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What Causes White Hair at Early Age? The Science of Premature Greying


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Finding strands of white hair on your hair can be quite scary as it is usually seen as a sign of ageing. But fear not! As it doesn’t necessarily indicate any onset of health issues. A lot of factors such as stress, exposure to UV Rays, smoking, thyroid, disorders, and mainly genetics aside from ageing are some causes of white hair which can be one of the reasons you have them. Also, The pigment cells in your hair follicles called melanin are responsible for the colouring of your hair; hence, depletion of melanin can turn your hair grey. 

In this article, you will get to know the science behind having white hair in young age, the reasons, causes, treatments, and more. So stay with us and learn everything you need to know!

Factors Causing White Hair at Early Age

Even though grey Hair is simply believed to be a result of ageing or maybe genetics, many other reasons can cause white hair as well, Let’s look into some of them:

1. Genetic Factors

If you are someone in your teens or twenties and find white strands of hair, then it is highly possible that maybe your family members must have had it around that age too. The gene that influences the hair to turn grey at a particular age is the IRF4 gene. 

What is IRF4 Gene? 

The IRF4 gene is a key regulator of melanin production and significantly influences when hair turns grey. It works with the MITF gene to control melanocyte function and melanin synthesis, with the rs12203592 variant linked to earlier greying. IRF4's role involves managing oxidative stress and cellular ageing, contributing to the decline in melanin production as we age. Understanding IRF4's mechanisms offers insights into aging, potential anti-greying treatments, and personalized medicine approaches


2. Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies can lead to having grey hair. Key nutrients such as Vitamin B12, iron, copper, and zinc play a crucial role in maintaining hair pigmentation. Deficiency in any of these nutrients can be a reason for white hair.

Here are certain foods that you can include in your diet to prevent Nutritional deficiencies in hair: 

Nutrient

Role in Hair Pigmentation

Key Foods

Vitamin B12

Red blood cell and DNA production

Meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, fortified cereals

Iron

Oxygen transport and hemoglobin formation

Red meat, spinach, lentils, chickpeas, tofu

Copper

Melanin production via enzyme activation

Nuts, seeds, whole grains, dark chocolate

Zinc

Cell division, growth, and follicle health

Meat, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy products



Also read: Vitamin Deficiencies that Cause White hair how to Prevent them

 

3. Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases cause our immune system to mistakenly attack our healthy cells instead of harmful cells. Diseases like alopecia areata and vitiligo might affect the formation of melanin and cause greying in hair. 
  • Alopecia Areata, the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair to fall out and often regrow without pigment. 
  • Vitiligo involves the immune system destroying melanocytes, resulting in white patches of skin and hair.

4. Smoking

Smoking is contagious! And it stands true for your hair health as well. It is a well-known fact that smoking mainly damages the lungs and heart. Along with that, it's observed in many cases that people who smoke at an early age have a higher possibility of developing white hair. 

This happens because nicotine causes blood vessels to become narrower, reducing blood flow to the hair follicles and causing hair whitening.


5. Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid hormones T3 & T4 help in the production of melanin and are essential for regulating your metabolism, and imbalances in them can affect hair pigmentation. Whether it's hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), these conditions can disrupt melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin, which can lead to premature greying. Maintaining a healthy thyroid is key to keeping your natural hair color.

Also read: How to Stop Hair Fall due to Thyroid Naturally
 

6. Excessive Stress

We all deal with stress in our daily lives, but chronic stress can lead to some problems, including premature greying of hair. Excessive stress releases Cortisol and Noradrenaline which can cause stem cell depletion, which hinders the growth of melanin, the pigment responsible for hair color. 


Some symptoms to determine if you have chronic stress are:

  • Low energy
  • Irregular Appetite 
  • Irregular sleeping pattern
  • Frequent body aches
These are a few of the symptoms and if they feel familiar to you then don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional.


7. Exposure to UV Rays

Exposure to UV Rays means that being under the sun for a long time without any protection can cause the free radicals from the rays to affect the melanin in the hair. 

These rays can harm the hair follicles, especially the hair pigment. One must always remember to cover one's hair with a cap or scarf when the sun is out and bright over one’s head. 


8. Overusing Chemical Products

We use shampoos and conditioners regularly to wash our hair, but trying different products that are chemically heavy can cause the melanin to disrupt its functioning which results in grey hair.

Over time, the cumulative effect of these chemicals can weaken hair structure and impair its natural pigmentation process. To minimize this risk, consider using gentler, natural hair care products and limiting the use of chemical treatments.


Is it Possible to Reverse Premature Greying in Hair (PGH)? 

 

Reversing Premature Greying in Hair can be possible depending on the cause of which affected it. 

