Premature graying hair is where you get gray hair strands at an early age. Teenagers and young people in the ages of 20, 25 and even 30 and below years can get premature white hairs. Premature gray hair can be a sign of thyroid problems in young people. Here are the causes, treatments and remedies of grey hair at a young age.
The graying of hair is called in medical terms palitya. It occurs in two ways: Primary one is normal and second is abnormal phenomenon.
It is a condition where the pigment melanin, responsible dark color of hair is not being produced from the melanocytes in adequate amounts. It is an indication of the normal physiological aging process. On the other hand, it might imply the existence of a medical condition, and hence premature grey hair.
Apart from that, the problem of premature graying of hair can be the results of different factors. The key factors are the genetic predisposition, hormonal rise and fall, addiction to smoking, stress and strain of modern life style.
Graying of hair according to age is a common phenomenon but due to drastic changes in today’s life style and environmental pollution lead to untimely (premature) graying of hair, nowadays it has become a burning issue, especially in young generation. [International Ayurvedic Medical Journal]
Can you get gray hair as a teenager, at 20, 25, 30 years?
The truth of the matter is grey hair can occur as early as the age of 20 years or even teenagers. It is also a possibility at the ages of 25 and 30 years.
According to some studies that have been made exclusively available to Life & Style, almost a third (32 per cent) of British women under the age of 30 have already started to go grey, and two-thirds of them blame it on stress.
- According to W.H.O. incidence of premature graying of hair is common in age group of 25-30 years.
- Hair greying is a natural age-associated feature.
- The term premature hair greying (PHG) is used when it occurs before the age of 20 in whites, 25 in Asians and 30 in Africans.
Although, the primary cause of premature graying of hair in teens and young people may be genetic, related studies have also reported the role of autoimmune disorders, smoking and trace element deficiencies.
What causes premature graying of hair?
Thyroid gland problems, stress, vitamin deficiency, genetics, smoking and some illnesses such as autoimmune diseases as well as anemia have been strongly linked to premature white hair in young people. Below, we have looked at these in detail.
1. Thyroid problems
What are thyroid problems or disorder? Thyroid problems or rather thyroid disorder is a general term representing several different diseases involving thyroid hormones and the thyroid gland. Thyroid disorders are commonly separated into two major categories, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, depending on whether serum thyroid hormone levels (T4 and T3) are increased or decreased, respectively. [Jack DeRuiter]
What links thyroid hormones and hair follicles?
- Human hair follicles are direct targets of thyroid hormones, which modulate a number of their physiological parameters, including hair follicle cycling and pigmentation.
- Clinical observations indicate that patients with thyroid dysfunction may show prominent hair abnormalities and several studies have demonstrated hair growth-modulatory effects of thyroid hormone (TH) in sheep, rats, and mice.
- In humans, hypothyroidism (production of lower than normal thyroid hormones) can be associated with telogen effluvium, along with the presentation of dry, brittle, and dull hair shafts.
- On the other hand, hyperthyroid states (excess thyroid hormone states) can also lead to effluvium, together with thinned hair shaft diameter and brittle, greasy hair, despite an apparently increased hair matrix proliferation/growth. Hair shafts of patients with hyperthyroidism also show substantially reduced tensile strength.
- Interestingly, early graying has been claimed to be related to autoimmune thyroid disease, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism, whereas darkening of gray/white hair may occur in some patients after TH administration.
How do the thyroid hormones affect hair follicles (HF)?
Human HFs underlie a lifelong cyclic regression and regeneration, commonly called hair cycle. After completion of their morphogenesis (complete cycle), HFs enter the so-called catagen (organ involution driven by controlled apoptosis/programmed cell death) phase, followed by a stage of relative rest (telogen).
After telogen, HFs enter the active growth phase (anagen), which is associated with pigmented hair shaft formation. Similarly, human scalp HFs do express Thyroid Hormone receptors (TR) on the gene and protein level (TRβ1).
T3, a thyroid hormone reportedly prolongs the survival of micro dissected, organ-cultured human scalp hair follicles and encourages one to exploit this model to further dissect the direct effects of TH on human hair follicles.
