For decades now, extensive research has been conducted to find the exact causes of grey hair, and though numerous causes have been identified, the treatment to reverse the graying process is still in its nascent stages.
Hair begins to grey as people get older, and unless artificially colored, is the best indicator of age. However, illnesses and deficiencies can also lead to premature graying in teenagers and children. The role of stress in the graying process is without hard scientific evidence despite a strong conviction about the connection, and the quick graying of people in high stress jobs providing clues.
Why Does Hair Turn Grey As People Get Older?
As people grow older, the dark color of hair gives way to a mix of dark and white hair and gradually it is just a silver head left. Genes have a major role to play in the timing, that is, the age at which the graying starts. But the actual graying takes place due to the melanin in the hair follicle reducing over time.
Melanin is what gives the hair its color and is produced by pigment cells. As age increases some of the melanin producing cells die and this lessens its production, leaving the hair shaft completely transparent, giving a white look. The texture of the hair is also rougher than its darker predecessor.
Also Read: How to stop grey hair growth
What Causes Grey Hair In Men and Women?
Both men and women are equally at risk of seeing their hair turn grey for one or more of the following reasons:
Genetic Factors – People with family histories of graying will definitely find their hair turn grey; perhaps 3 to 5 years sooner than their preceding generation.
Lack of Sufficient Melanin – The production of melanin in the hair follicle by melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells, and the amount of melanin determines the darkness of hair color. As melanin production decreases as a person age, hair begin to lose their color and are seen in their original form without the melanin, namely, white.
Illness and Disease – Hair turn grey as the body’s reaction to illness and disease. For instance, diseases like neurofibromatosis, thyroid and tuberous sclerosis can all lead to graying of hair.
Nutritional Deficiencies – Hair retains its color only if it is in good health. Men and women known to have vitamin B12 deficiency for example, are sure to see their hair graying sooner. Anemia, or deficiency of iron which indicates less than the required red blood cells also leads to graying of hair.
What Causes Premature Grey Hair In Young People?
Premature graying of hair can be due to similar reasons as adults except for the age factor. It is not unusual to find children with grey hair, especially teenagers. Premature graying can be attributed to the hair pigment cells stopping the production of the hair pigmentation enzyme, melanin. This can happen in otherwise normal and healthy children. Other reasons behind premature aging include, illness, diseases like thyroid, vitiligo, deficiency of iron, Vitamin B12, and so on.
The positive side of premature graying in young people is that it need not be permanent. Good hair nutrition can help reverse grey hair in younger people since aging has not set in to curb production of melanin. Once the underlying causes have been addressed, dark hair may return.
Does Stress Causes Grey Hair?
This is a debatable question since hard scientific evidence has yet to be provided, but a close look at people in high stress jobs points to the connection between stress and grey hair. Stress leads to specific damaging reactions in the body that can wreak havoc in each body function. Stress is believed to affect the growth of melanocytes while the hair is the anagen stage III. Pro-oxidants released due to stress kill these cells and soon there is no melanin to color the normally growing white hair.