Gray hairs—either you love ’em, hate ’em or feel indifferent about the good-for-nothing ghoulish ghost hairs. If you’re looking for colorist-approved gray hair coverage formulas and natural remedies, read this. If, on the other hand, you’re curious as to why gray hairs are merciless, menacing, yet mean no harm, keep reading.
According to a Harvard article, stress doesn’t actually turn hair gray. Hair doesn’t “turn” gray at all. The color of hair is determined once a hair follicle produces hair. For example, if a strand starts out blonde, it’s never going to “turn” gray. As we age, hair follicles produce less color which means hair is more likely to grow in as gray after repeated natural cycles of death and regeneration.
So if stress doesn’t turn hair gray then what’s responsible for the unwanted snowflake-colored strands? Well, the answer is tricky. Harvard’s Dr. Robert Shmerling says, “While being under stress can’t turn your hair gray, stress can trigger a common condition called telogen effluvium, which causes hair to shed at about three times faster than normal. The hair grows back, so the condition doesn’t cause balding. But if you’re middle-aged and your hair is falling out and regenerating more quickly because of stress, it’s possible that the hair that grows in will be gray instead of its original color.” Makes sense. But other underlying issues could be at play for the gray. In fact, sometimes graying hairs can indicate a vitamin B-12 deficiency or thyroid disease. Load up on these B-12-rich foods to combat premature graying.
Still, it’s important to keep in mind that genetics are also responsible for what age you start experiencing gray hair. According to a study published in Nature Communications, the gene that causes gray hair—IRF4—is tasked with regulating and producing melanin, the pigment that gives hair its color. When the body starts producing less melanin, gray hair happens. The fate of the body’s melanin production, however, lies entirely in genetics.