Essentially, enough free radical damage can cause your pigment-producing cells (called melanocytes) to lose their intensity, resulting in silver strands. Growing research also shows a strong connection between oxidative stress triggered by free radicals and premature graying1. And how do we neutralize free radicals? You guessed it: antioxidants! 

When you introduce those free-radical fighters into your routine—vitamin C, vitamin E, and the like—you strengthen the hair and scalp, and you brighten the strands. So look for hair care products loaded with antioxidant-rich botanicals, and opt for hair-enhancing vitamins (because oral antioxidants count, too). 

For the purposes of this routine, grab an antioxidant-rich hair oil—like this one from Ceremonia—and saturate your strands from root to tip, paying extra attention to the scalp. Leave your hair coated for at least 30 minutes, or better yet, give yourself a tension-relieving scalp massage for an extra few: “Use your finger pads (not nails) to apply medium-firm pressure to your scalp, in a circular motion,” board-certified dermatologist Raechele Cochran Gathers, M.D., founder of MDHairMixtress, previously told mbg. You can even use a scalp massager tool to work in the product and further stimulate circulation if you please. Repeat every wash day or any time your hair feels extra thirsty. 

In addition to encouraging blood flow (which helps deliver oxygen and healthy nutrients to the follicles), that massage is also great for relieving stress. “In fact, a study of female office workers found that twice-weekly scalp massage had effects on stress hormones2, blood pressure, and heart rate,” Cochran Gathers notes. The link between stress and gray hair is pretty limited, but if your stress is bordering on chronic, the theory is that long-term psychological stress can increase levels of oxidative stress3, which can then contribute to grays.

So that tension-relieving scalp massage plays double duty—and assuming you use an antioxidant-rich serum, it’s a recipe for thriving, vibrant strands long term.  

To level up your scalp care, check out one of our expert-chosen collagen supplement picks.