Premature grey hair is a dilemma that can be experienced by some individuals early in their 20’s and 30’s. While getting a few strands of greys in your 20s is not quite unusual, others do tend to be more bothered by it. Some young people grow a whole clump of greys, while some might even grow a full-on head of grey and white hair.
As we all know, grey hair is often associated with aging. And for some young person, who is still very much conscious about their physical appearance, having grey hair can be both a shock and a cause of frustration. It can even lead to serious socio-emotional effects such as lack of confidence and self-consciousness.
Sometimes called steely, salt-and-pepper or silver hair, the exact cause of premature greying is still not known but various research points out that genetics, race, stress, smoking and environmental factors do play a considerable role.
Is it possible for individuals prone to graying hair to prevent or even reverse this occurrence? Is there a specific nutritional diet, supplement or topical solutions to greying hair?
Causes of Grey Hair
Premature graying of the hair, also called canities, can be due to many reasons. Scientists believe that a large factor for people having premature grey hair has a lot to do with genes. While many believe it may be due to stress, there have been no studies to prove it to be so. Individuals having grey hair in their 20’s and early 30’s are considered to be experiencing ‘premature’ graying.
Studies have shown that a person’s race and ethnicity can become a factor for premature greying of hair. White people are more prone to having grey hair, usually in their mid 30’s. Asians usually start having grey hair late in their 30’s while African-Americans might begin to have it in their mid-40’s. But generally, you are considered to be undergoing ‘premature’ greying when you get it early on in your 20s no matter what your race is.
Premature grey hair can be due to underlying health problems. There are some genetic and autoimmune conditions that can be directly linked to poor production of melanin in the hair follicles. This includes possible issues with the thyroid, pituitary glands, vitiligo, or anemia.
According to a 2008 research on the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, insufficient or excessive levels of thyroid hormones have a direct effect on the production of melanin pigment in the hair follicles. This means that those suffering from thyroid problems may likely experience having a few gray hairs.
Autoimmune disorders such as vitiligo, a skin and hair-related disorder that causes hyper-pigmentation, can also cause premature graying of hair because the cells responsible for producing the pigment is being attacked.
- Nutritional deficiencies
Greying hair can also be linked to the body’s deficiency in vitamin B12, the amino acid phenylalanine and lack of protein-rich food in the diet. This however, can be reversed when the medical problem is addressed accordingly.
There is yet to be concrete medical research done on the relation between smoking and premature graying. However, a preliminary 2013 NCBI study revealed that a significant number of smokers showed signs of graying hair before the age of 30, as compared to non-smokers. Further studies need to be done to understand the direct relation of smoking and greying hair.
Experiencing high levels of stress will not cause you to have grey hair, as many seem to believe, but it can surely cause your hair to fall out. And when the hair grows back after several months, the pigment may not be as dark as it used to and it can eventually turn grey. This means that stress is just a contributing factor but not necessarily a direct cause for premature graying of hair.
Grey hair occurs when the cells in the hair follicles stop producing melanin. For some people, melanocytes (color-producing cells) begin to slow down the production of melanin (pigment that provides color) hence turning their hair white. When the hair follicles are not getting enough melanin that provides its natural color, it turns into dry and brittle grey hair. As the body ages, it can also produce naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide that bleaches the hair, turning its color to grey or white.
According to a July 2017 article by Sharon Griffin in Livestrong.com, melanin production can be increased to restore the vitality and natural color of the hair. This can be done by adding more protein and seafood to the daily diet as well as living a stress-free lifestyle.
Can It Be Reversed?
Unfortunately, plucking out those grey hairs won’t keep it from coming back. It is also just a myth that when you pluck one out, several more will grow back.
First of all, greying hair is not a sign of a serious physical or medical problem. It is more of an aesthetic dilemma for most people who have it. Avoiding the causes of premature graying mentioned earlier in the article can also contribute to reversing the premature greying of hair. This includes increasing your intake of protein rich foods, supplementing the body with vitamin b12, and avoiding high levels of stress and smoking. But here are more specific solutions that can be explored.
- Topical solution
Scientists may have found a way to reverse graying hair without using dyes or surgery. A research published in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal reveals that graying hair may soon be cured using a newly developed sun-activated compound.
A group of scientists from the Netherlands and Germany is working on a topical solution that may help reverse the inside-out bleaching of hair. The sunlight-activated compound works through the ‘modified pseudocatalase’ which stops the process of graying hair. It is said to be the same topical solution that also works for those suffering from hyper-pigmentation of the skin such as seen in the skin condition vitiligo.
The said topical solution is yet to be released in the market. However, scientists are certainly excited about the fact that there is now a potential solution that gets to the root of the problem and could also improve the quality of life for those suffering from low levels of confidence due to hair and skin pigmentation issues.
Studies done by David Satchell, a Holistic Trichologist, claims that supplementing with the antioxidant resveratrol and enzymes protease, amylase and lipase can help reverse the onset of grey hair naturally. He claims that many of his clients who took the recommended dosage for the supplements has shown improvement in regaining their natural hair color.
Another research found that the decline in catalase enzyme production is the main culprit for graying hair. Without catalase, the hair follicles do not produce melanin, which gives the hair its natural color.
The hair also produces small amounts of hydrogen peroxide. The catalase is what converts this hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water. Without it, the hair follicles start producing too much hydrogen peroxide, thereby bleaching the hair from inside-out and drying it out.
There are supplements available to replace the lost catalase. The problem is that it is digested too fast by the body—long before it even reaches the parts where it is needed. Another alternative way is to simply help the body produce enough catalase by increasing intake of copper, zinc, selenium and manganese. These can be taken as vitamin and mineral supplements or in food rich in such building blocks.
- Coconut oil
It seems like coconut oil does more than just make the hair follicles soft and shiny, it also helps reverse greying hair. The caprylic acids found in coconut oil are powerful disinfectants and mini antioxidants that can deeply penetrate into the hair shafts. For a more effective therapy treatment, apply the coconut oil in the hair and leave it on for 15 to 30 minutes before washing it out. For a more intense treatment, massage into hair and scalp, wrap in a towel and leave on overnight. Coconut oil also addresses other hair and scalp issues such as balding, dandruff and even removing lice.
Amla is known in the Ayurvedic circles as a super food for the hair. The amla fruit is a powerful source of vitamin C and antioxidants that rejuvenates the body and conditions the skin and the hair. Amla is said to strengthen the hair follicles and fight the free radicals that causes the greying of hair. Amla is also used as a component of natural hair dyes. It helps renew the hair’s pigmentation making it darker and the hair looking thicker.
How To Avoid Grey Hair
It seems that there is no real way to avoid grey hair. Genetically, people are predisposed to acquire it as part of aging. Premature graying however, can be avoided by eating more protein-rich foods, seafood, enzyme supplements, and taking more Vitamin B12.
Some individuals who are already experiencing premature greying can resort to hair products to hide or conceal the gray spots. There are many coloring techniques to consider, from full color coverage to highlights. Others however, choose to embrace their natural ‘salt and pepper’ look and just wear it with style and confidence. There are plenty of people who actually manage to look cooler and more youthful by simply turning what is often seen as a flaw into a more interesting aesthetic feature about themselves.
While it is important to address socio-emotional stress and anxieties related to premature greying hair, it is also important to look into any possible health issues associated with it. As we’ve said, there might be underlying health concerns that need to be addresses—but once you’ve been cleared of that, go ahead and style your locks however you wish!