  • If genes or ageing are the causes behind grey hair then reversal may not be possible. However, some treatments can slow down the process. 
  • If the reason for white hair is by any nutritional deficiency then the process of hair turning grey can be slowed down by increasing the intake of those nutrients in your diet or by taking supplements. Eg: Vitamin B12 for supplements and foods for iron, zinc, etc.
  • If you are going through Vitiligo or alopecia areata, it becomes crucial to concentrate on treating the underlying illnesses. These disorders can have an impact on the pigmentation and general health of hair, requiring specialized medical care and management techniques.


Preventive Measures to Slow Down Premature Greying in Hair

Now that we know what the causes of white hair are and to what extent treatment can be possible, let’s look into ways in which we can ensure our hair health and prevent having white hair. 

 

1. Make Changes to Your Diet 

Your diet plays a huge role in maintaining your overall health. Just like that, to ensure good hair health you must definitely add these nutrients to your diet: Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, Zinc, Copper, and Iron. Identify which of these nutrients are deficient in your system and try adding those to your diet.


 

Also read: Best foods for Hair Growth


2. Practice Stress Management 

Practicing Stress Management Activities can help slow down Premature Greying in Hair. Exercises like Yoga, running, lifting, journaling, walking, and even listening to calm music can help you relieve stress. 

Here is an ayurvedic supplement from Traya, Calm Ras which is A herbal supplement with Jatamansi and Ashwagandha for mental well-being and helps in elevating stress and anxiety. 

3. Ayurvedic Remedies 

Ayurvedic Medicines and remedies are by far considered the most natural ways of curing health-related problems without any side effects. Here are some herbs that you can certainly include in your daily routine to prevent having white hair. 

 

 

Ashwagandha 


Having powdered Ashwagandha with warm water in the morning or at any time of the day helps in reducing stress which is directly linked to premature greying in hair. You can make a hair mask, drink it with warm water, or even have pure supplements of it to see the results. 

Also read:  Ashwagandha for Grey Hair 

Shatavari


Shatavari also known as the “Queen of Herbs” is an Ayurvedic herb that has many benefits including the prevention of premature greying in hair. Shatavari is rich in antioxidants which helps in reducing oxidative stress.

Bhringraj


Bhringraj, often called the "king of herbs" for hair care, is highly regarded in Ayurveda for promoting hair growth and maintaining natural hair color. It nourishes the scalp, strengthens hair roots, and enhances melanin production. Using bhringraj oil or incorporating bhringraj powder in hair treatments can help prevent premature greying and improve hair texture.

Aloe Vera


Aloe vera can help reduce premature greying by nourishing the scalp with essential vitamins and promoting melanin production. Its moisturizing properties keep hair hydrated, while its antioxidants protect against oxidative stress. Additionally, aloe vera balances scalp pH and reduces inflammation, ensuring a healthy environment for hair growth and maintaining natural hair color.

Use Amla, Curry Leaves, and Methi Hair Oil


Amla is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, which are essential for healthy hair pigmentation. Curry leaves contain beta-carotene and proteins that strengthen hair shafts and maintain natural hair color. Methi (fenugreek) seeds are rich in nicotinic acid and proteins, which nourish the hair and prevent premature greying. Combining these ingredients in a hair oil can deeply nourish the scalp, promote hair growth, and preserve natural hair color.

How to Mix the Oil?

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons dried amla powder

  • 10-15 fresh curry leaves

  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek (methi) seeds

  • 1 cup coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. Warm 1 cup of coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat.

  2. Add 2 tablespoons of dried amla powder, 10-15 curry leaves, and 1 tablespoon of fenugreek seeds to the warm oil.

  3. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. Turn off the heat, allow the oil to cool, and then strain it into a clean glass jar or bottle.

  5. Store in a cool, dark place and massage into the scalp once or twice a week, leaving it on for at least an hour before washing.

Also read: Stop Grey Hair Using Ayurveda

 

4. Use Gentle Hair Products

Hair products like shampoos, hair masks, and conditioners are used regularly to keep our hair clean. But with hygiene, we must also consider the fact of how much we are exposed to chemicals and how they can affect us in various ways. 

It is always advisable to use gentle hair products with the least amount of chemicals to wash your hair. Doing this can help prevent harmful chemicals from entering into the hair follicles and hinder the functioning of melanin.

Suggested Hair Treatment and Medication

Here are some medication and treatment plans that can help you slow down premature greying in hair: 

1. Minoxidil

  • How it Helps: Minoxidil is widely recognized for its ability to stimulate hair growth by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles. While it is primarily used for hair loss, it can also help maintain hair pigmentation by supporting the overall health of hair follicles.

  • Usage: Apply Minoxidil to your scalp after consulting with your hair care specialist. Usually, it is advisable to use it twice a day for 6 months but the period of usage and dosage vary from person to person so only start using it once consulted. 

Also read: Redensyl vs minoxidil which one is better? 

