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White Hair Causes, Premature, Ways to Stop or Treat It

Gray Hair

White Hair Causes, Premature, Ways to Stop or Treat It

What causes white hair including at young age or premature hair greying? Does stress, genetics or some medical conditions play a part?  Are there solutions, treatments or ways to get rid of grey hair? Can home remedies, some natural oils or shampoos be of any help in dealing with this problem?

When someone mentions it, the white-haired anime boy, girl or Gerard Way come into our mind. It is a fact that all of them are white-haired. However, this is not going to be our focus, we will be looking at the natural this problem that can affect adults (men and women as they age) or even prematurely in children, teenagers, and people in their 20’s or 30’s. We will not discuss who to get it.

Facts about hair color

Hair color is determined by melanocytes found in the bulged part of the base the follicle (bulb).  While a child is developing in the womb, the melanocytes migrate to the base of the follicle where they will be producing a pigment, which gets incorporated into the fibers of growing hair giving them their unique natural colors. This happens during the growth cycle.

Premature white hair - Grey hair

Premature graying

A specific color will be influenced by ratios of eumelanins and pheomelanins pigments where the previous has brown and black pigments and the latter yellow and red pigments. The variation in the ratios of these two pigments is what gives hair its colors and tones.

High levels of estrogen and progesterone common in pregnancy, epilepsy medications, and melanocyte stimulating hormone are known to help darken it while malaria prevention medications can make it lighter. It has been observed that blond children’s hair darken at ages of about 7 or 8 years and the cause is not known.

Why does one get grey or white hair color

One gets it when melanocytes found on follicle stops producing melanin (pigment responsible of your hair color) or if it is diluted.

When no pigment is produced, especially due to depletion of melanocytes from root hair follicle, or they do not produce melanin (become exhausted) – both of which happen, as we grow older, it will, of course, look colorless i.e. white color. Grey is because you will often have a mixture of white and normal colored strands i.e. black white hair.

Already grown one cannot turn grey, it is only the new growing one that can grow as grey. Do not expect it on your head that is black for instance to start changing to grey.

Facts about grey hair – how common is the problem

At a certain point in our lives, we all have the ‘white hair problem’. “Typically, white people start going gray in their mid-30s, Asians in their late 30s, and African-Americans in their mid-40s. Half of all people have a significant amount of gray hair by the time they turn 50” []. Furthermore, men will tend to get more it when compared to women.

At 50 years, about half of the human population will be having about 50% of their hair grey while 74% of people aged between 45 and 65 have it whose average intensity is about 27%.

Is there a way on how to stop graying?

Theoretically, the only way to stop it is to expand “either prolong the life of the melanocytes in the hair bulb – by protecting them from injury – or expand the melanocyte stem cell reservoir in the upper or top region of the hair follicle so they continue to replace lost pigment cell” [].

However, understanding the cause can be important in trying to get the best ways to treat it.  Some causes of the are easily treatable.


Since graying (salt and pepper, pewter, silver or charcoal are associated with old age, no one likes them except for a few who have learned to embrace their it, even though it happened prematurely.  This graying does not happen on only your scalp hair but also your eyebrows, beard, etc.

We are going to demystify some myths and give information on possible causes.  So, what are some of the causes?

1. Genetics – no.1 reason

The most common cause is genetics.  According to Rodney Sinclair, Professor of Dermatology, Epworth Hospital at the University of Melbourne, “Genetic factors appear to be important in determining when we turn grey. Identical twins seem to go grey at a similar age, rate, and pattern, however, we’re yet to identify the controlling genes” [].

If you have it, especially when caused by genetics prematurely, you should not be worried since your body aging has not speeded up and this will not affect normal body function.

2.  Does stress cause white hair?

Can stress cause white hair or this is just a myth? Is there a connection between stress and graying? It is a fact that stress can accelerate aging process, but will this, in turn, lead to hair graying?  Let us look more into stress and this condition.

A number of sources have previously claimed the direct relationship between stress and white hair i.e. you can have it caused by stress.  We have seen presidents including Barrack Obama graying much when in power, was the increase due to stress or is it normal aging process.

There is no certainty on the link between this graying and stress i.e. whether or not you can have it from stress is not clear.  The popular link must have learned about originated from a research by two New York University researchers where so many dimensions were involved and it was hard to determine if stress alone can cause it.

