Premature greying of hair, also known as Canities, can have a negative impact on a person’s appearance, confidence and self-esteem. Hair pigmentation is one of the most unique features in humans ranging from black, brown and blonde to red. The color of human hair is due to the pigment known as Melanin, produced by cells knowns as melanocytes. These are the same cells which are responsible for the pigmentation of our skin. These melanocytes are located in the hair follicle which is basically from where the root of the hair originates. Each hair grows from a single hair follicle. As the strands of the hair grows, melanocytes inject the pigment i.e. melanin into cells containing keratin. Keratin is the protein that makes up our hair, skin and nails. Throughout the year, melanocytes continue to inject pigment into the hair’s keratin, giving it a colorful hue. With age comes a reduction of melanin production. The hair turns grey and eventually white, and this is a natural process. But the problem arises when this reduction in the production of melanin comes early in age due to some other reasons. Let us look at some of the common reasons for premature greying of hair.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Deficiencies of Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Biotin, Vitamin D or Vitamin E can contribute to greying of hair. Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common reasons for premature greying of hair. It is essential for your metabolism, DNA production and overall energy levels. Researchers have found that people experiencing premature greying of hair have Vitamin B12 deficiencies along with folic acid and biotin deficiencies. These vitamins are essential for hair growth as hair follicles, from which the hair develops, are one of the most metabolically active regions of our body. This is because hair follicles produce millions of cells every day which are incorporated in the growing hair. As hair is not a essential organ for our body whenever any deficiency of these vitamins occur, the first sign of deficiency usually appear in the form of greying of hair. Also, other signs include thinning and breakage prone hair. Supplementing these nutrients in patients with premature greying stops hair loss and restores the color of the hair. Lack of certain minerals has also been found to play a major role in premature greying of hair. Many mineral deficiencies can also lead to greying of hair like zinc, calcium, copper and iron deficiency. Supplementation with these trace elements might reverse and prevent the progression of greying of hair.
There are many reasons people experience premature greying of hair. But a lot of times it simply comes down to natural aging and genetics. This means that it just happens because of your family genes. Check when your relatives or parents started having grey hair and see if it matches with your timeline. Researchers have found a gene known as IRF4 that is associated with premature greying of hair. Genetically driven greying of hair cannot be reversed. However, there are numerous hair products and dyes you can choose from.
Stress is a very important reason for premature greying of hair. It causes the activation of sympathetic nervous system and this leads to release of hormones like cortisol and noradrenaline. The overproduction of noradrenaline depletes the stem cells of melanocytes that are present in the hair follicle. Stem cells are like the parent cells of melanocytes in a hair follicle. When melanocyte number decreases the pigmentation of hair also decreases, and this leads to greying of hair. That is why many people report white strands of hair after a stressful event or issues. Try to manage your stress by including practices like meditation, yoga and exercise in your daily routine.
Smoking has consistently been linked to premature greying of hair. As per a study conducted, smokers are 2.5 times more likely to experience premature greying of hair than non smokers. The mechanism, similar to one proposed for stress is that free radicals produced by smoking can damage the melanocytes that produce melanin.
Thyroid disorders especially hypothyroidism is a very common reason for premature greying of hair in females. Hypothyroidism can be associated with telogen effluvium (form of hair loss), along with the presentation of dry, brittle and dull hair shafts. Hair shafts of patients with thyroid disorders also show substantially reduced tensile strength.
Chemical Hair Dyes
Chemical hair dyes and hair products can contribute to premature greying of hair. Many of these products contain harmful ingredients that decrease melanin production and can lead to greying of hair. Use henna or natural/herbal dyes to color your hair. They do not contain harmful chemicals that damage the hair.
Too much sun exposure can turn your hair brittle, dry and can lead to premature greying of hair. The sun produces UVA and UVB rays which negatively affect your scalp. This damage can result in premature greying of hair. The sun has a tendency to lighten hair color. Because our hair is dead skin beyond the scalp, the active melanocytes in the hair follicle do not defend the hair shaft exposed to the sun. Therefore avoid being outdoors in direct sunlight for too long.