4 Reasons Why You Might Get Gray Hairs When You’re Young

31 March, 2021
Stress, smoking, and vitamin deficiencies are some of the reasons why you may get gray hairs prematurely. Only in a few cases is this associated with serious diseases. Learn more in this article!

Melanin is the pigment that gives hair its color. Gray hairs are those that lack melanin. There are many reasons why you might get gray hairs when you’re young.

Over time, hair loses its pigmentation. This is why this phenomenon is typical of old age. However, you’ll see that this isn’t always the case.

Young people can also get gray hairs, which can be really scary. Don’t think that it’s strange or that something bad is happening to you. Some factors can lead people to gray, such as stress.

Are premature gray hairs associated with any disease?

This is a very common question, as people associate graying with old age. But don’t worry. Below, we’ll explain if gray hairs are really associated with specific diseases or if this is normal.

According to a study published by the NIH National Library of Medicine, a person could suffer graying due to a weakened immune system. However, few studies link atopy (the hereditary nature of a person who has many allergic reactions) with gray hairs.

In this regard, some conditions may cause gray hairs to appear prematurely. We insist that it’s nothing for you to worry about.

Most cases of premature graying are due to inheritance. And the truth is that very few are associated with diseases. Some treatments can help achieve normal hair pigmentation, although they aren’t 100% effective or permanent.

A young man with gray hairs.
People shouldn’t worry about premature graying beyond aesthetics.

Read on to learn more: How Coconut Oil May Reduce the Risk of Grays and Hair Loss

Four reasons why you can get gray hairs when you’re young

As we mentioned above, multiple reasons that have nothing to do with serious diseases can cause graying. Believe it or not, this is a fairly common phenomenon.

1. Stress

Is stress to blame? Scientists from Harvard University conducted a study and concluded that the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for responding to external threats) is responsible for unpigmented hair follicles. This fosters the appearance of gray hairs on the scalp.

A very stressful situation can also make the hair follicles lose their melanocytes, the cells responsible for hair pigmentation. Thus, if you want to avoid the premature appearance of gray hairs, you must try to reduce your stress levels.

This article may interest you: Graying of Hair: Why Does it Happen?

2. Vitamin B12 and mineral deficiencies

Your diet can greatly influence the premature appearance of gray hairs. Vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, zinc, and vitamin D3 deficiencies cause hair depigmentation.

That’s why experts recommend incorporating the following foods into the diet:

  • Walnuts
  • Lean meats
  • Dark chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Whole grains
  • Fresh fruits

Make sure you eat a balanced diet and don’t overeat any of the foods we mentioned above. The secret is balance, as well as supplementing your diet with an active lifestyle. In other words, you should make sure to exercise.

3. Genetics

According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the premature appearance of gray hairs is associated with DNA. In fact, in this study, the experts determined the first gene related to gray hair.

The name of this gene is IRF4 and it plays a role in melanin production. As we mentioned above, melanin is the pigment that produces hair color.

This is why some generations of families suffer from premature graying. This isn’t a disease, it simply means that they don’t have the genetic ability to produce enough melanin.

4. Autoimmune diseases

Studies like the ones we mentioned above state that autoimmune diseases can also cause gray hairs when a person is young. This is because their immune system attacks healthy cells.

Some of the conditions that are related to the appearance of gray hairs are vitiligo, thyroid disorders, Werner syndrome, and pernicious anemia.

How to prevent gray hairs when you’re young

Now that you know why you might get gray hairs, it’s time for you to discover the habits that prevent your hair from graying in early adulthood. Remember that perseverance and commitment are essential in this regard.

Quit smoking

Experts from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center state that cigarette smoke affects hair by reducing blood flow and changing the DNA of hair follicles.

In fact, some of the consequences of smoking are dull-looking hair, discoloration, hair thinning, and premature graying. Did you know this?

A smoker with bad skin.
Tobacco can affect smokers’ skin and hair, causing signs of premature aging.

Improve your diet

Diet is a fundamental factor in preventing gray hairs at a young age. You should eat multiple servings of vegetables and fruits per day.

Also, you need to eat lean proteins. They’re important because they provide your body with the vitamins it needs to keep hair follicles healthy.

Specifically, vitamin B12 and vitamin C are two substances that will help your body produce melanin. Similarly, you should take iron and folic acid supplements, since low levels of these minerals could cause dull hair.

Avoid excesses

We recommend you avoid excesses. Junk food, alcohol, high salt intake, fried foods, and baked goods can affect the health of your hair and promote the appearance of premature gray hairs.

Thus, it’s very important for you to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Premature gray hairs usually aren’t a cause for concern

Don’t worry if you’re young and are seeing a few gray hairs. This occurrence is unlikely due to a serious condition. Generally speaking, some habits, such as those we mentioned here, can help prevent your hair from turning gray.

However, you need to know that, if your parents had gray hairs at an early age, this is very likely to happen to you as well.

Don’t forget that this will happen to everyone, sooner or later. Fortunately, gray hair doesn’t change who you are on the inside!

  • Relationship between diet, atopy, family history, and premature hair graying [Internet]. PubliMed.gov. 2018 [citado 22 enero 2021]. Disponible en: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30556257/
  • Hyperactivation of sympathetic nerves drives depletion of melanocyte stem cells [Internet]. Nature. 2020 [citado 22 enero 2021]. Disponible en: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-1935-3
  • A genome-wide association scan in admixed Latin Americans identifies loci influencing facial and scalp hair features [Internet]. Nature Communications. 2016 [citado 22 enero 2021]. Disponible en: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms10815