Does stress turn hair gray?

Whether or not extreme stress, especially the psycho-emotional kind, can turn hair prematurely gray is a contested area of study. Stress has been shown to affect melanocytes in hair follicles, which are responsible for giving your hair color. No one goes gray overnight, though, contrary to old wives’ tales. Researchers are now finding that stress may have detrimental effects on melanocytestem cells, suggesting this could result in permanent damage that contributes to stress-induced graying.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.

Several studies are working to determine if there is a link between physical or emotional stress and gray hair. Most hair turns gray as a sign of normal aging. Cells called melanocytes inject a pigment called melanin into the substance called keratin that becomes our hair. Melanin reduces as we age, meaning less pigment is injected into the future hair, turning the hair gray or white. Stress has been known to cause hair to fall out, so some speculate that gray hair becomes more noticeable as we lose pigmented hair. Currently, there is no direct evidence proving that physical or emotional stress causes gray hair, but one 2009 study in Japan found that environmental stressors such as ultraviolet light and chemicals could deplete melanocytes like aging does.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.