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Generally, human hair turns white as we age. However, one of the races in my world does this backwards; they are born white-haired, and when they reach 60 years of age it starts to gradually grow black. They mature like regular humans in the first 30 years, but after age slowly enough to last for up to 200 years

Is there any realistic mechanism for their contrary hair darkening?

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    $\begingroup$ If you are talking about humans, or Earth-derived primates, there aren't any good mechanisms already extant. Not even much to work with in the animal kingdom. However, if you are talking about novel biology from another planet, this is entirely plausible, and I would think there might be dozens of different paths to superficial changes like that. Virtually nothing about it would be disallowed... have the transition at any age you like, and from any one color to any other (at least of those colors that can be justified at all... and practically everything can be). $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe look at the mechanism that causes it to go grey, understanding that may give you some pointers, l seem to recall that it's something to do with a build up of some kind of natural peroxide of some sort in the hair follicles as you age that bleaches the shaft as it grows? But I may have just dreamed that 🤔 $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ Why not just state the effect as a fact, weaving it into the story as appropriate? If the story supports it, that should be fine. If not, why worry about the mechanism? $\endgroup$ Commented May 15, 2022 at 19:46

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It is perfectly normal for people to be born with white hair and have it darken with age. Mind you, it normally turns by the age of twenty or so, and not all blond babies have platinum blond hair, but it happens.

It is apparently genetic mediated increase in the pigments, but the reasons why it occurs are unclear.

Hypothesizing a long time frame is quite possible.

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  • $\begingroup$ Blonde is not white. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ Platinum blond pretty much is. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ In adults, yes. Very young children often have it. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 1:02
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    $\begingroup$ But what is and is not platinum blond is an irrelevant quibble to your answer, you do have an identified example of a real world mechanism by which light hair does become darker with age. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ I have just Googled platinum blonde, and I had hair like quite a few of the results that until about 12, when it darkened to its current very dark blonde. Some of them are very artificial sure, but I think more colours are covered by "platinum" than you are suggesting $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 11:04
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Oxides / Tarnish / Rust

Any number of substances turn black as they react with gasses in our atmosphere. From silver forming silver sulfides:

enter image description here

to potato starches turning black in the presence of oxygen.

Your species produces some kind of air-tight coating (could just be keratin) over a central hair shaft that gives them a glossy-white finish.

As they age, they produce less and less of the coating, which means that the beautiful white hairs tend to fade to grey, then black.

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It is something that can happen in the following case: the microstructure of the hair produced by a young/healthy hair follicle is microporous and makes the hair appear white, because it scatters the light in all directions.

As the hair follicle gets older and less healthy, the micro porosity is lost and with it the diffraction, making it so that the hair looks darker.

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Moles.

mole

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/moles/

Your people accumulate moles with the years. It can happen, let me tell you. As children these people are essentially albinos with snow white skin and snow white hair. But pigment cells accumulate and replicate in the molish way.

Initially it is just a mole here and there. But these moles grow and new ones form. Little by little they fill up the baby white skin with molesome splendor. And where there are moles, there are thick black hairs. Soon your people are covered with moles and mole hairs. They look like sasquatches.

They are sasquatches. I am sure you can make that work for your story.

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Many children born with lighter colored hair experience darkening as they get older. It’s perfectly plausible this could happen from white/grey and not just blonde.

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/639719/why-your-hair-changes-color-as-you-age

It also could be that some changes we normally associate with puberty happen later in life for your people. A lot of it depends on what type of world you are creating.

I would also consider that it might be some sort of helpful evolutionary change. Are there activities your older adults are involved in that would cause them to benefit from hair darkening over time?

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I have heard of alleged "anamelanism" in which someone's hair turns gray or white with age and then turns darker again.

Perhaps you should try to find out if that is real and if so what causes it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Never heard of that, and I only have some grey in my hair, my beard is another matter, but I do wear my hair long and I have pulled a grey hair, seven inches or so at that time, that when I looked at it had changed from grey to dark multiple times throughout its length, no artificial colouring or bleaching involved. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 16:20

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