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Does Stress Really Cause Gray Hair?

We have yet to see a president exit office with any color to his hair except one- gray. Why this quickened gray process? Rumor has it that high stress situations result in nothing less than a change in hair pigment to a somewhat dreaded shade of gray.

According to Scientific American, the first silver tresses appear around ages 30-35. Graying begins in the "pits" of that hair- or the follicle. In this area, is where the color formation (melanin) takes place as well. Once the follicle runs out of melanin, the new strand that grows in its place will be gray.

gray hair follicle

With the basics of hair growth in mind, scientists have tracked stress levels with the graying of hair. Unfortunately, it is no easy feat since levels of stress vary in kind and strength. Not to mention, there are several alternative causes of gray hair.

One theory suggests that gray hair is actually embedded into a person's DNA. This meaning, you will gray around the same time as previous members of your family line- if at all.


However, the clearest answer we have regarding stress comes from Scientific American: "'There is evidence that local expression of stress hormones mediate the signals instructing melanocytes to deliver melanin to keratinocytes,' notes Jennifer Lin, a dermatologist who conducts molecular biology research at the Dana-Farber / Harvard Cancer Center in Boston. 'Conceivably, if that signal is disrupted, melanin will not deliver pigment to your hair.'"

Another explanation involves cells. Cells come in contact with about 100,000 stressors a day. This results in damage to the cells that aide in hair growth. As a result, hindering or haulting the pigmentation of hair.


Want to avoid stress related graying hair? The best options in order to minimize and manage stress are yoga and meditation.

MORE: hair pigment, gray hair, going gray, cells