The research was on melanocyte stem cells (McSCs), usually found at the bulge of the follicle base, responsible for the production of melanin that gives your hair and skins its color has shown no direct connection since man. “The researchers wanted to see how McSCs reacted to three types of intervention; injury, exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, and stress hormones” [].

Human and mice tissue sample was used and whenever there was a combination of injuries, the McSCs migrated from “hair follicles and into the affected area of tissue” []. Stress hormones were found to increase migration of the skin if the skin was damaged e.g. when exposed to UVB. However, when stress hormones were used alone, there was not any skin melanocyte production.

From these observations, the Dr. Mayumi of New York University and his colleagues “thought it would be interesting to speculate that excessive stress might promote this migration too much” [].

Therefore, the theory relating stress and graying have not been proved i.e. “stress by itself causes hair to go grey is still uncertain” [].

A number of intellectuals seem to agree with the fact that genetics might be playing a bigger role in white hair problem than stress. For instance, Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, a trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Clinic in New York City notes that “stress is more likely to cause hair loss and an increase in shedding than cause gray or white hair” [].

These sentiments are echoed by Sandra Gilman, trichologist and educational director for The Elan Center for Trichology in Alabama who adds a little perspective on the role of stress i.e. “but if the person is predisposed to gray hair, stress will make it appear sooner” [].

Since it is not clear if stress can cause it, we are unable to get out any source that shows whether white hair due to stress reversible or not.

Although it has not yet been scientifically proved whether stress causes this problem or not, do not forget that too much stress can cause a host of problems to your health. Your study pressure, nagging ex, unpaid bills, work pressure, etc can create anxiety.  Some of these problems include heart disease, sleep disorders, headaches, stomach problem, acne or psoriasis, telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, or even compromise your immune system. Get away from habits that stress you.

3. Hydrogen peroxide build-up

Another possible cause is hydrogen buildup, which can bleach it. This buildup has been blamed for making it turn white i.e. as people age, catalase production goes up and this leads to hydrogen buildup at follicles that will bleach your hair.

The connection between graying and hydrogen buildup was first speculated by a 2009 European group of researchers who claimed that “every hair cell makes a little hydrogen peroxide, but over time the amount builds up… this buildup ended up blocking the normal synthesis of melanin, the natural pigment in hair” []

4. Vitamin B-12, thyroid, pituitary and pernicious anemia

You might be wondering if there is any deficiency causes this problem, you deserve to know that it is vitamin B-12. According to, “a vitamin B-12 or problems with the pituitary or thyroid gland can cause premature greying that’s reversible if the problem is corrected.”

This shows you that diet can have an impact on graying since if you have diets that do not have vitamin B-12, you might end up with this problem.

Pernicious anemia and hair graying

For patients who suffer from pernicious anemia, they will tend to have low vitamin B-12 due to the inability of their bodies to absorb vitamin B-12 by either not make enough of a “special protein, called intrinsic factor (IF), that helps your intestines absorb vitamin B12” [] or not be able to absorb vitamin B-12 in the small intestines.

Pernicious anemia is a hereditary problem that affects only a small amount of people but can cause premature white hair at a young age such as in children, teenagers or people in their 20’s.

Hypothyroidism and pituitary gland disorders

Thyroid glands are part of the endocrinal glands, which produces hormones that control heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and the rate at which your body converts food to energy i.e. it controls many of the metabolic processes in our bodies that include energy use and growth. The thyroid gland functions are in turn controlled by the pituitary glands.

When one has underactive thyroid glands or hypothyroidism, one of the common symptoms that person will have is premature hair graying besides experiencing thinning, brittleness and/or hair loss. This is because of the two central hormones T3 and T4 which have the vital role in human follicle i.e. “both T3 and T4 significantly stimulated the synthesis of melanin in the follicle” [].

5. Poliosis

Going on with reasons, poliosis, which refers to “localized patch of white hair in a group of hair follicles, can involve any hairy area on the body including the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes” [] could be causing graying especially if it happens in patches. When you have poliosis, you may lack or have decreased melanin production and/or lack melanocytes on hair bulges of follicles that have been affected by poliosis.

