8 Common Causes of Gray Hair At a Young Age

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Twenty years ago, 18% of women under 30 years old started going gray. Nowadays, gray hair at a young age is more common!

There are many different reasons for going gray at an early age. It could be dependent, of course, on your age, lifestyle, and several other factors. Below, we explore 7 common causes of gray hair at a young age below.  

Top Eight Causes of Turning Prematurely Gray

Why do we go gray? Gray hair happens when our hair stops producing color cells. It inescapable that we will all go gray at some point in our lives.

But why is it that some of us go gray earlier than others? Let’s find out.

1. Pollution and Water Quality

A toxic environment is one of the biggest reasons that cause hair to go gray. Being exposed to pollutants and toxins in the air could make you go gray prematurely.

Chemicals in a toxic environment produce radicals that destroy the melanin in your hair.

Water quality—mainly hard water, which is water high in calcium and magnesium—causes fading of hair color. 

2. Genetics

Let us say your mother’s hair, or even your grandmother’s hair, turned gray when she was younger. Genetically speaking, it is reasonably predictable that you will also join the ranks of the gray brigade at a young age. 

Genetics cannot be changed!

3. Stress

Stress can cause hair to go gray almost overnight. The most popular story that proves this is the story of Queen Marie Antoinette. She went gray overnight from Auburn because of anticipating her beheading the next morning.

This is why overnight graying is also known as “Marie Antoinette syndrome”.

Our bodies can react in many ways to stress. Chronic stress can manifest itself in many ways. It could be through sleeplessness, appetite suppression, blood pressure levels, and apprehension.

But, stress can also have an effect on hair. The body suddenly stops growing the melanin cells. These cells are responsible for your hair color. 

There is a theory that stress plays an important role in the graying of some world leaders whilst they are in office.

4. Autoimmune disease

Contracting an autoimmune disease can also cause premature graying. Autoimmune disease is when our own cells are attacked by our body’s immune system. Two such auto-immune diseases that affect the hair follicles are the following:

Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a skin condition in which the skin loses pigmentation in patches. The effects of this disease are that your body can have areas of discolored skin patches. 

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia Areata is also an autoimmune disease. This disease is when hair cells are attacked by your own autoimmune system. When a cell discovers an alien invader, such as a virus, it produces interferons.

Interferons are natural defense cells. They recognize germs or cancer cells in the body and trigger natural disease-fighting.

Melanocyte stem cells are what gives our hair color. MITF is a regulator that keeps interferons in check within melanocyte cells. If MITF’s control of the interferon is lost, gray hair will be the result.

5. Thyroid disorder

Thyroid problems and hormonal changes caused by it could also be responsible for the sudden graying of hair.

The thyroid controls many bodily functions. An underactive or even overactive thyroid can affect the hair cells to produce less melanin, which results in graying hair.

6. Vitamin B-12 deficiency

A deficiency of vitamin B-12 can cause gray hair at an early age. This vitamin is one of the most important for your body.

Pernicious anemia is caused in part by a vitamin B-12 deficiency. This is when your body cannot draw up enough of this vitamin.

Vitamin B-12 is vital to healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to feed cells throughout your body. If you do not get enough oxygen to melanin-producing cells, this will lead to graying hair.

These are the hair vitamins that work to keeping your hair in color and to a head full of healthy hair.  

7. Smoking

Smoking can also cause premature gray hair. A study of one hundred and seven people found a relation between the onset of gray hair before 30 years of age and cigarette smokers. 

It’s well-known that smoking cigarettes is not a healthy habit. Smoking shrinks blood vessels. This shrinkage reduces oxygen-carrying blood to hair follicles. This will affect melanin production in the hair cells and cause premature gray hair. 

8. Chemical Hair Products

Chemicals in hair care products like conditioners, shampoos, and color dyes can lead to early graying of hair. This is as a result of chemicals present in these products that reduce the content of melanin in the cells.

Joining the Gray Brigade at an Early Age

Unfortunately, one thing we as humans cannot escape is the aging process. Gray hair and wrinkles are a natural sign of aging!

A few gray hairs can be found in most women at the age of 30, but by the time women get to their fifties, more than 50% of their hair will be gray. 

Today, however, gray hair at a young age is becoming more common. This is worrying for many, as it is ‘out of the ordinary’ and can be a sign of health issues.

Having a rigorous hair care routine and eating a balanced diet can go a long way to help slow graying, and sometimes it can even help reverse it.

If you find yourself going gray suddenly, and are worried that something may be wrong, consult your doctor!

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