What causes premature graying?

What causes premature graying of hair?

Dear Doctor,

What causes premature graying of hair? Derrick

Dear Derrick,

Graying of hair occurs due to depletion of melanin, the pigment responsible for dark color of hair. Though considered a sign of aging, premature graying of hair is becoming a fairly common problem in today’s world. It is a growing concern, because children as young as 10 years old have been found to have grey hair. Stress has been identified as one of the causes that depletes melanocytes(melanin producing pigment) of the scalp. Since young children are also subject to stress due to multiple reasons, they are also developing premature gray hair. Harsh chemicals present in hair colors, dyes, cause premature graying of hair.

Damaging reactive oxygen radicals generated as a result of pollution, UV light, inflammatory stress in localised scalp diseases, etc. might damage pigment forming the cell of hair and hence, lead to premature graying. It also occurs due to exposure to harsh chemicals as in perming or straightening of hair. Excess dryness of the scalp due to lack of oiling or blow drying, fungal infections, can also result in early graying. Premature graying is also known to occur due to chronic tobacco and other substance abuse.

Diet lacking in vitamin B12, folic acid, has been linked to early graying. Studies have shown low levels of ferritin, copper, calcium and vitamin D3 in those with premature graying of hair. Medical disorders like hypo or hyperthyroidism, pernicious anemia, have premature graying of hair as one of the manifestations.

Apart from these causes, genetic factors also play a part. A person having one or more parents who developed gray hair at a young age, is more likely to be prone to premature graying.