Poliosis is mainly caused by genetics, destruction of melanocytes by an autoimmune disorder or if your follicles are damaged. Injuries, herpes zoster or radiotherapy may also cause poliosis. The common conditions, which have been associated with poliosis, include:

  • Vitiligo
  • Alopecia areata
  • Halo moles
  • Piebaldism
  • Tuberous sclerosis
  • Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease
  • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Alezzandrini syndrome

Below are of some of the conditions that have been associated with poliosis:

  • Vogt Koyanagi Harada disease on eyelashes
  • Alezzandrini syndrome courtesy of global skin atlas\
  • Alopecia areata
  • Halo mole with poliosis Courtesy of Hung CT Chiang CP. Solitary tumor with a peripheral depigmented patch and poliosis. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2012 78 776
  • Piebaldism
  •  Depigmentation on a 48-year-old man with vitiligo

6. External causes

There are some reasons as chemical exposure, surgeries, injuries, cuts, exposure to UVB light (and climate), pollutants, toxins, which should not be ignored while discussing why you grow grey hair. This can be supported by the 2009 Japanese study that showed, “genotoxic stress, in the form of ultraviolet light and chemicals, damages our DNA and could cause the depletion of those melanocyte stem cells” []. However, white hair caused by stress, in this case, does not refer to the normal emotional stress of unpaid bills, waiting for an interview, etc.

7. Low bone mineral density

In postmenopausal women, reducing bone mineral density that is a risk factor to osteoporosis has been associated with prematurely white hair. “In a study of 293 healthy postmenopausal women, those who had experienced premature graying of a majority of their hair by age 40 had decreased bone density throughout their bones compared with comparable women who did not have premature graying” [].

However, a few years later, “in 2007, a study of about 1,200 California men and women showed no such link” [] existed.

8. Smoking

According to a research by DR. J.G. Mosley in 1996, he found out that there seemed a correlation between someone’s smoking history and hair loss and/or graying. He was unable to get the link.  Since it is not one of the proven causes, it is hard to give our comment on this cause.

Hair turning white overnight – Could it from fear

It is supposed that Martyr Thomas More and legend Marie Antoinette hair went white a night before the execution. It is not possible for the already existing hair to turn white. Such a happening can be explained to be caused by “an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata, which can cause dark hairs to fall out overnight — leaving the white ones” [].

At young age  – Premature  in Children, Teens & people in 20’s or early 30’s

Anderson Cooper of CNN began having some at 20, Taylor Hick, American Idol winner began seeing some gray hatches at 29. Is this normal or premature aging? Of course, it is normal graying at certain ages. However, there are some cases where some people start graying in while teenagers while in high school or in their 20’s. Having white hair at such a young age is not normal.

Although scientists still do not know what exactly causes early white hair. However, a number of causes of at a young age than expected, considering your race have been speculated. We will look at what causes this problem in teenagers, people in 20’s or even early 30’s.  Some of the causes could also be what causes white hair in children.

Premature white hair has been associated with premature aging syndromes such as Werner syndrome and Hutchinson’s progeria where all aging aspects happen prematurely.  Furthermore, it has been noted in people with pernicious anemia, Down syndrome as well as autoimmune thyroid disease.

Other possible causes include the effect of external environment such as climate, pollutants, chemical exposure, etc. Furthermore, vitamin B-12 deficiency and poliosis have been blamed for early graying.

Solutions or treatments

The best way to deal with this issue is dealing with the various underlying causes we have seen. We will discuss more other ways while looking at how to get rid of white hair.

Pulling or plucking it

To most people, the temptation of plucking white hair, especially when one has just a few strands is very high. However, note that pulling cannot make a black or colored one to grow in its place since its pigmentation occurs in the hair bulb. Another grey or white one is bound to grow again.

Secondly, the common myth that pulling one makes more to grow is not true since only one hair grows on a follicle and pulling it cannot affect the neighboring follicle. Therefore, “don’t need to worry that pulling out the gray hair will somehow summon more grays to magically appear” [].

However, excessive pulling might strain or damage your follicle making it not to grow hair again.

Treatment or how to get rid of white hair

The specific treatments or cure you will need will depend on what caused it. If it is due to your genes, there is no way to cure for now. More research to isolate and study the gene responsible for graying of hair is required before we can have a cure. This might take many more years or decades.

However, there are a few ways to reduce, treat or cure it, which have been presented but not officially proven. Furthermore, some home remedies and lifestyle changes are thought to have an impact stopping or reducing hair graying. Some of these solutions include:

1. Can Agents that mimic DOPAchrome tautomerase activity cure white hair

This agents are applied topically to “protect and/or regenerate the melanocytes of follicles, to promote the cyclic renewal of the follicular pigmentation unit, to prevent and/or limit and/or arrest the development of canities, and to maintain the natural pigmentation of gray or white head hair and/or body hair” [].