2. Vitamin deficiency (vitamin B12)
Every vitamin contributes individually to the health nourishment. Similarly Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) is also the part of the whole functionality of the body. It is the Vitamin B12 that makes the body assured of the supply of the oxygen. This is so because of the contribution of the vitamin in the production of Red Blood Cell that carries oxygen to the systems for survival.
Regarding its effect on the premature graying of hair, it is greatly related to the deficiency of this Vitamin B 12.
How does the vitamin lead to premature grey hair?
Vitamin B12 is needed for DNA synthesis, which governs the functioning of body’s cells. So when the B12 levels are low (or for that matter any vitamin levels are low), the hair cells will be cut off first as they are not necessary for our survival.
The impaired DNA synthesis in the hair cells can alter the melanocyte function or even cause its death. As a result, the hair will lose its pigments and turn white.
Besides, when there is a lack of B12, homocysteine levels rise. Elevated homocysteine has been shown to directly generate hydrogen peroxide. Vitamin B12 can help reduce the levels of homocysteine by converting it into amino acid methionine.
The deficiency of Vitamin B12 in our bodies has been shown to be directly linked to:
- Atrophic gastritis, in which your stomach lining has thinned
- Surgery that removed part of your stomach or small intestine, including weight loss surgery
- Use of certain medications (antacids, metformin, anti-epileptic drugs)
- Pernicious anemia (your body destroys cells that make intrinsic factor)
- Intestinal disorders such as celiac disease or Cohn’s disease or other problems that make it difficult for your body to digest foods
- Tapeworm infection
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Exposure to nitrous oxide
Anemia is the general medical condition in which you do not have enough healthy red blood cells. It is generally, caused when your body is suffering from lack of iron.
The Melanin provides the hair color from a newborn baby to aged person. The Melanin may lose its capability for forming and more pigmentation, if your body is suffering from the lack of vitamin B12 which is highly needed for the healthy and well hairs found from the [University of Maryland Medical Center].
Therefore, it is true to say that anemia is responsible for white hair as it happens to insufficient amount of blood cells in the body which cannot take vitamin B-12 properly and the lack of this vitamin itself is the cause for white hair.
Megaloblastic macrocytic anemia characterized by breathlessness, heart palpitation, insomnia, irritability, forgetfulness, lethargy, stomach disorders, pallor and sensitivity to cold is a common indicator of folic acid insufficiency in our bodies.
Folic acid promotes healthy hair, skin and nails due to its role in synthesis of protein and cell growth, and it is therefore logical that lack of folic acid can lead to premature grey hair.
4. Autoimmune diseases
What is an autoimmune disease? It is a medical condition that develops when your immune system, which defends your body against disease, decides your healthy cells are foreign. As a result, your immune system attacks healthy cells.
How are they linked to premature graying? Premature graying has been shown to be associated with various autoimmune (AI) disorders such as vitiligo, pernicious anemia, thyroid diseases, and premature aging syndromes like Werner’s syndrome.
Reduction in active melanin generating melanocytes in the hair bulb of gray anagen hair follicles with resultant pigment loss is central to the cause of graying. The reduction results from the immune system eating up the cells.
“Stress is more likely to cause hair loss and an increase in shedding than cause gray or white hair,” [Cunnane Phillips].
“Gray hair is largely influenced by genetics and a complex series of cell chemistries. The majority of gray hair is genetic, but if the person is predisposed to gray hair, stress will make it appear sooner.” [Gilman]
As the hair grows out of the follicle, various processes take place in a timely fashion to produce a shaft of hair with the correct color. One of these processes involves the melanin-producing cells that are present and whose role is to provide color to the hair during the hair-growth cycle. During this cycle, anything that interrupts the flow of events can cause the non-pigmentation of the hair shaft.”
“There is evidence that local expression of stress hormones mediate the signals instructing melanocytes to deliver melanin to keratinocytes. Conceivably, if that signal is disrupted, melanin will not deliver pigment to your hair.” [Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, Boston]
What stresses can cause gray hair?
