Does Stress Cause Gray hair in Children, Teenagers, and Adults?

Today, many people talking about the link between stress and gray hair. Even some people believe that stress not only trigger and cause gray hair in adults (especially for elderly people) but also in teenagers or even in children! Are these opinions only a myth or a fact? What else you should know? Let’s explore more these issues on this section!

How does gray hair occur?

Hair has a special pigment that medically called melanin. It is very crucial substance to determine the color of the hair follicles. And as you age, the production of this pigment in the follicles also decreases gradually – this is perfectly normal. In other words, your chance of having gray or white hair increase as you age!

A research in 2009 published on The FASEB Journal found that gray hair may occur due to the combination of chemical reaction that triggers hair to whiten itself from the inside out.

The process begins when the production of enzyme called catalase decreases gradually. The decreased of this enzyme can trigger the high accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair. This can increase the chance of developing gray hair.

The possible causes of gray hair in children and teenagers

In general, gray hair is a symbol of natural aging – but did you know that teens or even children can experience it? Theoretically children and teenagers are less likely to have gray or white hair. But in fact, there are few individuals of these age groups experience this kind of hair.

Fortunately, some cases of gray hair in teenagers and children are usually temporary (not permanent). The good news, most teens /children with it are healthy. Nevertheless, sometime it may point to certain health conditions.

There are some possible reasons for why either teenagers or children can have this kind of hair – and the following are some of these reasons:

Poor dietary intake

When it comes to providing the best nutrients for the health of hair, vitamin B12 may be the most essential nutrient. Some studies found that poor diet in vitamin B12 may have a significant contribution to trigger the growth of gray hair in teens and children.

This kind of vitamin is not too difficult to be found in foods that you eat. You can choose a wide variety of healthy meats for your high source of vitamin B12 in your diet. Seafood, egg, and some dairy products are also pretty high in vitamin B12.

However, poor diet in vitamin B12 is not the single cause in causing vitamin B12 deficiency. There are also other health conditions that can lead to hypocobalaminemia (a medical term used to call vitamin B12 deficiency). For instance, you can have it after taking a surgery of small bowel or stomach.

Furthermore if you have a health problem of small bowel, you are also at greater chance of developing hypocobalaminemia. Hypocobalaminemia can be diagnosed through a specific blood test administered by a doctor.

Inheritance /genetic

Some experts believe that genetics may have a significant contribution to trigger gray /white hair earlier than usual. This is reasonable since some statistics show that certain ethnic groups have it earlier than others. For example, Caucasian is more likely to go gray earlier than Asian.

In general, the graying hair tends to occur for the first time after the age of 30s. But if it occurs too early (in premature condition), it may point a family history of the same condition.

This kind of genetically premature graying can be a full head or only a few scattered hairs.

Certain illness /disorder

Although most cases of premature graying hair occur in healthy individuals, but it may also be a sign of certain medical condition such as alopecia areata and Werner’s syndrome.

While alopecia areata is often associated with hair loss, Werner’s syndrome is often found together in symptoms of aging such as gray /white hair. But sometime both health conditions are also associated with premature graying hair.

Additionally, health problems such as thyroid disorders and disorders of skin pigmentation, others that affect the production of melanin can be potential to lead to premature graying hairs – particularly true if they are left untreated.

The most common reasons of gray hair in adults (elderly people)

Gray /white hair in adults (especially in elderly people) is perfectly normal. But sometime it can be triggered by certain abnormal conditions, because in fact not all elderly people experience it.

Natural cause

When it comes to the natural cause of gray /white hair, again aging is on the top list. As written before, your risk of having it increases as you get older, because the production of melanin decreases naturally as you age. About more than 60 percent cases of gray hair occur in people older than 35 years of old, according to a journal published on Science Direct.

gray_hair_and_stress_illustrationMoreover, early menopause may play a key role. Extremely changes of hormone  in menopause may significantly affect the production of enzymes that have crucial function to help determine the pigment of the hair.

In addition, in the mechanism of hair growth and hair cell development, the hydrogen peroxide also occurs naturally along with that mechanism. But over time, the hydrogen peroxide breakdown tends to slow down – this means there will be more accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in hair as you age.

Non-natural causes

In a few cases, gray /white hair in elderly people (particularly if it comes too early) is not a part of normal aging. The following are pieces of helpful information about this issue:

  1. Genetics! If compared between Africans, Asians, and Caucasians – Caucasians are more likely to have gray hair earlier than Asians. And Asians tend to have it earlier than Africans, according to a Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings. It’s unclear whether father’s side has more contribution than mother’s side or vice versa, but experts believe that having a family history of premature graying hair can increase the risk of developing the same problem.
  2. Other possible causes are nutrient deficiency (especially lack of vitamin B12) and certain skin disorders (such as vitiligo and Waardenburg syndrome – particularly true if they occur along with problems of thyroid).

Additionally, some studies found that cigarette smoking may also have contribution. However, this conclusion is still debatable. In fact, there are much more smokers who don’t experience premature graying hair than those who do.

How about with stress? Does it cause gray hair?

Many people believe that stress can trigger and even cause gray /white hair. But in fact, the connection of both conditions is still not fully understood. If stress does have an effect, experts believe that it doesn’t work alone!

There are numerous studies and researches have learned the link of both conditions. But unfortunately, none that can provide the clearly answer. While some studies confirm that stress may cause gray hair, others don’t show the same result. In essence, the link of both conditions is still debatable.