Most of these agents are applied as serum or shampoos that are sprayed on your hair.  L’Oreal, the original assignee of this patent claims that this is a life-changing problem solution works effectively and pills for the same will be on your selves any day from this year.

2. Imatinib mesylate

In 2002, the New England Journal of Medicine reported pigmentation of grey hair as one of the side effects of imatinib mesylate (tyrosine kinase inhibitor STI571)  used for the treatment of myeloid leukemia on  133 patients.

From the report, “among these 133 patients, 5 men and 4 women (median age, 63.4 years; range, 53 to 75) with gray hair before treatment had progressive repigmentation of the hair (on the head in 8 patients and on the body and head in 1) during treatment” [].

This could be a ray of hope for who desperately what to remove it from their heads. However, have you considered the side effects of such a treatment? They are worse than having your locks grey.

3. Melancor capsules

This is a supplement, which is said to help get natural color back and it works in “two ways at the pigment level to prevent and treat gray hair while revitalizing dead strands to produce natural hair color” [].

This supplement in the form on capsule has not been tested or approved by FDA as a treatment of this condition.

4. Treating underlying problem

If your graying is caused by an underlying disease especially thyroid disorders, deficiency in vitamin B-12 or pituitary problems, you can easily reverse hair graying by treating each of these conditions.

Similarly, if you suffer from a treatable form of poliosis, your hair color will be restored the moment your poliosis is treated.

Home remedies to treat, reduce, cure or reverse

Many home remedies have been advanced as being able to reduce the rate at which graying occurs. However, according to Wikipedia, “there are no special diets, nutritional supplements, vitamins, nor proteins that have been proven to slow, stop, or in any way affect the graying process.”

Whether these remedies actually make a white hair black naturally or not is something that cannot be proven. Having not been proven does not confirm or deny the ability of these home remedies can help slow down or even reverse graying.

We will still go ahead and give you some of the ways believed to be able to make it black naturally. You can try them and tell us if they do help or not! Many people have reported these remedies helped them reduce white hair!

Some natural treatment oils such as eugenol oil restore hair color when applied topically, Indian Amla oil improves hair growth, pigmentation, and makes follicle stronger, Ashwagandha (an example of ayurvedic treatment) increases melanin content, while ligustrum is used in China to prevent graying. Some more remedies to reduce, reverse or cure grey hair include:

  1. Rosemary and sage herbs
  2. Blackstrap molasses
  3. Coconut and lemon juice
  4. Henna
  5. Curry leaves
  6. Indian gooseberries
  7. Onion juice
  8. Black tea
  9. Amaranth
  10. Black sesame seeds

To how each of the above remedies is going to help you with, and how you will use them, see home remedies for premature graying of hair. Other remedies to try include

  1. Shikakai cleanse (Ayurvedic)
  2. Buttermilk pack
  3. Onion and lemon juice
  4. Lemon juice and almond oil massage
  5. Ribbed Gourd Therapy
  6. Amla and Fenugreek Pack
  7. Curry Leaves and Coconut Oil Massage

If you interested in trying any of the above remedies, see top 10 home remedies to prevent grey hair.

These are not the only home remedies to help in reducing, slowing down or stopping graying, especially when it happens at an early age. You will find many other remedies online.

Homeopathic remedies

It is believed that “a homeopathic combo of Lycopodium Clavatum and Phosphoricum Acidum can be used to prevent premature baldness and greying of hair” []. Lycopodium will be helpful when it turns grey prematurely while psorinum when you have grey hair that comes in spots.

How to avoid white hair

It is a fact that there is no approved medicine for this problem except if the cause is by other treatable conditions. Therefore,  consider prevention instead of waiting until your hair is grey and then you desperately start looking for a solution. Here are a few things you can couple with the above remedies for gray hair to help stop it from turning gray.

1. Check your diet and change your lifestyle

Ensure you always have a well-balanced diet that is rich in minerals, antioxidants, vitamins and protein especially vitamin B-12, omega 3 fatty acids, folic acids, copper, calcium, iodine, zinc, and iron. Some recommended foods include beef liver, mushrooms, oysters, bananas, avocado, kiwis, Alma fruits, lemon juice, green leafy vegetables, eggs, cheese, blueberries, nuts, sunflower seeds, salmon fish, and tuna fish, among others.

