Premature Greying of Hair

Grey hair can give you a distinguished appearance, but not all of us are endowed with the good looks or charisma of George Clooney! Premature graying of your hair can be quite a bother, especially when all you have going for you is your youthful appearance. Graying is a natural part of the aging process however and like wrinkles we accept these changes, albeit grudgingly. Premature graying is hard to deal with however, and while some individuals may welcome it, most view it as a problem.

So how do you know if you're just getting old or if you're faced with premature graying? Graying is a part of the aging process, but it isn't associated with old age. Some of the healthiest athletic adults in their thirties or even in their forties could be more youthful and fit as compared to adults in their twenties, despite the differences in hair color. In the context of age-associated graying Caucasians start to lose their hair color the earliest, with graying typically beginning in the late twenties and early thirties. Asians are only affected by graying towards their late thirties, while Africans usually remain unaffected by graying until their mid forties. Whether your condition of graying is natural or premature will therefore depend largely on your race.

Symptoms of Premature Greying of Hair

The symptoms of premature graying of hair are fairly obvious. Graying of the hair is unlikely to go unnoticed and if you find that graying begins while you're still in your twenties or early thirties it could be premature graying; this naturally depends on your race.

Causes of Premature Greying of Hair

The high stress job and inept boss may certainly be contributing to your heart problems, obesity, depression and anxiety, but unfortunately for you cannot blame your gray hair on your job! Contrary to popular belief graying is not caused by stress. While we can explain the process by which graying of the hair occurs, the causes are not as certain. In recent years however, our understanding premature graying of the hair has become a lot clearer.

Keep in mind that hair does not take on a gray hue; it simply appears to be gray. Graying of the hair occurs as your hair starts to lose its natural color. The gray appearance of your hair is actually just a result of the combination of pigmented and unpigmented hair. In the hair of a healthy young adult, melanocytes that are present in the hair follicles produce melanin, which is the pigment that gives your hair its color. As you age melanocytes stop producing this pigment and your hair is simply white. The mixture of white and black hairs takes on the collective appearance of being gray.

Unfortunately this is the extent of our understanding of how melanocytes work and until we understand more there is little that can be done to reverse or prevent hair from graying. This said, there are conditions other than age to which premature graying of the hair has been linked. These include:

  • Certain medical conditions like multiple sclerosis and thyroid disease
  • Graying of hair may also occur prematurely because of certain viruses
  • Vitamin deficiencies may also be responsible for graying of the hair
  • Mineral deficiencies were thought to be a possible concern as some studies indicated a link between premature graying and osteopenia. These indications have been overturned however by later studies.
  • Environmental toxins are also thought to be possible causes of premature graying.

It has been noted that in some cases people who experienced premature graying observed a return of hair color following treatment with X-ray therapy. This indicated that with a better understanding of the working of melanocytes. With subsequent studies scientists may have finally solved the mystery of graying hair. According to findings published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology melanocyte apoptosis and DNA damage may be caused by reactive oxygen species, and the resultant accumulation of hydrogen peroxide actually causes hair to get bleached from within!

Remedies for Premature Greying of Hair

While you may come across numerous claims of natural cures for graying of hair, there is little truth to these claims and they are almost always fraudulent. There is no known natural remedy for premature graying of the hair that actually works. Natural remedies can help to darken hair thereby hiding the color loss, but they cannot reverse or prevent graying.

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM: According to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, the functioning of the kidneys and the quality of your blood plays a role in almost every aspect of your health, including your hair color. According to TCM the consumption of certain remedies like wheatgrass, hijiki seaweed and black sesame seeds can help to cure premature graying of the hair. Needless to say, none of these claims are supported by objective studies and scientific research.
  • Ayurvedic Medicine: Like traditional Chinese medicine, a lot of the guiding principles that form the basis of ayurveda are founded in belief systems that are thousands of years old and are often at odds with science. There are many aspects of ayruveda that have been scientifically investigated and been found to be effective however. In the context of premature graying of hair an ayurvedic herb called bringaraja is thought to help treat premature graying. There is no evidence to support these claims however, and studies have yet to be conducted into the safety of this herb.

