I am 25 years old but my hair is graying. What causes this and how can I stop it if it’s possible?
Hair starts to gray due to depletion of melanin (pigment present in hair follicles responsible for black hair). It is a normal process with advancing age, that is, after 50 years or so. But unfortunately, due to many reasons, currently even youngsters are having gray hair. With depletion of melanin, the hair instead of being black, become colorless. This combination of black and colorless hair gives a gray look.
Today’s life has become much more stressful than yesteryears and stress is one of the major reasons for premature graying of hair. Use of shampoos or soaps with harsh chemicals leads to excess dryness of hair and also depletion of melanin, thus resulting in graying.
Excess dryness of scalp, due to reduced production of oil from the oil glands of scalp is also responsible for early graying. Use of hair dryers causes early graying for the same reason. Washing hair with warm water also causes dryness of scalp. Excess dryness of scalp and premature graying also occurs due to use of harsh chemicals in artificial straightening or perming of hair in salons.
It can be due to a dirty scalp, dandruff, infections like fungal infection of the scalp, e.t.c. It can be due to chemicals like hydrogen peroxide present in hair colors, which have a bleaching effect.
Deficiency of nutrients like vitamin B. complex, copper, iron and iodine is known to cause premature graying.
Among disease conditions, recurrent cold as due to allergy, chronic sinusitis, chronic anemia, thyroid under activity are some of the conditions having early graying as one of the manifestations. Vitiligo, which occurs due to melanin deficiency, can cause early graying of hair as well, along with white patches on body. Toxic and heavy metal poisoning is also known to cause premature graying of hair. It can be side effect of radiation or chemotherapy for cancers.
Prevention of premature graying consists of avoiding shampoos with strong chemicals and avoiding dryness of scalp. This can be obtained by massage of scalp by natural oils like coconut or olive oil, at least once or twice a week. Keeping scalp clean is also useful. But avoid using warm water to wash hair. If hair is naturally black, avoid use of hair colors/dyes.
Including fresh fruits and vegetables with whole grains in daily diet is useful in preventing and halting the progress of early graying. Regarding treatment, it is better to use natural colors like henna, indigo, gooseberry or juice of amaranth leaves, instead of synthetic dyes.
In case of an underlying disease process, treatment of the disease would help in stopping the progression of premature graying.
Most important is to remain relaxed physically as well as mentally.
Dr Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital