There is this old belief that stress can cause gray hair to appear earlier than expected.
And sure enough, stress is definitely not good for our bodies.
But, scientifically speaking, can stress really accelerate the aging process of our hair or is it nothing but a myth?
To answer this question, we must first answer the question “why does hair turn grey?” in the first place.
Each hair follicle contains pigment cells that produce melanin, which is responsible for the various colors the human hair can have.
However, these pigment cells gradually die off with age.
In other words, when the pigment cells in the hair follicle are depleted, less melanin is produced and the hair gets lighter in color.
Eventually, the hair turns completely gray or white.
At the same time, it’s important to note that pigment cells are not only affected by age, hence the fact that some people go gray during their teenage years!
Furthermore, the rate of our color pigments dying has a lot to do with genetics as well, most people starting to do gray around the same age as their parents.
But what about stress? Is there really a direct association with gray hair?
Contrary to the age-old myth, most scientists did not think stress had anything to do with it.
Instead, they simply believed that any connection was, in fact, more likely to be a result of either pure coincidence or stress-related symptoms including telogen effluvium, a condition that can speed up the process of hair shedding because of stress.
But according to a 2020 study, the development of gray hairs is linked to the sympathetic nervous system, which deals with our “fight or flight” response.
It then introduces stress in the body and releases norepinephrine to get us ready to react to any situation.
Scientists have discovered that melanocyte stem cells, which are in charge of restoring color to your hair, can also be harmed by norepinephrine.
Thus, ongoing stress has the potential to harm pigment cells and quicken the hair discoloration process.
The lab mice in the study underwent stressful activities, and within days, they developed irreversible gray hair.
This means that your hair can never go back to its original color once it turns gray.
Even though graying hair is not something unusual, there is now potential scientific evidence that stress may indeed get you there faster than normal.
So what should we do about it?
If studies conclusively show a link between stress and hair aging, finding ways to decompress may slow down the process.
But as stress is known to cause a wide range of other issues, it will also be incredibly beneficial for the rest of your body and brain.
Stress levels can be reduced by sticking to a nutrient-rich diet, exercising frequently, and drinking plenty of water.
Exercises that promote relaxation, such as yoga and meditation, are also really beneficial.