While grey hair is a completely natural sign of aging, it’s not uncommon to sometimes see the occasional white or grey hair when you’re younger, too.
If you’re wondering what causes hair to turn grey and if there’s anything you can do to prevent it, read on
First things first, why does hair go grey?
We all know that the older you get, the more likely your hair is to lose its natural hue and turn grey. This is all down to the hair follicles on your scalp which are responsible for growing new hairs. They contain pigmentation cells (also known as melanin) which are what give your hair its natural colour.
As we age, our cells don’t regenerate as quickly or as often as they do when we’re young. This can cause some hair follicles to produce hair that has less melanin and, therefore, make it appear grey or white.
What are the key causes of grey hair?
Beyond aging, there are a few other things which can make your hair turn grey prematurely.
Like many other health issues, sometimes premature greying is simply down to your genetics. Your parents’ own experiences of going grey are usually good indicators of when you might start to see some grey hairs appearing on your own head. Additionally, ethnicity can be a factor; in general, Caucasians tends to go grey earlier than Asians or African Americans.
What we eat can directly impact many things around our body – and this includes our hair. Having not enough of one type of food could mean you’re deficient in a certain nutrient (such as vitamin B12 or omega-3) or aren’t getting enough protein. All of these things are vital for maintaining strong and healthy hair follicles.
This may seem like a cliché, but there is some evidence to suggest that leading a stressful, busy life can make your hair go grey much quicker.
Researchers believe stress could have something to do with cortisol, a hormone that’s usually produced when your body is put under pressure. Others think it may be directly related to the central nervous system and how it’s able to deplete the pigmentation cells in your hair follicles when you’re stressed.
While colouring your hair can be a natural response to covering up a few greys, the chemicals present in most products can actually do irreversible damage to your hair and its colour. Colourants typically contain things like ammonia or bleach.
These ingredients are designed to strip your hair of its melanin and can make your mane look duller and greyer when you decide to stop dyeing it.
An underlying health issue
In rare cases – and particularly if you’re young – grey hair can be a sign of a health condition such as diabetes or a thyroid issue. If you notice your hair turning grey and cannot explain it away by any of the things above (or you have other potential symptoms), make an appointment with your GP.
Can you prevent grey hair?
It’s inevitable that your hair will start to go grey as you get older. If you’re worried about premature greying though, there are a few things you can do to help prevent it:
- Eat a well-rounded diet packed with protein and essential vitamins
- Avoid using chemical hair dyes and switch to natural dyes like henna if you do want to continue colouring your hair
- Keep stress to a minimum by changing your lifestyle and doing calming activities like yoga or meditation
Before taking any additional vitamins or minerals, it’s best to make sure you’re getting all the right nutrients through your diet first. If you have a deficiency which requires you to take a supplement, talk to a medical professional, particularly if you’re pregnant or have an existing health condition.
Last updated: 24 March 2020