Until there is greater evidence supporting natural alternatives as a treatment for premature graying hair it would be best to rely on conventional approaches. In the meantime you could also try using cosmetic methods to conceal gray hair:

  • Semi permanent or demi permanent hair dyes are a good option for most people. Don't compromise on quality when using a hair dye, as cheap dyes could contain harsh chemicals that cause further damage to the hair and could also look rather shabby.
  • If you just have a few scattered strands of gray, or rather white hairs, it may be best to lighten scattered areas of your hair to blend the gray in.
  • Opt for permanent dyes once graying affects forty to fifty percent of your hair.
  • Diet for Premature Greying of Hair

    In the vast majority of cases, dietary modifications will do little to reverse or restrict premature graying of the hair. Your diet only contributes to the problem insofar that your nutrition affects every aspect of your health, and healthy hair requires nourishment as well. This said gray hair is typically not a sign of ill health; it is simply a natural part of the aging process.

    If you wish to make any dietary modifications to deal with premature graying it would be best to simply turn to a healthy balanced diet that includes every food group providing you with all your nutritional requirements. Contact a nutritionist or dietician for a specialized diet plan suited to your activity levels and biological requirements.

    Suggestions for Premature Greying of Hair

    Till recent times there has been little that one could do to address premature graying, apart from concealing gray hair with cosmetic techniques. Recent breakthroughs in our understanding of graying of the hair do offer us a lot of hope, and it is very likely that the technology to reverse and control the problem will soon be widely accessible. Until that time the best thing to do would be to try natural methods of concealing gray hair if it bothers you. While stress may not be a cause for premature graying, worrying never did anyone any good; stress can in fact contribute to various other health disorders, so try not get worked up about a few gray hairs.


    1. Wood JM, Decker H, Hartmann H, Chavan B, Rokos H, Spencer JD, Hasse S, Thornton MJ, Shalbaf M, Paus R, Schallreuter KU. Senile hair graying: H2O2-mediated oxidative stress affects human hair color by blunting methionine sulfoxide repair. FASEB J. 2009 Jul;23(7):2065-75. doi: 10.1096/fj.08-125435. Epub 2009 Feb 23. PubMed PMID: 19237503.
    2. Patkar KB. Herbal Cosmetics in ancient India. Indian J Plast Surg Suppl. 2008;41:S134. PMCID: PMC2825132
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    11 Premature Greying of Hair remedies suggested by our users
    Grey Hair
    suggested by ashwani on Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    You can regularly apply coconut oil mixed with goose berry powder. Also when you shampoo use a mild shampoo and rinse of with tea decoction. You can see the difference in 2 months. Also try to protect your hair with a scarf or cap when u go out in the sun and make sure that to keep the above mentioned mixture for at least 48 hours .

    Premature Grey Hair!
    suggested by james on Sunday, December 30, 2007

    To get rid of grey hair, do as an Asian granny did. Eat a tablespoon of black walnuts, black sesame seeds and a tbsp. of good quality honey everyday. Warning: Black walnuts and sesame seeds are costly. Do this everyday and in 6 months your hair should return to it's normal color. Dr. Remedy!

    Copper remedy for greying hair
    suggested by Sarah on Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    It has been found that the reason for greying of hair is due to lack of copper in the body. Copper can be taken internally or applied topically to the hair. Results can be seen in as little as 2 hours.

    miracles do happen
    suggested by Yolande on Wednesday, September 19, 2007

    I am 60yoa and have had completely white hair since I was 20 I have been having yogurt and honey for breakfast for about 4 years and eating a diet containing pumpkin seeds, and bean sprouts my hair is starting to grow darker - miracles do happen

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