Whenever we see a young lad or a lady with gray hair, we ask them if they have been taking a lot of stress lately. We advise them to take less stress and stop worrying as that leads to early development of gray hair. But how true is that statement? Has it been scientifically proven? Let's find out!
Why Does Hair Turn Gray?
As we age, the cells that produce the hair pigment called 'melanin' perish. This leads to decolorizing of our hair, therefore as we grow older our hair begins to turn white. Gray hair can be found in youngsters at the age of 13-14. Though, hair normally begins to turn silvery only after the age of 30 for men and 35 for women; it is different from gray hair.
Our head has thousands of follicles and each one produces or grows one strand of hair. Our hair is made up of two types of cells, one is keratinocytes and the other is melanocytes. Keratinocytes are responsible for building the keratin that makes our hair and melanocytes are responsible for coloring our hair. The hair pigment or melanocytes come in two forms, 'eumalinin' and 'pheomelanin'. Eumelanin has a dark brown or black shade and pheomelanin has a yellow or red shade. These two forms of melanin combine in different ratios and give us different hair colors like, black, brown or blond. When our hair has lost most of its melanin it becomes gray, and when it has lost all of its melanin, it turns white.
How are Stress and Gray Hair Related?
There are many factors that lead to the loss of hair melanin. Chronic free radical damage, imbalance in the kidneys and blood, and even stress is said to be a cause of gray hair. Though, the relationship between stress and gray has not been clearly established. Research taken up by Tyler Cymet, concluded that those who have been stressed for 2 or 3 years had their hair turned gray sooner. When a person is under stress, the stress hormones can distort the activity of the melanin and lead to development of gray hair. David Fisher, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School said that "It's the gradual depletion of stem cells or melanocytes that leads to the loss of pigment and that it is not so simple to know if stress and gray hair are closely related". He said that "noting that the process of graying is a multi-variable equation. Stress hormones may impact the survival and / or activity of melanocytes, but no clear link has been found between stress and gray hair".
It is difficult to clearly state that stress causes gray hair because, stress itself can have many adverse health effects, like heart problems, stomach or digestive disorders, sleeping disorders and a poor immunity. It can also cause breakouts in skin in the form of acne, and psoriasis. All of these health disorders can cause your hair to fall and turn them gray. So, not directly but indirectly in the form of a domino effect (a chain affect), stress can stimulate gray hair and hair loss.
Many others and myself knew since we were kids, that if someone had premature gray hair, then stress and worry could be the reason. And it is weird that it is still not scientifically established. I, therefore believe that this is known to us through our parents, who learned it from our grandparents. I guess, our ancestors had already established the relationship between stress and gray hair.
Stress has now become an inherent part of our lives. Be it children, adults or even the elderly, all of them are stressed for some reason. Stress does not directly cause gray hair but its effects are so diverse that it can stimulate them for sure! Keep away from stress and there are remedies for treating gray hair too. Follow them regularly and prevent your hair from graying.