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What Causes Gray Hair

Deepa Kartha
You just celebrated your 23rd birthday a week ago and this morning when you looked into the mirror you found a strand of gray hair! This is surely a cause of panic but graying hair at a young age is a common phenomenon. Let us understand the causes in more detail.
Gray hair is considered to be a sign of old age. From the time a person turns thirty, hair starts graying gradually and by the time he/she reaches 50 or 60, all hair turns gray. Our hair follicles consist of cells known as melanocytes, which produce pigments called melanin. It is the melanin that determines the color of skin and hair.
The more the production of melanin, the darker is the hair color and when the production of melanin decreases, hair becomes transparent. What appears as gray hair, is actually transparent. It looks gray because of the dark hair surrounding it.
When people age, melanocytes decrease the production of melanin and by the time a person reaches old age, melanin is not produced at all, giving rise to fully gray or white hair. However, contrary to popular belief, it can be found even in young people.
There have been cases where it is found in teenagers and young adults. Studies have found various causes that give rise to graying, other than old age.

Why Does Hair Turn Gray?

The answer to the question can be found in the following factors causing gray hair.
Heredity: Heredity is considered to be the main cause for gray hair. Studies have found that genetics has a significant role in graying hair. People whose parents or grandparents have/had gray hair at a very young age are most likely to go gray early. The genes that cause premature graying in a family have not been found out yet, but this has been seen to happen.
Medical or Health Problem: Another reason for graying is said to be poor health. It is very commonly seen in people who have vitamin B-12 deficiency. Anemia, a condition in which there is low red blood cell count, can also lead to gray hair. Also thyroid imbalance and folic acid deficiency are believed to be causes of it.
Smoking: Recent research has found that people who smoke are prone to have gray hair at an early age. Continuous smoking can lessen the production of melanin and can make a person gray-haired.
Emotional Stress or Shock: It is believed that emotional stress or shock can trigger the occurrence of gray hair. People who have gone through a psychological trauma may get affected by this condition. However, it is said that graying may also be caused due to Alopecia areata.
When a person has this condition, he/she starts losing hair, beginning from certain areas of the head, subsequently leading to complete baldness. The loss of hair starts with dark hair and so it appears that all hair has grown gray.
Other Causes: This includes environmental conditions, like, pollution and exposure to UV rays of the sun. Nowadays, the hair is also exposed to a number of chemicals through the usage of shampoos, which is believed to be yet another cause of graying hair.
Actually, one cannot find any drug, nutritional supplement or diet plan that has the ability to reverse gray hair effectively. However, nowadays, people who have gray hair need not worry much about their appearance as there are a variety of hair dyes and hair colors available in the market, which can make them look younger as well as stylish. One should avoid smoking, if it is causing premature graying.
Having gray hair at a very young age can have certain psychological effects. Many people lose their self-confidence because they feel that it makes them look older than their age. However, there are others who take gray hair as a style statement and believe that it makes them stand out from others. Now that you know the causes, you can take necessary steps to avoid it by adopting a healthy lifestyle and keeping stress away.