Can Stress Cause Grey Hair?

Let’s dive right in and talk about hair! Hair is one of the most defining features that we have. We all want healthy, gorgeous hair. Hair care includes the products we put into it and how we treat our bodies and minds.

If you’re like us, you have probably seen your hair change many times over the years. Some of these changes you’ve chosen (hello, breakup bangs!) and others, nature decided for you.

Have you noticed more grey or white hair recently? There is nothing wrong with embracing those beautiful silver locks, but if you are trying to prevent grey hair from taking over, you may wonder why they are coming in more rapidly than before. 

We will discuss why hair turns grey when stressed and how to manage your stress to prevent this from continuing.

What Determines Hair Color?

First, let’s break down how your hair color comes to be. 

Your hair pigmentation is made up of cells that are called melanocytes. New melanocytes are formed from melanocyte stem cells in your hair follicles (the pores that grow the hair). Hair follicles are all over the scalp and body. Weird to think about, right?

Melanocytes make a pigment called melanin, which determines the pigmentation of your eyes, skin, and hair. The more melanin your melanocytes make, the darker your hair will be. 

There are two types of melanin when it comes to hair. These are eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin makes mostly dark colors, which are brown and black. Black and brown hair comes to be when brown and black eumelanin is mixed. 

Blonde hair comes to be when there is just a little brown eumelanin and no black. Red hair and strawberry-blonde hair form when pheomelanin mixes with a small amount of eumelanin.

When melanin production slows down as part of the natural aging process, your hair starts to turn grey or white. 

Does Stress Cause Grey Hair?

Grey hair can come with age. As you become middle-aged, you may notice grey hair popping up more and more. This is completely normal and just another part of your journey! They don’t call it a silver fox for nothing!

Grey hair can also be based on genetics. If your family has more people with full heads of grey hair, chances are you will also have grey hair. 

Did you know that grey hair can also stem from stress? Yes, chronic or acute stress can impact the color of your hair! So, if you notice that your hair is suddenly turning grey and you’ve been feeling more stressed than usual, this may be the cause.

When you are stressed, individual hair strands can begin to turn grey or white. Stress can cause your hair to turn grey prematurely because when stressed, the new hair growing from the follicles has lost melanocyte stem cells. 

When the hair follicles lose melanocyte stem cells, they have less melanin, which contributes to less pigment. When your hair has less pigment it can appear grey or white.

Is Grey Hair Caused By Stress Reversible?

Once your hair follicles have been turned grey by stress, chances are they will not go back to their typical color. Based on current scientific understanding, hair follicles cannot regenerate pigment. 

You can, however, decrease your stress and see a difference in new follicles becoming grey. Less stress means fewer follicles affected by stress; they will keep their current color. This is, of course, if the change of your hair color was due to stress and not other factors, such as normal age-related greying. 

How Does Stress Affect Your Hair?

Until recently, scientists weren’t convinced that stress caused grey hair. However, thanks to a new study by a Harvard University associate professor, we now have the science to back up the stories.

But how do the effects of stress cause grey hair? Essentially, periods of chronic stress or extreme acute stress can stimulate the fight-or-flight response. 

Interestingly, this response is governed by the sympathetic nervous system, not stress hormones like cortisol. When this response is activated, your body releases a hormone called norepinephrine, also called noradrenaline.

After testing the stress response in mice exposed to psychological stress, the researchers found that human hair can actually soak up this hormone. 

When your hair grows, it stays pigmented thanks to your hair’s reservoir of pigment-producing stem cells. These stem cells turn into pigment cells gradually over time. In the natural aging process, you’ll start seeing more grey hair as these reservoirs run out of stem cells.

However, norepinephrine can cause your stem cells to convert all at once, which basically causes your hair’s supply of pigment to run out. Any new hair growth after this will be white or grey.

How Can You Decrease Stress?

At this point in our lives, stress has knocked on our door more than once. It’ss normal to have some stress as life itself can be stressful, but we are at our prime; we should be living life to the fullest while keeping the impact of stress at a minimum.

Getting a handle on your stress levels is a great idea, whether it affects your hair or not. Stress not only can affect your hair, but it can cause your body to have issues as well. Especially chronic stress. The less stressed you are, the better your body and mind will feel. 