 

2. Vitamin B12 Supplements 

  • How it Helps: Vitamin B12 is crucial for the production of red blood cells and melanin, the pigment responsible for hair color. A deficiency in B12 can lead to premature greying.

  • Usage: Incorporate Vitamin B12 supplements into your daily routine, especially if you have a known deficiency. Foods rich in B12, like meat, fish, and dairy, can also be beneficial.


3. Biotin

  • How it Helps: Biotin, also known as Vitamin H, supports the production of keratin, a key protein in hair. This helps in maintaining hair strength and health, which can contribute to reducing premature greying.

  • Usage: Take biotin supplements daily, or consume biotin-rich foods such as eggs, nuts, and whole grains.


4. Traya’s Holistic Treatment Plan

  • How it Helps: Traya's holistic approach combines dietary adjustments, herbal supplements, and personalized topical treatments to address the root causes of premature greying. Their plan is tailored to your specific needs, focusing on overall health and well-being.

  • Usage: Follow the customized plan provided by Traya, which may include dietary changes, herbal supplements like ashwagandha and bhringraj, and specialized hair oils.

Take Traya’s Free Hair Test and get your personalized hair care plan made by our experienced hair care professionals. 


Key Takeaways

  • Genetic factors, such as the IRF4 gene, play a significant role in determining when hair starts to grey, often showing patterns seen in family members.

  • Nutritional deficiencies in Vitamin B12, iron, copper, and zinc can lead to grey hair due to their role in melanin production and hair health.

  • Autoimmune diseases like alopecia areata and vitiligo disrupt melanin production, resulting in premature greying of hair and sometimes patches of white hair on the scalp.

  • Smoking and thyroid disorders can accelerate hair greying due to their impact on blood flow to the hair follicles and hormone imbalances affecting melanin production.

  • Excessive stress triggers the release of hormones like cortisol, which can deplete melanocyte stem cells responsible for hair pigmentation, leading to premature greying.

  • UV ray exposure causes oxidative stress on the hair follicles, which can damage melanin production and accelerate the greying process.

  • Overuse of chemical hair products, such as harsh shampoos and dyes, can damage hair follicles and disrupt melanin production, leading to premature greying.

  • Treatment options include managing underlying conditions like thyroid disorders, supplementing with vitamins crucial for hair health, and adopting stress management techniques to slow down premature greying.

  • Ayurvedic remedies like ashwagandha and bhringraj are known for their antioxidant properties and ability to nourish hair follicles, helping to maintain natural hair color and health.

People Also Ask

Q. Why is my hair turning white at 18 ?

It can happen due to many factors such as stress, exposure to UV Rays, smoking, thyroid, disorders, and mainly genetics aside from ageing are some causes of white hair which can be one of the reasons you have them. Also, The pigment cells in your hair follicles called melanin are responsible for the colouring of your hair; hence, depletion of melanin can turn your hair grey. 

Q. Can white hair turn black again?

It depends on what caused the white hair. If your hair has turned grey due to lack of nutrition, thyroid, or stress then premature greying in hair can be slowed down. But if factors like genes, ageing, or exposure to the sun are at play then it is mostly not possible.

Q. Is white hair caused by stress?

Yes, Stress is one of the factors through which melanin production in hair can decrease. Excessive stress releases Cortisol and Noradrenaline which can cause stem cell depletion, which hinders the growth of melanin, the pigment responsible for hair color. 

Q. Does white hair mean unhealthy?

White hair does not really indicate poor health. It's a natural part of ageing influenced by genetics and other factors like stress or nutritional deficiencies. While it can be shocking, especially when premature, it's not necessarily a sign of underlying health issues.

Q. What foods prevent white hair?

To support hair pigmentation and slow down greying, include foods rich in Vitamin B12 (like meat and dairy), iron (found in spinach and lentils), copper (nuts and seeds), and zinc (found in meat and legumes) in your diet. These nutrients play crucial roles in melanin production, helping to maintain natural hair color.



REFERENCES

Anagha Bangalore Kumar, Huma Shamim, and Umashankar Nagaraju | September 2018 | Premature Graying of Hair: Review with Updates - PMC - NCBI|

https://bit.ly/4ew5uNg 

Swagata Chakrabarty, Prafulla G Krishnappa, Dinesh G Gowda, and Jyothi Hiremath | January 2016 | Factors Associated with Premature Hair Graying in a Young Indian Population |

https://bit.ly/3VP2UdW 

 Sarah Taylor, M.D., FAAD and Valencia Higuera | April 2023 | White Hair: Causes and Prevention - Healthline |
https://bit.ly/3xkLLj9







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Dr. Kalyani Deshmukh, M.D.

Dermatologist

Dr. Deshmukh is an MD (Dermatology, Venerology, and Leprosy) with more than 4 years of experience. She successfully runs her own practice and believes that a personalized service maximizes customer satisfaction.

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