These can include surgery, head trauma, nutritional deficiencies, such as zinc deficiency or any other stress that the body perceives as a burden. In conclusion, stress typically manifests in hair loss or shedding, though it can result in premature depigmentation in those who have a predisposition to gray hair.
It is scientifically proven that premature graying of hair is mostly genetic in nature. So if your parents experienced the same issues and spotted their grays early, chances are, you will do the same as well.
Studies have proven that those who smoke stand four times higher chance of facing premature graying than those who don’t.
Can grey hair be reversed?
The truth of the matter is that gray hair cannot be entirely prevented or reversed. However, there are remedies that can be utilized in the event that this happens. The remedies can be in different forms, either chemical or natural remedies.
Whichever works for you is based on the decision you make. However, the best and most effective with little side effects is the natural remedies approach. This is because the chemicals contain ingredients that might be very unconducive for your body.
Locally available products like coconut can be used to make mixtures that when used effectively, work well to relieve the effects of grey hair.
To get rid of grey hair quickly and for good you need a combination of internal and external treatments. Internal treatments are the most important, simply because if you do have gray hair then you actually have more sinister and life threatening things going on inside of you.
Coconut for instance is a very good alternative because:
It is rich in carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins, coconut oil is beneficial for man. It is used as an ingredient of many soap and cream. As hair oil, coconut oil has been in use for many years past. Application of the oil on scalp and also on hair nourishes hair and consequently prevents premature graying of hair.
Premature graying of hair treatment
It is best to treat problems of skin and hair such as dull and damaged hair, premature greying and other conditions with home remedies in order to minimize side effects. Some of the best remedies are listed below:
1. Curry Leaves and Coconut Oil Massage
Curry leaves have amazing benefits for hair as well. It is the most effective natural grey hair solution. Vitamin B present in curry leaves restores the functions of the natural pigment in the hair follicles that provides a shining black color to the hair strands and prevents further greying of hair. It also supplies essential nutrients to the hair and heals damaged hair roots. Being a rich source of beta-carotene, it stimulates hair growth and prevents hair fall.
On the other hand, the benefits of coconut oil for hair and skin are numerous as well. It is the best natural conditioner for dry, rough hair that smoothen the open hair cuticles and makes hair lustrous, bouncy and manageable. What do you need?
- Coconut Oil – 1 Cup
- Curry Leaves – Handful
- Add the curry leaves to the oil and boil it for 6 to 8 minutes, or till the leaves turn black.
- Remove from flame and let it cool.
- Strain the oil in a container and massage your scalp and hair with this oil 3 to 4 times per week before going to bed.
- Wash off with a mild herbal shampoo in the morning.
2. Amla and Fenugreek Pack
Amla or Indian gooseberry is one of the most effective home remedies for grey hair and has been used since ancient times in Ayurveda for treating all kinds of hair problems. Being a rich source of antioxidant vitamin C, it has amazing anti-aging properties and helps in preventing premature greying of hair. It also promotes hair growth and improves hair health.
Fenugreek or methi is a common kitchen spice, but it is loaded with nutrients such as vitamin C, Iron, potassium, lysine, L-tryptophan and alkaloids that have amazing benefits for hair and skin. It prevents premature greying, treats follicular problems to prevent hair fall, promotes hair growth and prevents scalp dryness as well as dandruff. In addition, it also acts as an effective natural remedy for acne and pimples. What do you need?
- Dried Amla – 5 to 6 pieces
- Fenugreek – 1 Tablespoon
- Coconut Oil – ½ Cup
- Turn the fenugreek seeds to a smooth powder and keep aside.
- Heat the oil and add the amla pieces to it, let it boil for 5 to 6 minutes,
- Add the fenugreek powder to the oil, let it boil for another minute and remove from flame.
- Let it cool and strain the oil, apply on scalp and hair before going to bed.
- Wash off with a mild herbal shampoo in the morning.
