3 reasons your hair may be turning gray

3 reasons your hair may be turning gray

The day has come. You look in the mirror and notice that one hair doesn’t seem to match all the others. Your first gray. While many people spot their first silver lock in their 30s, others are “lucky” enough to get a reprieve until their 40s.

So what causes you to go gray?

Past research has shown that genetics may come into play, so your family history may be telling. Even your ethnicity plays a role in this rite of passage for the next phase of life.

But can other factors you control help determine when those silvery strands pop up?

Dr. Michael Jude Welsch, a dermatologist with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. says yes.

In fact, there are a variety of additional factors aside from genetics that affect how quickly you go gray. The three that top the list include:

  • Stress. Experts have long debated the link between stress and silver locks. While many studies have shown an association, it is difficult to show causation. “My patients often ask me if their condition is related to stress,” says Dr. Welsch. “Certainly, stress makes everything in life worse. I see stress worsen many dermatological conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and hair loss, to name a few. However, it is hard to quantify since I can’t just tell my patients with a problem to go and not be stressed for two weeks and let me know how it improves their condition.”
  • Smoking. You may have heard smoking leads to yellow teeth and even wrinkles, but it also affects your hair. One study found a significant association between premature hair graying and cigarette smoke.
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency. Did you know the color of your locks could be affected by your diet? Vitamin B-12 is essential for many processes in your body, and while graying is not a primary symptom of low levels, it can cause graying in some cases. “In patients with hair-loss or premature graying, I will check a CBC (complete blood count). If they are anemic (have a low red blood cell count), it may be due to a vitamin, usually B-12 or folate, or mineral, namely iron, deficiency,” says Dr. Welsch.

Dr. Welsch often tells his patients there are three things they can do for themselves to lessen the progress of gray hair and live healthy in general. Two of those things are dos and one is a big don’t. Do eat well and exercise, do get enough sleep and DON’T smoke. By following these three recommendations, the hope is that patients will live a little longer with a little less gray hair to show for it!

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  1. Regarding graying of hair: I have no family history of premature graying, yet I went from brown to white hair by the time I was early 40’s. I attribute this to the fact that I used a product called “Sun In” on my hair beginning in my 30’s. I augmented these Sun In treatments with pure hydrogen peroxide. I wonder——-hmmmm——- could it be that my gray is because of the use of these products? This is not a question; it is more of a statement!

  2. A few people aren’t really aware that their hair is graying, but they notice it with the first gray hair they see. In many cases they believe that it’s related to genetics and aging, however, it can also be an indicator that the lifestyle is causing the hair to gray. Stress, Alcohol, and smoking are some of the factors that turn hair gray.

  3. I got my first gray hair before puberty. At 16 my sister and one of her friends cajoled me into the bathtub to dye my hair

  4. I amtaking prescribed iron, can that make my hair turn gray? Al
    AlmOST overnight I am gray

About the Author

Jackie Hughes
Jackie Hughes

Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.