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Does Stress Actually Cause Gray Hair?


When it comes to aging, one of the few certainties is that sooner or later, your hair will begin to gray.

But is there any way to stop from going gray, or at least delay the process? Scientists have begun studying how stress in particular can lead to premature gray hair — and there are a few easy steps you can take now to prevent it.

Why does hair turn gray?

Why do people end up with the same gray hair despite having all sorts of different hair colors when they’re younger?

Scientifically speaking, gray hair isn’t an entirely different color — it’s actually a universal lack of color. Your genetics give you a certain hair color for your entire life. However, as you age, your hair follicles struggle to produce the same strong pigments as they did early on. Thus, graying hair just means that your body isn’t generating pigment at the same rate it once did.

Does stress cause grey hair?

While everyone’s hair eventually turns gray, there are a few factors that can potentially speed up the process, especially stress.

A new 2020 study from Harvard University observed the link between stress and gray hair. In particular, researchers wanted to see how different types of stress, whether physical or psychological, caused these changes in hair color. In the animal study, subjects were exposed to a variety of stressors. By the end of the study, they did show signs of premature graying fur.

The working theory is that when the body is exposed to ongoing stress, it can wreak havoc on the nervous system and throw chemicals and hormones out of balance, which increases the destruction inside of hair follicles. In turn, this can affect the production of melanin, which is responsible for giving your hair its natural pigment.

While the results show promise, researchers caution that more work needs to be done before drawing any larger conclusions.

What other factors cause grey hair?

While stress can definitely lead to hair graying, especially at a faster rate, there are other elements that play a role in premature gray hair and how quickly you go gray.

Health experts point to a poor diet and certain medications as potential causes of premature graying due to the fact that they may change the body’s delicate chemical balance, but they also believe that genetics play a much larger role in how your hair color changes as you age than anything else.

Can you reverse gray hair?

While hair color can’t naturally be reversed without the help of hair dyes, there are lots of ways to keep your hair from turning even more gray.

Making sure your diet is rich in iron, calcium, keratin, a range of B vitamins, zinc, and vitamin D is a great start. Supplements can also help with getting these nutrients, like B vitamins, fish oil, and biotin. If you’re a smoker, quitting may also prolong your hair’s natural hair color.

But in terms of day-to-day life, one of the best things you can do is find stress management practices that work for you, whether that’s doing yoga or meditation every day or taking a few minutes to journal or work on a favorite hobby at the end of a long day. Taking a little time for yourself regularly can make a big difference.

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