3. Lemon Juice and Almond Oil Massage treatment for premature graying
Lemon juice is a rich source of antioxidant vitamin E, almond oil acts a natural remedy for treating wrinkles, fine lines and age spots. Almond oil is extremely beneficial for hair as well. Massaging scalp and hair with almond oil prevents premature greying of hair. It nourishes the roots of the hair, improves elasticity and prevents split ends.
The preparation treats dandruff and adds a healthy glow to hair. Lemon is a rich source of vitamins B, C and phosphorus that promotes hair growth by supplying nourishment to the hair roots. It adds volume and shine to the hair strands.
What do you need?
- Almond Oil – 2 Tablespoon
- Lemon Juice – 3 Tablespoon
- Mix almond oil and lemon juice in a glass bowl and apply thoroughly on scalp and hair,
- Leave it on for 30 minutes and wash off with a mild shampoo.
4. Rosemary and Sage Treatment
Rosemary and sage are widely used for treating various skin and hair conditions. Rosemary works effectively in promoting hair growth and checks hair fall. It improves the pigmentation process of hair, thereby preventing premature hair greying. It also helps in treating dandruff and itchiness of the scalp. Sage also helps in preventing the premature greying of hair, and it also acts as a natural remedy for fighting cellulite
What do you need?
- Rosemary – 1/2 Cup
- Sage – 1/2 Cup
- Add dried rosemary and sage to 2 cups of water and start boiling the mixture.
- Boil it for 30 minutes and set it aside for 2 hours.
- Now, apply the mixture thoroughly on scalp and hair and leave until it dries completely.
- Wash off with a mild herbal shampoo.
- Repeat it 2 to 3 times per week to get dark, shining hair.
Home remedies for premature gray hair
Natural and homemade remedies are way far better and much more effective compared to the chemical remedies. This evident by the fact that they result in less chemical reactions and side effects. Some of the remedies are outlined below:
1. Henna for gray hair
Henna works as a wonderful natural hair colorant. Besides making your hair darker, it will strengthen and condition your lustrous locks. What do you need?
- Henna leaves- handful
- 3 tablespoons of Indian gooseberry
- 1 teaspoon of coffee powder
- Plain yoghurt
- Grind a handful of henna leaves into a paste.
- Add three teaspoons of Indian gooseberry powder, one teaspoon of coffee powder, and a little plain yogurt.
- Spread it evenly on your hair.
- After it dries, rinse it out and then shampoo your hair as usual. Repeat the process once every two to four weeks.
2. Black Tea
It helps darken your hair, as well as soften it and add shine.
- Boil two teaspoons of black tea in a cup of water.
- Add a teaspoon of salt. Allow it to cool.
- Rinse your hair with this a few times.
- The last time, let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Wash your hair with cold water but do not use shampoo.
- Repeat the process once or twice a week.
3. Apply Ridge Gourd for Hair Color
Ridge gourd, often also called ribbed gourd, is widely used for treating premature graying of hair. It helps in enriching the hair roots as well as in restoring pigment. You again need to make a hair tonic using coconut oil to use it for your graying hair.
What do you need?
- Dried ribbed gourd pieces- half a cup
- Coconut oil- 1 cup
- Take the pieces of ridge gourd and dry them out in shade.
- Soak the dried pieces in coconut oil for about 3-4 days.
- Now boil the coconut oil along with soaked pieces of dried ribbed gourd.
- Boil it on low flame till the oil gets darkened, black in color.
- Strain and store.
- Use this oil to massage your scalp, at least twice a week.
What do you need?
- Sesame Oil
- Carrot Juice (both sesame oil and carrot juice should be in equal amount. For example 1 glass each or 100 ml each)
- Fenugreek seed powder- Half the amount of oil and juice (For example, ½ glass or 50 ml if the oil-juice is one glass each or 100 ml each respectively)
- Mix sesame oil, carrot juice and fenugreek seeds powder in a clear bottle, jar, bowl or any other container
- Keep the mixture in sun for 21 days.
- Apply the resultant oil mixture after 21 days on your scalp and hair.
- Use this for at least 3 months.
Sources and references