Stress

How are gray hair and stress related? Can stress accelerate the appearance of gray hair? Find out what causes premature graying and how we can deal with it.
Stress can affect our body in many different ways. One of the ways in which our body can show that we are experiencing excessive stress is precisely with the appearance of premature gray hair. Even so, gray hair doesn’t just arise from stress, but this change in our hair is often a combination of genetics, aging, and hormones.

Why do gray hairs appear?

When we are born, our hair color is determined by natural pigments in our skin, called melanin. All hair follicles in our body contain two types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin. In fact, the wide variety of colors that our hair can have come from the proportions of these two types of melanin.

The appearance of gray hair arises precisely when melanocytes, which are the cells found in the skin and hair follicles, stop producing melanin, which means that the color of our hair turns gray. This happens as we get older, which is why gray hair is very common in older people. Even so, many people can start to have gray hair around the age of 35.

What can accelerate the appearance of gray hair?

Some of the factors that can accelerate the appearance of gray hair are the following:

Genetics: Genetics play a crucial role in determining when our hair starts to turn gray. In fact, if you have relatives with premature gray hair, it is very likely that this ends up being an indicator of when they may start to appear.
Smoking and lifestyle: A lifestyle that involves a sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits or smoking can accelerate the aging process, resulting in the appearance of gray hair. Different research shows that smokers are two to three times more likely to develop gray hair than non-smokers.
Stress: Having too much stress can also end up causing people to turn gray hair prematurely. The reason is that stress is related to the acceleration of aging.
Diseases: There are different diseases that can also cause the appearance of gray hair at an early age. Some of the most common are autoimmune diseases, vitamin B12 deficiency (which can be due to a poor diet) and thyroid dysfunction (very related to the control of our metabolism).

Why do gray hairs occur due to stress?

According to research, stress can cause the hormone norepinephrine to be released in hair follicles. This event can cause a noticeable loss of stem cells, which can result in new hair turning gray or white.

Do gray hairs due to stress disappear?

Studies suggest that gray hair caused by stress is permanent. In other words, when we lose the stem cells, the pigments can no longer be regenerated. Still, more research is needed to understand the interactions that exist between the nervous system and stem cells in different tissues and organs.

Can anxiety cause the appearance of gray hair?

In the same way that it happens with stress, anxiety can also promote the appearance of premature gray hair. This is because anxious behavior activates our body’s stress response. Therefore, our body secretes hormones such as cortisol into the bloodstream, causing physiological, psychological and emotional changes to deal with a threat, whether it is fight or flight.

Due to these changes, the responses make our body more tense and speed up the aging process, making premature graying more likely.

How to prevent premature gray hair?

Managing stress and having a healthier lifestyle can delay the appearance of premature gray hair. In addition, we recommend that you take into account the following:

Maintain a balanced diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low in saturated fats and processed foods can guarantee you a better physical and emotional state. This is because by eating correctly, our body works more optimally.
Exercise regularly: Exercise, practiced constantly, will help you reduce both stress and better manage emotions.
Protect yourself from the sun: UV radiation can cause hair loss and a decrease in pigmentation. Therefore, it may be a good idea to wear hats, cover up, put on sunscreen, or limit time spent in the sun.
Spend more time with your loved ones: Regular contact with friends and family can help you improve your emotional and mental well-being. As a result, it will also allow you to delay the effects of aging.
Accept aging: It is counterproductive to worry about the passage of time, since it is something that we cannot control. In addition, worrying too much also causes more stress and that leads to the appearance of premature gray hair. Instead of focusing on your appearance, learn to accept this transformation and focus on the beauty of the passage of time (experiences, increased knowledge and wisdom, etc.).

If your hair color is negatively affecting you and your self-confidence is waning, you can always dye your hair. Even so, it is important to learn to love yourself despite this, so if you feel that your lack of self-esteem limits you, it is advisable to go to a professional psychologist. You should not let changes due to age affect you negatively.

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