As people age, it is normal for hair color to change. But white hair can occur at almost any time in one’s life. Even teenagers and people in their 20s may experience the appearance of strands of white hair.
The human body holds millions of hair follicles or small pods lining the skin. The follicles produce hair along with pigment or color cells that include melanin. As time passes, the pigment cells are lost in hair follicles, leading to white color in the hair.
Here we examine some of the common reasons of white hair ahead of time, along with methods to slow down the graying processor, in some instances, even prevent it.
Fast facts about white hair
- Vitamin deficiency can cause hair to turn white too soon.
- Smoking has long been associated to prematurely graying hair.
- Preventing white hair depends on its root causes.
Causes of white hair
There are many causes besides aging that can lead a person’s hair to turn white.
Any deficiencies of vitamin B-6, B-12, vitamin D, vitamin E or biotin can add to premature white hair.
A report in Journal Development in 2015 states different deficiency studies on vitamin D, vitamin B-12 and copper, and their link to white hair. It reveals nutritional deficiency affects the pigmentation, meaning that color can be restored with proper vitamin supplementation.
Another study reported in the International Journal of Trichology in 2016 notes the factors linked to early appearance of white hair in young individuals below 25 years of age. It revealed low levels of serum ferritin, where iron gets stored in the body, good cholesterol HDL-C and vitamin B-12 were the common contributors of premature graying of hair.
Early graying of a person’s hair is connected to genetics for the most part, according to a report in the Indian Journal in 2015.
Ethnicity and race also play roles. Premature white hair occurrence in white people can begin as soon as 20 years old, while an Asian person can be as young as 25 years old, and 30 years in African-Americans populace, according to the same study.
While white hair is mostly genetic, oxidative stress in the body may play a role when the process occurs earlier in age.
Oxidative stress results in imbalance when antioxidants are insufficient to offset the detrimental effects of free radicals, which are volatile molecules that harm cells, adding to disease and aging.
Excess of oxidative stress can support the occurrence of diseases, including the pigmentation of a skin condition called vitiligo. This condition may also turn the color of hair to white because of loss of cell function or melanin cell death.
Certain medical conditions
Some medical conditions may cause an increase in a person’s risk for white hair early, such as autoimmune diseases. In fact, a study published in 2008 revealed a link between hair graying and thyroid dysfunction.
White hair is also common in people suffering from alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune skin condition that causes hair loss on the face, scalp and other parts of the body. When the hair starts to grow back, it tends to turn white due to melanin deficiency.
There are research and studies at variance on real-life stressors such as ones caused due to injury, resulting in early graying.
A research from New York University and published in Nature Medicine shows that the cells in charge of hair color can be diminished when the body comes under stress or pressure.
More research points out that while stress may have a role, it is just a tiny part of a much bigger issue where disease and other factors make a contribution.
A study reported in the Italian Dermatology Online Journal in 2013 reveals that smokers are 2.5 times more prone to begin graying before reaching 30 years of age, as compared to non-smokers.
Another study published in the American Academy of Dermatology Journal in 2015 also showed that smoking is associated with the early appearance of white hair in young people.
Chemical hair dyes and hair products
Chemical hair coloring and other hair products including certain shampoos can also add to the condition of prematurely white hair. Many such products include ingredients that cause harm by decreasing melanin.
Hydrogen peroxide, which is included in most hair colors, is one such chemical causing harm to hair condition. Too much use of products for bleaching hair will also ultimately turn it white.
Preventing and reversing premature white hair
If aging or genetics is the main cause, nothing can, in fact, prevent or turn around the process. However, treating whiting hair could allow hair pigmentation to return if the loss is because of a medical condition.
When diet and vitamin deficiency are causing hair to turn white prematurely, correcting these may overturn the problem or halt it from getting worse.
Eating more antioxidants
A person’s diet plays a role to avert white hair. A diet high in antioxidants can lessen oxidative stress. Foods that are high in antioxidants include:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- green tea
- olive oil
Anyone suffering from premature white hair causing from a vitamin deficiency should eat more foods that are high in those vitamins.
For instance, eggs, meat, and seafood offer good sources of vitamin B-12, while salmon, cheese and milk are good sources of vitamin D.
Vitamin supplements that can be purchased over the counter can also restore deficiencies.
Smoking has harmful effects on the body and also adds to white hair. And scientists have found a link between the loss of hair pigmentation and daily habits.
There are a number of hair dyes available in the market that color the white hair, but many of these products are responsible for early graying of hair and may cause allergic and harmful reactions.
Natural solutions offer an alternative to hamper hair graying without causing harm to the body or further damage to hair pigmentation.
- Curry leaves
Curry leaves have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. When mixed with hair oil and applied to the scalp, they can significantly reduce premature graying.
Bhringaraj or false daisy helps to darken hair and keep it from turning white early. The juice of the leaves is extracted and boiled in sesame or coconut oil and then massaged into the hair.
- Indian gooseberry
Also known as amla, it is an herb known to reverse premature graying by supporting pigmentation. Its efficacy is believed to be due to the fact that gooseberry is high in antioxidants and anti-aging features.
- Black tea
Black tea can cause hair to darken and shine. It can be used by adding around 4 tea bags in 2 cups of boiling water, then cooling down and applying on clean and wet hair.
Low levels of copper can cause premature graying, according to a study in 2012. Foods containing good amounts of copper are lentils, beef liver, dark chocolate, asparagus, and almonds.
- Ridge gourd
The ridge gourd is well known for reviving hair color and triggering the roots of the hair. Regular massage of ridge gourd can help to stop hair from turning white.
With the right analysis and action, the progression of white hair can be prevented and turned around in some events. A balanced diet and good hair condition can also contribute. Although in some cases, the process is irreversible.
Regular use of natural remedies may decelerate and possibly reverse graying hair. But it is but natural for hair to eventually turn white, and the person has to determine whether they are okay with the white in their hair or if they seek to try and prevent what is a natural process of aging.