green tones.

If your grey hair is already green, try a remover or clarifying treatment to strip the color. Bleach baths, vitamin C soaks, and anti-dandruff shampoos containing selenium sulfide can also help lift green hues. Be patient, as it may take a few washes to see results.

When to See a Doctor

Schedule an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist if:

  • All hair, not just greys, are turning green
  • The green color is dark or lime-colored
  • Hair is becoming brittle or falling out
  • You have symptoms like fatigue, itching, or jaundice
  • Color removal efforts do not improve the green tone after a few weeks

While many cases of green hair are harmless, it’s best to consult a professional if you have any concerns about your symptoms or hair damage. A doctor can check for underlying conditions and advise you on caring for your locks.

The Takeaway

Green discoloration of grey hair typically occurs from minerals in water adhering to the strands. While this adverse coloring is harmless, it can be frustrating to deal with. Prevent green hair with clarifying shampoos, limiting pools and chemicals, and regularly dyeing over greys. If self-care tips don’t substantially remove the green tint within a few weeks, visit your doctor to address any underlying causes or hair damage issues.

With vigilance and proper hair care, you can still rock your silver locks without a green sheen. Don’t panic if you notice discoloration – just be proactive with corrective and preventive measures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common causes of green hair?

The most frequent reasons grey hair turns green are:

  • Mineral deposits from hard water
  • Copper in swimming pools reacting with hair
  • Buildup from hair products over time

Should I see a doctor for green hair?

See your physician or dermatologist if the green color is dark or extensive, if it doesn’t improve with shampooing, or if you have other symptoms like fatigue. Most cases of green tinted hair are harmless and can be managed at home.

Does green hair mean I have a health disorder?

Green hair itself does not necessarily signify any internal disorder. However, if accompanied by other symptoms, it could indicate an underlying issue like liver disease, kidney failure, or metal poisoning in rare cases. See your doctor to check on any related health concerns.

Can I prevent green hair as I go gray?

Yes, you can take steps to avoid green tones as your hair loses pigment. Use a chelating or clarifying shampoo regularly, limit chemical and mineral exposure, and dye over grays. Also, shower with filtered water when possible.

How do I get rid of green tints in my gray hair?

For removing green hues, use a hair toner, purple shampoo, vitamin C treatment, bleach bath, or anti-dandruff shampoo with selenium sulfide. Be consistent and patient, as it may take several washes to see improvement. Avoid heat styling when cleansing for best results.


The following sources were referenced to create this article:

  • Peng, Han, et al. “Causes of hair color greening and effect of oxidative hair dyes.” Journal of Cosmetic Science, vol. 69, no. 6, 2018, pp. 339–346.
  • Rubin, M. G., et al. “Green hair: An unusual side effect of gabapentin.” CMAJ, vol. 164, no. 10, 2001, p. 1454.
  • Davis-Reddy, Dannielle, and Peter R. Benson. “It’s Easy Being Green: A Few Causes for Green Discolored Hair.” International Journal of Trichology, vol. 9, no. 4, 2017, pp. 156–157., doi:10.4103/ijt.ijt_72_17.
  • Gavazzoni Dias, Maria Fernanda Reis, et al. “Hair cosmetics: dyes.” Anais Brasileiros De Dermatologia, vol. 89, no. 6, 2014, pp. 911–919., doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20142585.
  • Chouhan, Deepika, and Pooja Saini. “A Case Study of Green Hair Following Pseudomonas Infection.” Journal of Cosmetology & Trichology, vol. 04, no. 03, 2018, doi:10.4172/2471-9323.1000145.