Asian woman with no gray hair smiling

Can Stress and Anxiety Cause Gray Hair?

Shocked to see gray hair when you look in the mirror? Stress and anxiety may be behind it.

If there’s one word that’s quickly becoming a common household term these days, it would have to be STRESS. People’s lifestyles have drastically changed over the past few years, exposing us all to a lot of stressors—work, financial matters, and relationships. These definitely have effects on our body and hair, including the dreaded hair loss. But have you heard about the relationship between stress and anxiety and gray hair? We’ll try to see if getting stressed out indeed causes gray hair. Interested? Go ahead and read.

Why Does Hair Turn Gray?

gray hair: girl is looking at a patch of gray hair on her head
Gray hair can happen to anyone. Credit: Shutterstock

Your hair’s roots are surrounded by a tube of tissue under the skin called follicles, which contain pigment cells or melanocyte. Each of these pigment cells makes the chemical called melanin that gives the hair its color such as black, brown, blonde, or red. As you get older, these pigments also gradually die, resulting in fewer pigment cells in your follicles. When there isn’t any left, your hair grows transparent due to the lack of pigment, appearing as grey, silver, or white.

Graying hair happens to everyone but at different times. It normally occurs once you reach your ’40s but it can also happen earlier than that. Many factors affect its onset such as heredity and lifestyle.

Does Stress Cause Gray Hair?

gray hair: Asian woman facing the mirror and looking surprised to see gray hair
Learn to manage your stress to delay the onset of gray hair. Credit: Shutterstock

Speaking of lifestyle, can stress cause gray hair? Researchers and scientists have been trying to find the correlation between stress and gray hair for many years. Through many attempts and experiments, they have finally come up with a definite answer. It’s stressful enough thinking about it but it’s even more stressful knowing that, indeed, stress causes gray hair!

Scientists focused their attention on our sympathetic nervous system—the system that controls our ‘fight or flight’ reactions in dangerous situations. It’s composed of a collection of nerves extending through the body and skin. In their experiment, they found out that we produce the chemical norepinephrine, which flows through the stem cells and up into the hair follicles where melanocytes (mature cells that form melanin) are stored. Every time norepinephrine is released, the melanocytes change into pigment-producing cells which results in the over-production of hair pigment and the eventual loss of color-producing cells. Thus, hair follicles produce gray hair or strands that don’t have pigment. And sadly, the damage is irreversible.

This study just makes us rethink about the way we handle stress. As much as possible, we should stay away from stressful environments and people to not just keep our hair full of pigment but to also save our sanity.

How to Delay the Onset of Gray Hair

1. Stop smoking

Asian woman wearing workout clothes and stretching
Live an active, healthy, and smoke-free lifestyle. Credit: Hariono Halim

You may find this intriguing but studies show that your hair can turn prematurely gray if you have the habit. Not only does it cause that but it also makes your hair look dull, dry, and damaged. So you may want to ditch the habit today.

Bottle of Tresemme Detox & Nourish Shampoo

Editor’s tip: There are hair whitening treatments to prevent hair from turning gray, including shampoos and masks. Avoid damaging your hair by using TRESemmé Detox and Nourish Shampoo which infuses plant-based ingredients into your hair care regimen. It’s a good shampoo for gray hair that features green tea and ginger to replenish your hair’s lost nutrients while helping to detoxify and nourish your strands.

2. Load up on Vitamin B12

girl wearing a blue denim jacket with a half ponytail
Make sure to have enough vitamin B12 in your body. Credit; Natasha Estelle

As they say, prevention is better than cure. You can help delay premature gray by loading up on B12, a vitamin that is linked to helping prevent the onset of gray hair. You can get it by consuming foods that are rich in B12 or by taking vitamin supplements.

3. Keep the stresses at bay

girl with black hair wearing black-rimmed glasses and white top is gray hair-free
Stress is bad for your tresses, so take a break and unwind. Credit: Natasha Estelle

You may have heard this from many people. We are not talking about simple stresses at home but those that can cause a toll on your health. This is because chronic stress is said to cause inflammation which, in turn, destroys melanin-producing cells. You might want to relax a bit and let your body recuperate.

4. Get an annual health checkup

girl wearing a pink jacket and black bag smiling at the camera while her hair is flowing
Prevention is always better than cure all the time. Credit Natasha Estelle

It is not only about knowing if you are starting to have gray hair. It is also about knowing how your physical health is. Also, there are certain disorders like thyroid problems that cause premature aging. You might want to get yourself checked now to get the right and timely treatment.

5. Stay away from toxins and pollutants

girl with black and no gray hair is wearing a sling bag and a white top
Toxins and pollutants can speed up the onset of gray hair. Credit: Natasha Estelle

We all know this is something we all should do for all the right reasons. However, you need to consider this more now since free radical exposure is related to the premature graying of hair. Therefore, you are strongly advised to keep yourself with the least amount of stress as possible and keep your environment clean and pure.

Bottle of Love Beauty and Planet green shampoo

Editor’s tip: Cleanse your hair with Love Beauty and Planet Tea Tree Oil & Vetiver Radical Refresher Shampoo. It helps get rid of dirt and pollutants on your hair and scalp. And since it has eco-friendly ingredients, it’s great for the environment, too! 

6. Get enough Vitamin D

girl with long black hair with bangs wearing a denim jacket
Long, black hair is beautiful.

Vitamin D is good for your skin and hair, too. Make sure to have enough of this because the lack of Vitamin D has been linked to getting gray hair at an early age.

7. Have some black tea

Asian woman with long black hair with a cup of tea in hand
Black tea has antioxidants that are good for your hair. Credit: Shutterstock

Tea is rich in antioxidants and black tea is no exception. As these antioxidants help prevent free radical damage, it can also stop premature aging and help keep the hair’s pigment.

Gray hair may be a natural part of life but it doesn’t have to come early. When you take care of yourself and stay away from stress, you also take care of your hair. So don’t worry about anything and just start taking better care of yourself.