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

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Broadly speaking, there may be a connection between stress and gray hair. Is this true? Well, the answer is not as easy as you thought since gray hair can occur for several reasons. Interestingly, while grey hair is more common in adults, it might also affect children and teenagers in a few cases.

How does gray hair occur?

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

A research in 2009 published on The FASEB Journal found that gray hair may occur due to certain chemical reactions that trigger the hair to whiten itself from the inside out [1].

The process begins when the production of enzyme called catalase decreases gradually. The decreased of this enzyme may trigger the high accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair, making gray hair more likely.

What causes 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 may also experience it? Theoretically, children and teenagers are less likely to have the change.

Fortunately, many times gray hair in teenagers and children are usually temporary (not permanent). In such case, the change is less likely associated with certain medical condition.

Poor dietary intake

When it comes to providing the best nutrients for your hair health, vitamin B12 is probably what you’re looking for. Lack of vitamin B12 might have a role to cause gray hair [2].

B12 vitamin deficiency is quite rare, because this vitamin is easy to be found in foods (e.g. seafood, egg, and dairy products).

But certain conditions may make the deficiency more likely. For instance, you can have this deficiency after a surgery affecting your stomach and intestines.

Genetics

Some experts believe that genetics may have a significant contribution to trigger gray /white hair earlier than usual. Statistics show that certain ethnic groups would have the change earlier than others. For example, Caucasian is more likely to go gray earlier than Asian [3].

In general, the change is likely to appear for the first time after the age of 30s. But if it occurs too early (premature), a family history of gray hair may have a role.

Certain illness /disorder

Although most cases of premature graying hair occur in healthy individuals, it could also be a sign of certain conditions such as alopecia areata and Werner’s syndrome. Also, health problems such as thyroid disorders and problems of skin pigmentation, or anything else affecting the production of melanin would also increase the risk.

Common reasons of gray hair in adults

Gray /white hair in adults (especially in elderly people) is perfectly normal. But sometimes it could also be caused by certain conditions.

When is it considered as normal aging? As written before, the risk increases as you get older, because the production of melanin decreases naturally in time.

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.

Moreover, early menopause may play a role. Extremely changes of hormone  in menopause may significantly affect the production of enzymes that have to do with hair pigment.

In addition, in the mechanism of hair growth, the hydrogen peroxide also occurs naturally along with that mechanism. But unfortunately the hydrogen peroxide breakdown tends to decrease gradually with age. As a result, you’re also likely to have more hydrogen peroxides as you age.

When is it considered as a consequence of unnatural things? In a few cases, gray /white hair in adults (particularly if it comes too early) would not be a part of normal aging. In such case, the following are pieces of helpful information:

  1. Genetics! 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 increases the risk.
  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, it seems cigarette smoking might also make gray hair more likely, though this finding is still debatable. In fact, there are also a lot of smokers who don’t experience premature graying hair.

How about stress?

Many people believe that stress has a role to trigger gray /white hairs. Unfortunately, there is still no cut answer on this. If stress does have an effect, experts believe that it doesn’t work alone!

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