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More young people are getting gray hair : Causes and tips to prevent premature graying

More young people are getting gray hair : Causes and tips to prevent premature graying

Last Reviewed : 12/17/2020
More young people are getting gray hair : Causes and tips to prevent premature graying

Hair will start to lose its natural color at some point, with the average person having a gray head of hair by the age of 50 years. But recently we are seeing increasing numbers of young people going gray. Occasionally, you will meet even teenagers with streaks of white hair.

When your hair starts to lose its natural color much earlier than is normally expected it becomes a case of premature graying. The phenomenon may be indicated as a symptom in a few rare diseases, but it is not considered a medical condition.

The graying itself happens when hair follicles lose melanin-producing pigment cells. It is these cells that give your hair its natural color. However, you aren’t expected to start noticing white hairs until your mid 30’s if you are white, late 30’s if you are Asian, and your mid 40’s if you are African.

But what causes this loss of pigment in hair? And why do some people get the ‘sophisticated’ pewter hair color look earlier than others?

Causes of premature graying

Reasons for premature graying aren’t universal. But scientists have since disproved the popular belief that high stress levels are behind early graying. According to their studies there just isn’t any scientific proof of this widely held belief.

The scientists still don’t have conclusive data to isolate the definite causes of premature graying, but they have identified strong suspects. What are they?

1. Genetics

Ethnicity - as we have shown earlier with whites, Asians, and Africans all having different ages at which hair starts to go gray - plays a role. But even within ethnic groups, there are still many cases of premature graying.

The biggest reason scientists have given for premature graying is our genes. This means it is more likely that your genes are the reason behind your premature graying than any other reason. If it is indeed your genes, your child is likely to experience the same.

2. Poor nutrition

Premature greying has also been linked to weak diets. Specifically, diets deficient in proteins, vitamins B12, C, and E are said to limit the production of melanin.

Deficiency in iron, copper, and iodine will also affect the production of melanin. In this case, maintaining a diet rich in the said nutrients is a good way of preventing yourself from going grey too early.

3. Oxidative stress

Oxidative stress happens when there is an imbalance between free radicals (which promote the process of oxidation and help fight off pathogens) and antioxidants. When you have more free radicals than antioxidants to balance them out, your body starts to suffer from oxidative stress. This damages cells, including hair color producing pigment cells.

4. Smoking

There isn’t yet any conclusive evidence that smoking really does cause premature graying. But the link is getting stronger. An Italian study has even come up with a number to express the likelihood of premature graying in smokers. They say those who smoke have 2.5 chances of going gray too early.

Another study, this time in America found that young male smokers have higher chances of losing their natural hair color prematurely.

5. Some disease

As we have said already, sufferers of certain genetic and autoimmune conditions are prone to premature graying. For example, thyroid disorders like vitiligo can cause a loss of skin and hair color.

How to prevent premature graying

 

Here is the good news, premature graying can be prevented. And the bad news? Well, premature hair pigment loss can only be prevented in some cases, but not all of them.

If your father and grandfather, or uncles from your mother’s side have all spotted the sophisticated look prematurely, you may not have a say in the matter. You too will likely experience premature graying.

What if there is no family history of premature graying? Doing the following may help:

1. Adopt a healthier, more balanced diet. In this case, you are keeping your melanin-producing cells working for as long as they can. A diet rich in protein, vitamin B12, C, and E, iodine, copper, and iron is what you should be following.

2. Supplement with antioxidants. Generally, this is considered a healthy habit. But it has direct benefits when it comes to preserving your melanin producing pigment cells and slowing the aging process for your hair. Foods rich in antioxidants include blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, almonds, cloves, cranberries, salmon fish, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, coffee, and dark chocolate.

3. Avoid smoking. Again a good way of protecting your health in general. But avoiding smoking cigarettes is also a good way of protecting yourself from free radical damage. This again preserves your hair and skin color.

4. Avoid using permanent hair dyes. Incidentally, people trying to deal with premature graying often choose to dye their hair. While it works - as long as the color stays in the hair - the chemicals in the hair dye tend to kill the same pigment cells faster than most factors we have highlighted. The effect is you will lose that natural color you still have in your hair at a much faster rate.

5. Oil your hair regularly. Apart from making it more brittle and prone to breaking and splitting, dryness of hair also promotes premature graying. Oiling it will keep it moist and bouncy while preserving its natural color.

 

Premature graying is hard to stop after it starts. In some cases, it may be easier to slow it down. But in most cases, the best way to deal with it is to just go with it. Some will dye the hair back to its natural color, but eventually, they will resign to their new look.

Before you try any interventions, though, it may be wise to first find out what could be causing the premature graying. It could all be down to genetics, which you have no control over. If it is a medical condition that’s to blame, getting it treated may be the trick that gets you your old black, gold, or blond locks back for a little longer.

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