Furthermore, eat foods that are rich in biotin such as “egg yolks, tomatoes, yeast, soybeans, walnuts, carrots, cow’s milk, goat’s milk, cucumbers, oats, and almonds” [].

Finally, stop smoking, drinking alcohol, excess caffeine use and eating junk food. Water is important, ensure you are well hydrated by increasing water intake. Also, manage stress, and have adequate sleep.

2. Scalp massage with oils and exercise

To increase blood flow to your scalp, ensure you regularly massage your scalp with your fingertips and exercise regularly. During the massage, you can use coconut, mustard, olive, almond, Indian gooseberry or mango kernel oils.

Furthermore, oil massage helps stimulate keratin and melanin production and could act as a good treatment of white hair. Some people have reported positive results and general hair improvement while using this remedy.

Caring for your natural white hair – tips and ideas

For the people who have natural grey or white hair problem (natural one that has turned grey), they will concur that it tends to be coarser, drier and more brittle. Therefore, it needs extra care to ensure it looks great. Regularly include “deep-conditioning, warm-oil scalp and restorative elasticizer treatments” [].

Furthermore, avoid the use of harsh care products especially dyes and shampoos as they can damage your hair and scalp.

Best conditioners and shampoos for white hair

To add hydration, luster and to make it look brighter, sparkly and striking, try the below shampoo and conditioners:

  • L’Oréal Srie Expert Silver Shampoo
  • Phyto Phytoargent Shampoo
  • One \’n Only Silver Shampoo
  • BioSilk Cleanse Silver Lights Shampoo
  • Klorane Silver Highlights Shampoo
  • Klorane Shampoo with Centaury
  • Sachajuan Silver Shampoo
  • René Furterer Okara Mild Silver Shampoo
  • Aveda Blue Malva Color Conditioner
  • Davines Silver Alchemic Conditioner
  • Pantene Pro-V Silver Expressions Conditioner
  • John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze
  • Emu Oil Shampoo

These are not the only shampoos or conditioners to use. There might be many others we did not include in the list. Update us.

Furthermore, apply shampoos that have blue hue at least once in a month to prevent yellowish cast on your grey hair especially the Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Shampoo.

Embracing it

Wearing a cap, a scarf, a weave or applying a hair dye is some of the ways most people use to try to hide it. Aren’t there many celebrities who have dyed theirs grey or created silver-white? I have seen people who dyed half-black half-white and they are proud of it.  Why are you trying to hide yours?  Haven’t you seen celebrities, athletes and many other famous people flaunting theirs without fear?

There is nothing wrong with having it. Be confident since it does not mean you will die soon of old age. Do not let the opinion or thoughts of other people affect you.

Long or short

To look gorgeous, get good haircuts that suit your face shape. Furthermore, try shorter cuts  i.e. short white hair will in most instances look better than having a long one. Finally, let your stylist guide you on some of the latest and best styles.

How to hide gray hair  or coloring it

Deciding to leave alone your grey hair no big deal since the Bible refers to it as a crown of glory (Proverbs 16:31). However, not everyone will be happy to have it, especially if it happens at a young age. Like it or not, someone will one day crack an insensitive joke about it.

If you are unable to live with the fact that it is turning grey so early, a simple solution will be grabbing a bottle dye i.e. a good brand.  Dying grey hair is so common among women who do not want to be seen as aging. Some men too dye while others can live with it.  To hide it:

  • Use semi and demi-permanent colors if it has just begun turning grey
  • Try highlighting it, where you will lighten some scattered strands. This will create a nice blend with your already turned grey and people might notice that you even have grey hair.
  • Go for a permanent hair dye if you have 45 to 50% grey. If you do not prefer dying, try ‘spray-on airbrush hair makeup’, which can color it temporarily washes out with just shampooing it.

Finally, let your stylist help you out on how to color it since the color choice should match well with your skin complexion and not just hide the gray hair. This is very important since even some of the best hair color choice might not compliment some skin complexions


I know you will still be looking for any permanent solution for white hair or any available white to black hair treatment. Unfortunately, there aren’t any as per now that have been proved by FDA or any other reputable organization as capable of treating, curing or stop it from growing. The remedies we have mentioned are only claimed to help in slowing down or reducing white hair growth or appearance.

Don’t fall a victim of the highly hyped and marketed products especially pills and topical creams whose manufacturers’ claim to help cure or reduce white hair. Immediately a reliable product hits the stores, we will update you accordingly.

Our sources and references
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