During her post-divorce reinvention, Judy Allor decided to do something about the gray hair that had been coming in at her temples and around her ears since her early 50s. Highlights didn't seem to take -- so when Allor saw an advertisement in SkyMall magazine for a nutritional supplement that promised to stop the gray, she put in an order.
Within three months of taking two pills a day of Go Away Gray, Allor said she started noticing her natural light blond color replacing the gray spots. She said her hair felt as soft and silky as it had when she was younger, and her trips to the salon for highlights became fewer and further between.
"I call it vitamins for my hair," said Allor, a retiree who splits her time between Florida and California.
Go Away Gray, a nutraceutical without FDA approval or any clinical trials supporting its effectiveness, is among several products being marketed to prevent gray hair.
Creator Cathy Beggan, a former real estate agent whose company, Rise-n-Shine LLC, sells 17 products promising help for everything from wrinkles to joint pain, said Go Away Gray is by far her company's biggest seller (buy two bottles and get one free for $49.50). She points to customers like Allor as proof that it works, and claims that within six to eight weeks customers can see their natural hair color coming in at the root (it doesn't change existing gray hair).
But is that proof enough?
A closer look
Dr. Gerard Mullin, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and author of the book "The Inside Track: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health," cautions people to save their money.
"There's been no credible research to validate their claim," he said. "What they're claiming is very hypothetical."
Beggan created Go Away Gray in 2009 after coming across a study by researchers at the University of Bradford, in the United Kingdom, that found that reduced production of the enzyme catalase, which breaks down hydrogen peroxide, may contribute to graying hair. Hair cells naturally produce small amounts of hydrogen
peroxide, but without catalase it builds up over time and blocks the normal synthesis of melanin that gives hair its color, according to the study, which was published in The FASEB Journal (it stands for Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology).
Beggan contracted with a vitamin manufacturer to produce a supplement containing 5,000 units of catalase plus other ingredients believed to promote healthy hair.
Mullin said the ingredients at the doses recommended are harmless. But "there is no proof whatsoever" that catalase ingested orally can survive the gastrointestinal process and affect the hair follicle. For those wishing to give it a shot, it would be cheaper to eat a bowl of catalase-rich blueberries, blackberries or radishes, he added.
Beggan said several overseas companies that wish to distribute the product require clinical trials, which she said are under way.
Catalase-based products aren't the only ones touting anti-gray cures. L'Oreal has been researching a fruit extract that mimics the enzyme TRP-2, which helps make pigment-producing cells called melanocytes, and several media outlets reported the cosmetics company is working on a pill with an anticipated 2015 launch.
Three-quarters of people 45 to 65 have gray hair, according to a study published last year in the British Journal of Dermatology.