Specialty: Dermatologist ,Hair, Skin, and Nail Disorders
Dr. Shruti Chavan is a consulting dermatologist at Dr.Sheth's Skin and Hair Clinic since 6 years. She is a co-committee member of CDSI (Cosmetic dermatologist Society of India). She is highly skilled in non-surgical facial skin rejuvenation... more
- What Causes The Hair To Turn Gray?
- Vitamins For Gray Hair Reversal
- Supplements For Gray Hair Reversal
What Causes The Hair To Turn Gray?
The hair follicles contain melanin that gives the hair its color. With age, the hair can lose melanin, turning the strands silver or white. While this is common during old age, if you notice gray hair in your early 20s and 30s, here are the common causes:
1. Vitamin Deficiencies
Vitamin deficiencies can affect hair pigmentation and cause premature graying. The lack of trace elements like vitamins B20href=' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer' >325379/' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer' >12, D3, E, copper, iron, zinc, and biotin can contribute to premature graying (1), (2). A study found low serum ferritin, vitamin B12, and HDL-C (good cholesterol) levels to cause premature graying in individuals under 25 years of age (3).
You might blame your unruly teens or stressful job for your gray hair. But gray hair can be an inherited trait. Genetics can influence the hair follicle stem cells and melanocytes and cause premature graying (2).
You are likely to have gray hair at an early age if your parents or grandparents had premature graying. The gene IRF4 (interferon regulatory factor 4) plays a key role in hair color. It helps regulate melanin production and is also responsible for gray hair (4).
3. Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions like vitiligo directly alter human hair follicle functions and cause graying. Thyroid dysfunction is linked with hair abnormalities. It affects the hair follicle cycle and pigmentation (5).
Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease, causes hair loss and poliosis (depigmentation of hair). A case study found that poliosis could be caused by autoimmune conditions, infections, genetic syndromes, cutaneous lesions, trauma, and medication usage (6).
Acute stress can turn the hair gray. A mice study revealed that pain (physiological stress) and psychological stress could cause melanocyte loss in the stem cells and cause graying.
The researchers also found that under stress, the sympathetic nervous system releases noradrenaline and activates the stem cells that change to melanocytes. These melanocytes migrate away from the hair follicles, turning the hair gray and white (7).
Smoking is injurious not only to your physical health but also to your hair health. Smoking reduces the blood flow to hair follicles, and the toxins in cigarettes can affect them, causing early graying. Compared to non-smokers, smokers have double the chances of premature graying before hitting their 30s (99/' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer' >8), (9).
6. Chemical Hair Dyes And Products
Do chemical hair dyes only hide your grays? Not really! Excessive use of chemical hair dyes can cause premature graying. The chemical hair dyes and harsh hair care products like shampoos contain chemicals that may affect the melanin levels in the strands. Prolonged exposure to chemicals like hydrogen peroxide may fade the hair color and cause graying.
7. Pollution And UV Exposure
Excessive UV ray exposure and environmental factors like pollution may cause graying. Pollutants in the air generate free radicals that damage melanin in the hair strands, speeding up hair graying (10).
You cannot control hair graying if it is in your genes. However, you can control the other extrinsic factors to minimize graying. It is impossible to reverse graying in strands that have already turned gray. But adding the right nutrients to your diet may preserve the existing color pigments and slow down the graying process.
Vitamins For Gray Hair Reversal
Enrich your diet with the following vitamins and nutrients to prevent premature graying:
Vitamin D is essential not only for bone health but also for hair health. Studies found vitamin D deficiency as one of the reasons for premature graying (11). Vitamin D affects melanin production in the hair follicles. Hence, consume food items like eggs, mushrooms, fatty fish, meat, and dairy products to combat vitamin D deficiency. You may also take vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is the most common cause of premature graying (12). Elevated homocysteine levels in the body generate hydrogen peroxide that bleaches the hair, turning it gray. Taking vitamin B12 supplements reduces homocysteine levels and prevents premature hair graying. Intake of foods rich in vitamin B12 like meat, eggs, milk, and fish can help in gray hair reversal. A daily dosage of 2.4 mcg is recommended for most adults (13).
Vitamin B9 or folate is often used to increase hair growth and plays a significant role in maintaining hair pigmentation. Lack of folic acid in your diet causes gray hair and pigmentation changes in the nails and skin. Consume folic acid-rich foods like kale, beans, green peas, leafy greens, citrus fruits, eggs, and poultry. The daily recommended dietary intake of folic acid for adults is 400 mcg (14).
Anecdotal evidence suggests that vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid can prevent premature hair graying. It is said to play a key role in melanin production and can restore your natural hair color. You can get vitamin B5 from food sources, such as leafy greens, mushrooms, yogurt, whole grains, eggs, beans, fish, liver, and beef.
Low iron levels in the body can lead to hair thinning and premature graying (15). To minimize the deficiency, consume foods like kale, eggs, spinach, red peppers, and peach. Also, foods that are rich in vitamin C help absorb more iron.
Calcium is a key mineral for maintaining your bone strength and hair color. Intake of foods rich in calcium, such as leafy greens, kale, milk, fish, walnuts, cabbage, and fortified cereals, may prevent premature graying (16).
Zinc may influence melanin production and cause premature graying (2). Consuming meat, beans, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, red meat, and fish may help deal with zinc deficiency and prevent gray hair.
If you are not getting enough vitamins through your diet, consult a doctor and consider taking supplements to prevent graying. You may take supplements for the vitamins mentioned above or opt for the following.
You cannot reverse graying. However, you can prevent the natural loss of melanin from the hair strands and slow down the graying process by taking the right vitamins and supplements. If your hair is turning gray, consult a doctor to check for nutritional deficiencies or underlying health conditions. Follow the prescribed treatment and dietary recommendations to maintain hair health and prevent premature graying.
Learn about unknown needs of your skin for free