Ask The Expert
October 12, 2012
You are young to have gray hair, but it happens. And usually, thereís not much you can do about it.
Hair turns gray when cells (called melanocytes) in hair follicles stop producing melanin. This is the pigment that gives hair its color. A gray hair has reduced melanin. A white hair grows out when these cells stop producing melanin altogether.
For most, this begins after age 35. But the age at which hair starts to turn gray varies widely. Perfectly healthy people can start to turn gray well before age 35. Others make into advanced age without turning gray at all.
In addition to age, there are a number of factors that contribute to the age at which hair becomes gray. These include:
A common misconception is that stress turns hair gray. There are rare examples of people suddenly losing pigmented (darker) hair, which makes their gray hair more noticeable. But everyday stress or worry does not change hair color.
Researchers are looking for ways to restore the capacity of melanocytes to produce melanin after hair turns gray. Until then, there are only a few ways to handle the situation: color your hair, shave your head or do nothing.
I recommend a checkup with your doctor to make sure you are in good health and to look for reversible causes of premature graying. Most of the time there is no disease, condition or other identifiable reason for premature graying. And unfortunately, no way to stop the process.