Gray hair is very common as you get older. However, many people wonder whether stress can contribute to this issue. You can do your part to prevent it.
Stress affects the body in a variety of ways. One of the more common but harmless things that can occur is the development of gray hair. However, there is more to it than simply experiencing stress. When your hair turns gray, it is the result of a combination of factors: aging, genetics and hormones. At the same time, there has been research performed that shows that stress is a big contributor when it comes to going gray prematurely.
How Gray Hair Develops
There is a natural process that occurs when each person is born: Their hair color is determined by melanin, which is the natural pigmentation of your skin. The two types of melanin found in the hair follicles are known as eumelanin and pheomelanin. Melanin is formed by melanocytes, the cells found within your skin and hair follicles. Once melanocytes stop the production of melanin, a person’s hair color changes from their natural hue to gray.
This is a natural process that occurs as you age. Obviously, gray hair is common in elderly individuals, but it’s not uncommon for a person’s hair to begin going gray by the time they reach 35 years old. Of course, every individual is unique, so it’s possible to develop grays at a much younger or even much older age than the average. Even your environment can determine when your hair begins to turn gray.
Stress and Hair Turning Prematurely Gray
It’s worth noting that stress by itself cannot cause hair to turn gray. Yet, there is research that points to stress being a big factor in speeding up the process of developing gray hair. In a study published this year in the journal Nature, it was determined that when mice were exposed to excessive stress, melanocyte cells were lost, which caused their hair to turn gray.
These cells naturally decrease in number as you grow older. However, when there is excessive stress introduced, premature activation can occur. This happens when a stress hormone known as norepinephrine increases in the body. It can lead to premature graying of the hair, which is exactly what researchers noticed in the mice involved in their study.
Oxidative Stress and Graying Hair
In addition to gray hair developing prematurely in an animal study, there is proof that oxidative stress can also lead to graying. A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Trichology noticed a remarkable increase in oxidative stress, which can lead to biological imbalances in human beings. There was a relationship noticed between this type of stress and chronic illnesses and premature aging, including prematurely graying hair.
In the study, a link was made between particularly high levels of oxidative stress and graying of the hair by age 20. This pointed to psychological stress people deal with on a daily basis, such as stress from their jobs. Other factors such as vitamin deficiencies and smoking were linked with prematurely graying hair as well because they, too, can raise one’s oxidative stress.
Although stress, hormones and genetics all play a part in the development of gray hair, you can do your part to keep your hair healthier and live a healthier life, in general. It can potentially prevent premature graying and help you look and feel better as a whole. Steps you can take include the following:
- Moisturize: Moisturizing your hair daily can help it stay healthy and lush. It provides you with the right levels of protein and helps your hair retain its natural elasticity, which can prevent breakage.
- Prevent heat damage: Avoid using heating products like hairdryers and curling or straightening irons too often to prevent damage to your hair. Excessive heat can cause damage to the hair’s shaft.
- Get regular trims: Getting your hair trimmed regularly can keep it healthier. It can also promote stronger, fuller hair.
- Use a quality brush: Getting a quality hairbrush with nylon bristles that aren’t too harsh can keep your hair healthier.
- Avoid chemicals: Don’t use harsh chemicals that can damage your scalp and hair follicles. Too many harmful materials in your hair can adversely affect its quality and texture and cause dry hair.
- Avoid overly hot showers: Don’t make the water too hot when you shower. It can strip away your hair’s essential oils and lead to damage.
Taking steps to reduce your stress can potentially prevent premature gray hair. Always take proper care of your hair to keep its best health as well.