Your mental health and your beautiful hair depend on you having limited stressors in your life.

Below are some ways to decrease stress to get yourself feeling good and full of life!

  • Exercise - Exercise produces endorphins, which can make you less stressed. Endorphins are your happy hormones! The more endorphins that are released the happier we are. So, get up and get that body moving!
  • Eat healthily - A well-balanced diet can help regulate your moods. It can also increase serotonin levels. Having higher serotonin levels and regulated moods can decrease stress. So eat healthily! 
  • Meditate - Meditation is used to reduce stress. It does this by assisting your body and mind in relaxing. During meditation, you focus on your many thoughts and clear your head. You can be at peace during meditation and not feel the stress that has been bothering you. 
  • Read a book - Reading a book is a great distraction from stress! When you read, you get an escape from all your problems and get to go into someone else's world. Getting away from your problems, even for a short period, can help decrease stress.
  • Get more sleep! - Getting enough sleep is essential to your body and mind. Sleep decreases the levels of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is responsible for your flight or fight response. Sleep also decreases anxiety which in turn reduces stress. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. 
  • Go on vacation! Get away from work or your everyday routine and go on vacation. Have yourself a margarita and relax. Going on vacation is a great way to reduce stress as you can clear your mind and forget all your worries, even if just for a little while.

In conclusion, if you want to reduce stress, take time for yourself to get away from whatever is weighing heavily on your mind. Also, keep a healthy body to aid in keeping a healthy mind.

How Else Can Stress Affect Your Hair?

Being overly stressed can lead to more problems with your hair than just causing an increase in grey hair. Having too much stress can also lead to unexpected hair loss. 

Three different types of hair loss can be caused by stress. These are telogen effluvium, trichotillomania, and alopecia areata.

Telogen effluvium happens when you are so stressed out that your hair follicles go into the resting phase and do not create any more hair. Alopecia areata happens when stress causes your immune system to attack your hair follicles, which then causes hair loss.

No one wants to experience hair loss, so that's an even greater reason to get rid of stress!

There Is Nothing Wrong With Having Grey Hair!

If stress is not the cause of your grey hair, then maybe genetics or age is. Regardless of the cause, it is completely natural to get grey hair. You may be frustrated, but embracing the beauty of the aging process is an incredible feeling. You’re not alone, and it’s time to fight the stigma.

Having grey hair won’t only affect the appearance of your hair, but it also can change other aspects of your hair. When you have grey hair, your hair's texture and quality can often change. 

Sometimes gray and silver hair is a bit more fragile. Grey hair can also look a little dull and lack the shine you once had, but try to breathe through it! Whatever the reaction you are having, we are here to help.

Grey hair can be beautiful and easily maintained with the right hair care products. We at Better Not Younger have multiple products to help you manage your grey hair and make it look like new!

Some of our products include brightening shampoo to add that shine back. We also have many different products to revitalize your hair and help prevent damage.

Remember, whatever your hair color is, it is important to take care of it! Invest in products for your hair that complement it rather than damage it. Your hair needs plenty of moisture and protection, especially as you age. 

From a range of hydrating shampoos to heat protectant that is needed when styling it, Better Not Younger has it all! Check out our hair care products that leave you with healthy, lustrous, and strong hair. 

You can also take some hair supplements to increase your hair health. Many supplements contain extra vitamins that you can add to your everyday diet.

If you decide to dye your hair to mask the greys, try and find products designed for colored hair to help keep the color at its brightest. Some products can strip the color from your hair, so research the ingredients you use to avoid this.

Conclusion

Yes, stress can cause grey hair. Stop stressing and start relaxing! It’s okay if you notice increased grey hair due to stress. Take steps to decrease your stress and take care of your body, and you may notice the greying of your hair decrease. 

Whether you have grey hair or not, aging can be a fun process, and we at Better Not Younger are here with the tools and products you need. If you're unsure where to start, need help with your hair care, noticed changes in your hair and don't know which products you need, take our quiz to find the right products for you!

Sources:

Hyperosmotic stress reduces melanin production by altering melanosome formation - PubMed (nih.gov)

How stress causes gray hair | National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress - Mayo Clinic