Can Stress Cause Gray Hair?

Dec 17 , 2018

gray hair

There is nothing like that first strand of gray hair to bring you panic. Is old age really starting to creep up on you, or is it simply stress that has turned your hair gray? Could your kids, work, bills, and other demands of life really manifest that way?

Before you start worrying about gray hair and thinking about gray coverage, it is good to understand what dictates the color of your locks. Your hair will get its shade from melanin, which also dictates the color of your eyes and skin. Your body will start to lose melanin as you age, which is why your hair will lighten to gray, silver or full white.

Your hair normally grows until 3 years and when these are shed, those cells that are responsible for pigment production will be activated again. When you are older, your body’s production of melanin is greatly decreased. Though it might not be clear why, research points that hydrogen peroxide naturally found in the body builds up in the hair follicle as time passes. This will affect melanin levels, and thus, increasing the need for gray coverage.

As for stress, it has been proven to cause you to lose hair, but there is no proof of it affecting hair color. So you cannot automatically blame your demanding job or boss for those grayish streaks in your hair, much more attribute it to your children growing up and going through puberty.

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The Gray Hair Connection

What makes it more difficult to determine this connection is the fact that the loss of hair pigmentation takes time to fully happen. So there might be some truth to stress causing gray or white hair, though a direct connection cannot be pinpointed.

When stress hormones in your body increase, signals that instruct the melanocytes (or the stem cells that produce pigment) to transport melanin to the keratinocytes (or epidermal cells building the hair) could be disrupted, so this pigment will not be delivered to the hair. In the end, this will manifest in hair that is graying more and more.

What does explain the need for you to consider having some gray coverage is genetics. This, specifically the gene mainly at fault for gray hair (IRF4), is the biggest influence on whether your hair color will eventually fade or not.

The Stress and Gray Hair Correlation

Another interesting cause may also be indirectly linked to stress. Smokers, especially those who tend to light up more when they are feeling pressured, might be unknowingly causing their hair color to lighten. Studies have proven that there is a significant link between smoking and prematurely (meaning before 30 years of age) growing gray hair.

Of course, before you stress about stress causing those gray strands to come out, remember that it is not the end of the world. There are more than enough options for those out there to cover up any gray hair, from hair dye to gray coverage products. Still, there is nothing wrong with giving up smoking and reducing stress levels in your life. Not only does it possibly avoid premature whitening of your hair, but it can also bring a lot of other benefits to your life and health.

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