Starting to notice more and more grey hair strands every time you look in the mirror? Don’t panic! Getting grey hair in your 20s is a lot more common than you might think, and it’s a lot easier to deal with than you would be let to believe.
With both genetics and external factors playing a role in the process of hair greying, let’s walk through the science behind hair greying and find out the hows and whys of the process.
Table of Contents:
- Why Does Hair Turn Grey?
- Factors That Contribute to Greying Hair
- How to Stop and Prevent Greying Hair
Why Does Hair Turn Grey?
By nature, there is no white or grey hair pigment. Rather, greying hair is caused by a lack of melanin that would otherwise produce brown, black, red, or blonde colors. Each hair follicle contains cells called melanocytes that produce pheomelanin or eumelanin. Pheomelanin produces red and yellow tones, while eumelanin produces black and brown.
Over time, the number of melanocytes decreases, and the pigments slowly degrade. Hair starts greying at different ages for everyone, but on average you can expect grey hair around your mid-30s.
Getting grey hair in your 20s is not unheard of, and more often than not, it’s caused by genetics. If everyone in your family started getting a few grey hairs in their 20s, then there is no need to worry, because there is clearly no other factor that accelerated the aging of your cells responsible for pigmentation.
And yes, we know. It’s an unfortunate situation for some, and a dreaded reality for others. On the bright side, just think about the number of people who choose silver hair at the salon. More than that, no one should judge you for a bodily function you cannot control, so you shouldn’t feel any shame for your grey hairs.
Factors That Contribute to Greying Hair
With a bit of help from science, we now know the why behind hair greying.
“But what about the how?” I hear you ask. Well, let’s analyze the many factors that can contribute to the early greying of our hair and find out:
You have probably heard of how vitamin D, E, biotin, zinc, and iron can contribute to stronger, thicker, and overall healthier hair. The lack of these nutrients in your organism can cause some health conditions that not only harm your health, but also indirectly affect melanin production – which can greatly contribute to the accelerated greying of your hair.
The bodily imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants is called oxidative stress.
Directly linked with the process of aging, free radicals are molecules that contain oxygen and are surrounded by electrons that are uneven in number. These free radicals can cause reactions called oxidation and can be either advantageous or disadvantageous.
Antioxidants, on the other hand, are molecules that can pass on an electron to a free radical without any consequence. This ‘lending’ of electrons stabilizes free radicals and makes them less reactive. When there aren’t enough antioxidants to lend their electrons, oxidative stress occurs, which can cause the death of our melanin-producing cells.
The “devil’s plant” itself, tobacco is responsible for a plethora of health problems, ranging from eye diseases to terminal illnesses like lung and throat cancer, or heart disease. Not only that, but smoking tobacco can have severe long-term effects that are rather passive and invisible at first – such as its contribution to the greying of hair.
Since smoking constricts our natural blood flow, it effectively blocks nutrients and oxygen from reaching our hair follicles, damaging them in the process. Smoking can also cause oxidative stress, which we have just touched upon.
Premature hair greying can also be caused by a thyroid that does not function normally. The thyroid is a gland shaped like a butterfly that helps manage metabolism, the process where food is turned into energy.
Thyroid disease sometimes means that the thyroid is not able to produce enough hormones to boost metabolism and break down food and turn it into the necessary energy. Hormonal problems caused by a dysfunctioning thyroid gland can also disrupt and damage the melanocytes.
Studies show that, while stress may not directly stop cells from producing melanin, it does speed up the process of de-pigmentation. In essence, stress makes the body produce a chemical named norepinephrine into the follicle.
This chemical speeds up the process of the melanocyte cells turning into pigment cells, and then gets out of the hair follicles. With no cell to create new pigment, the hair grows out grey, hence the accelerated greying factor.
How to Stop and Prevent Greying Hair
With all that being said, here are a few lifestyle changes you can immediately apply to minimize your long-term hair greying:
- Up your antioxidant intake – an antioxidant-rich diet will automatically reduce the oxidative stress suffered by your hair. Foods that are rich in antioxidants include fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, natural oils, as well as green tea.
- Quit smoking – not only will you be stopping the lack of blood flow to your hair, but your entire body will thank you in turn. Once you’ve kicked tobacco, try your best to avoid passive smoking as well, as it can be just as damaging to your body as active smoking.
- Reduce surrounding stress – if you find that you are too stressed more often than not, find a way to take a break, give yourself regular self-care days, and find hobbies that are relaxing. You will see improvements all around in no time!
Life in Shades of Grey
To wrap up – if your greying hair is caused by genetics, there really isn’t much you can do about it. It’s a natural course of life, and you can find ways to work around it – either by embracing a silvery hairdo or, if you really want that vibrant color back, to get it regularly dyed at your local salon.
However, if there are external factors causing it, like the ones we’ve mentioned above, you have to identify the root cause and treat it accordingly.
Finally, a medical check-up is always recommended, as there is no person more qualified to diagnose your problems and give you the right treatment than a medical specialist.
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