Most people will start to develop gray hair around or after age 50. This is a normal process of aging. However, some people experience gray hair as early as their teenage years and early 20s. This can be a normal biological function due to genetics, as some people are simply predisposed to early pigmentation loss in the hair strands, resulting in gray hair. There are some other factors that can play a role in prematurely gray hair, and should be discussed with your physician for treatment options.
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Stress is a common culprit in developing gray hair. Stress hormones such as cortisol run rampant throughout the body during prolonged periods of stress or anxiety disorders. The body enters "fight or flight" response and focuses the majority of nutrients and oxygen to the main organs in the body, thus affecting the pigmentation, growth and overall condition of the hair.
Smoking is harmful in many ways to the human body. Hemoglobin is the molecule in the blood that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues throughout the body. Carbon monoxide, which is inhaled from cigarette smoke, binds more readily with hemoglobin than oxygen. Therefore, if you are a smoker, it is likely that your hair is not receiving the amount of oxygen it needs to maintain a healthy condition. This lack of oxygen reduces the hair's ability to produce pigment, and gray hair is the result.
Vitamins play a major role in the pigmentation process of the hair. Most commonly, vitamin B deficiencies are the culprit for premature graying of the hair. B vitamins are often found in low levels in people who are suffering from this sometimes embarrassing condition. A simple blood test at your doctor's office can determine if you are in need of a daily supplement.
The sebaceous glands in the scalp produce the oil that builds up in the hair after a day or two of not washing your hair. This oil can clog the pores in the scalp that are responsible for providing nutrition to the hair follicles. When these pores are clogged, your hair can not attain or utilize vital oxygen and nutrients, which can result in gray hair and hair loss.
Over-Processing of Hair
Over-processing of the hair can lead to follicular damage. Electric blow-dryers and hair straighteners use high levels of heat and can damage the hair strands as well as the follicles in the scalp that produce the hair. Additionally, many people with a few gray hairs turn to hair dye to cover up this unwanted condition. Unfortunately, each time you dye your hair, some damage is done to the hair follicles, and over time this can inhibit their ability to adequately produce the pigmentation that gives your hair its color.
Some rare genetic conditions such as Hutchinson-Guilford Syndrome, Werner's Syndrome and vitiligo present with gray hair as one of the first symptoms. These rare genetic conditions can present at any time throughout life, but are more common in children, teens and adults in their early 20s. It is important to visit a physician to rule out any genetic disorders as a cause for premature graying of the hair.