Can gray hair come out from suffering stress?
May 26, 2023
Gray hair and its premature appearance can be a reason for insecurity or shame. Stress seems to have a direct link to them; In this article we go into depth on the subject.
We tend to associate gray hair with old age and to understand this as its only cause. In addition to genetics, questions have been raised about whether the speed with which hair turns gray may be related to stress and the ways in which we experience it in a prolonged way in the time.
Legends and myths have spoken of the influence of stress on the appearance of gray hair for centuries. It is said that, during the French Revolution, when Marie Antoinette was seized to be guillotined, her hair gradually began to be white, until the night before her death, it had lost its color for complete.
How are gray hair and stress related? Does it accelerate the appearance of gray hair? In this article we will discuss the way in which stress influences the appearance of gray hair, whether or not this process is reversible and in what ways it can be prevented.
Why do gray hairs appear?
Without going into whether gray hairs are caused by stress yet, let's briefly comment on the appearance of gray hair in general. At our birth, the color of our hair is determined, in addition to genetics, by the menina; pigments that occur naturally in our skin. There are two types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin, and depending on the proportions in which they occur in our skin, one color or another will be determined in our hair.
When, normally over time, the cells of our skin and hair follicles stop producing melanin, the color of our hair changes and that is when it turns grey; the gray hairs come out As mentioned, this process usually occurs when we get older. However, many people can start to go gray before old age, and there are a whole host of factors involved to consider.
What influences gray hair?
Some factors that can cause or accelerate the appearance of gray hair are:
The genetics it always has an effect on every physical feature of our body. Therefore, it has an important role in determining the appearance of premature gray hair. If you have relatives who experienced premature graying, we advise you to take this as an indicator that increases the probability that it will also happen to you.
A sedentary lifestyle, with bad eating habits and with a habitual consumption of tobacco, alcohol or other addictive substances, can accelerate aging, leading to the premature appearance of gray hair. There are different studies that show that gray hair appears two to three times more likely in smokers than in non-smokers.
Different diseases or medical conditions can lead to the premature appearance of gray hair. Between them, the most common are diseases related to immunodeficiency, lack of vitamin B12 (closely related to maintaining a balanced diet) and thyroid dysfunction. In these cases, we always recommend that you put yourself in the hands of professionals and that you always focus on solving your health problems and not so much on the appearance of gray hair.
Finally, the factor we will focus on is stress. Experiencing too much stress and for a long time can lead to the appearance of gray hair at earlier ages than is considered normal. As we will analyze below, stress is directly related to the acceleration of the aging process.
Why do gray hairs come out due to stress?
Along with studies more focused on the physiology of stress and its effects on our bodies, it has been discovered that stress is closely related to the fight or flight responses. These are physiological responses, in most cases with an unconscious and uncontrollable onset, the result of activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System in the presence of stimuli that generate stress or that pose a danger to the individuals.
Activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System produces physiological reactions such as increased heart rate and dilation of the pulmonary bronchi and pupils, among others. In relation to gray hair, in stressful situations, the reactions of this system produce an overstimulation of the cells that create melanocytes, the melanin-producing cells. This overstimulation ends up causing the melanin-producing stem cells to end up disappearing, with which, their functions end, among which are coloring.
Another process related to stress is the secretion of the hormone norepinephrine as a result of fight or flight responses. The action of this hormone on the body has also been associated with the loss and disappearance of melanin-releasing stem cells. Therefore, the secretion of norepinephrine has been directly related to the appearance of premature gray hair due to stress.
In addition, these studies suggest that gray hairs generated by stress are permanent, they do not disappear over time. When the cells that secrete melanin are diminished or disappeared, the pigments that give color to our hair can no longer be regenerated.
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Can gray hair be prevented?
Yes, there are different things that we can do to prevent the appearance of premature gray hair and delay it. Basically, the ability to manage stress and adopt healthy lifestyles are the main ways to go. Here we propose some attitudes that you can take for this prevention.
1. Maintain a balanced and healthy diet
It is important to include a large amount of fruits and vegetables in our diet, and reduce the appearance of saturated fats and ultra-processed foods. This cannot usually have a positive effect on delaying the appearance of gray hair, but on improving the general physical and emotional state of our body. A correct diet is synonymous with the proper functioning of our body, optimizing its functions and influences on our general well-being to the maximum.
2. adopt healthy habits
Playing sports regularly, avoiding the use of tobacco, alcohol or other substances and establishing healthy routines for oneself are solutions to many problems. Find yourself in situations in which our health and well-being always benefit It will help reduce our stress and better manage emotions.
3. Solar protection
The sun is one of the great enemies of our skin, and over time, the possibility of ultraviolet radiation can cause very serious problems such as skin melanoma. As for hair and hair follicles, unprotected exposure to the sun can lead to hair loss and decrease skin pigmentation. For this reason, we recommend the use of hats and sun protection, in addition to always looking for limits on the time of exposure to the sun.
4. Establish good networks and social supports
Social support is considered one of the main influencing factors in people's emotional and general well-being. Therefore, maintaining contact and relationships with family and friends that are positive for us will always benefit our mental health and will reduce the negative consequences that stress can have, such as the development of white hair.
5. acceptance of old age
If what is producing the stress that worsens the generation of gray hair is the aging process itself, we advise you to start accepting old age. It is counterproductive to feel so concerned about the passage of time and life, because this is something that is beyond our control. Try to find ways to not focus so much on your appearance or the physical effects of old age and try accept the transformation and focus on the good memories that the passage of time leaves behind. If all goes well, we're all going to be old at some point, and most likely our heads will be completely covered in gray by then.
If there is stress, there may be gray hair
In conclusion: yes, gray hair can appear prematurely when we experience stress for a long time. To avoid its appearance, the only thing we can do is take care of the harmful effects of stress; looking for a healthier lifestyle that promotes our emotional, physical and psychological well-being to the maximum, to try to slow down our aging and the action of emotions such as stress on our organism.
Another option that we will always have at hand is to hide gray hair using a dye. If gray hair causes you a lot of discomfort or insecurity, the first thing we can recommend is that you accept yourself and accept old age as a normal process of our life cycle. If you still feel more comfortable using a dye, go ahead! Everyone is free to do what makes them feel better, but be aware that having gray hair should never be a reason for shame; the day will come to all of us.