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What Causes Grey Hair?

One of the most common consequences of age is is that regardless of previous hair colour, a large proportion of people’s hair will go grey. Whilst the general rule of thumb is that 50 per cent of the population will have 50 per cent of their hair go grey by the time they reach 50 years old, at least one study suggests that the number of people who will get grey hair by the age of 65 is closer to 75 per cent. It is a natural process for many people as they get older. However, there are cases, particularly with younger people where grey hair can not only be distressing but potentially the sign of a health problem. As with many hair-related issues, a hair specialist can provide advice about the options available to those who go grey and whether it is a sign of a bigger issue such as premature hair loss.

Here are some of the main causes of greying hair. Nutrient Deficiency You are what you eat, and a diet that is deficient in certain vitamins and minerals can cause not only internal health issues but external ones as well, such as brittle nails, brittle hair and hair loss, vision loss and bleeding gums. When it comes to grey hair, the main nutrient deficiency that causes it is a lack of Vitamin B12, a vitamin found primarily in dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, yeast extracts and foods specially fortified with the vitamin, so adding more of these to a diet may help if it is a nutrient deficiency. Thyroid Disease A condition with the thyroid, such as hypothyroidism, causes a deficiency in certain hormones the body uses to work properly and heal itself. Whilst the main concerns with thyroid issues include weight gain, temperature sensitivity and fatigue, early-onset and accelerated hair greying has also been seen in several patients with thyroid concerns. Vitiligo A relatively rare skin condition that causes melanocyte cells (the cells that produce colour) to be destroyed, which can affect not only skin cells but also hair cells as well, with people suffering from vitiligo noticing patches of white hair along with pale skin.


Stress A lot of research has taken place to see whether the common folk belief that stressful situations can turn someone’s hair grey are true, and whilst studies on the direct effect of stress on hair cells are currently limited to mice, there are other ways stress can cause you to turn grey. Stress can trigger telogen effluvium, a condition that causes increased hair loss, causing grey hairs to be more noticeable and increasing the chance that the hair that grows back will be grey as well. Smoking Much like stress, studies are relatively scarce that claim that smoking directly causes hair loss. However, this is not to say that smoking accelerates many of the signs of biological ageing that can lead to premature greying hair. The prevailing theory amongst researchers that have suggested that smoking causes grey hair is the idea that smoking causes oxidative stress, which in turn damages pigment-producing melanocyte cells in the scalp.

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