Kids running around and causing trouble? That’ll be another gray strand. Boss giving you grief? Guess it’s time to sprout another patch of ashy locks. Bills piling up all at once? Might as well face the fact that all of your hair is going to be drained of color.
Whether you cover your grays with dye or embrace the silver hues, most of us get frustrated when they start to pop up. Blaming their presence on whatever’s stressing us out life has been a joke for centuries, but most people believe it’s just an old wives’ tale. Until now, that is.
A study from Harvard researchers recently published in Nature claims to have proof that stress really does have the ability to turn our hair gray. Or, as they put it in the scientific journal, “acute stress leads to hair graying through the fast depletion of melanocyte stem cells.” That essentially means that when we deal with tense situations, our body saps away all of the pigment-producing cells that give our hair follicles their color. Unfortunately, once those cells are gone, they’re gone forever.
It’s not just any type of stress, though. The researchers looked into whether this reaction is linked to the immune system or levels of adrenaline, but found no evidence for either of them. Instead, it’s the sympathetic nerve system, which is what triggers fight-or-flight responses. Those nerves release a chemical called norepinephrine which then causes the pigment-producing cells to overreact and ultimately be lost entirely.
All of that mumbo jumbo boils down to the fact that, yes, you can in fact blame your kids and any other major stressors in your life for causing you to go gray. Sure, genetics still play a big part, but this study sheds an important light on how much our bodies react to the pressures around us. The researchers are already planning further studies on how the rest of our organs and tissues react to stress in order to hopefully find new treatment to prevent or turn around any adverse effects.
In the meantime, anyone else suddenly inspired to try some mindful meditation or yoga?