Why are copper colored streaks appearing in my father's grey hair?

Dlb61 asked...

My 88 year old father has gray hair (used to be brown.) We've noticed over the past few months that he has some patches of copperish colored streaks appearing in his hair. Any ideas why this might be happening?

Thanks!

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Changes in hair color typically occur naturally as people age. Most of us will eventually develop gray hair as we get older, but this will eventually turn white (called achromotrichia) when we get old enough.

Hair color can change due to chlorine in the tap water, mineral deposits in well water, or it may temporarily change after a serious illness. Regarding your father's case, I would bet it has something to do with some of his hair being white (not gray), and it is turning color from the copper in his water pipes.

If you really concerned about it and you want a professional opinion, you can always take him to see a dermatologist.