You’ve probably familiar with the comparison of President Obama’s hair before and after his terms and how grey is hair turned in those years. Or how newly mothers also seem to age in a short period of time and require dyes to hide their hair discoloration. Does stress cause grey hair as it seems or is there something else at play?
Does stress cause grey hair?
Not directly. Stress has no effect of melanin, the pigment that gives hair its color, and, therefore, cannot be the cause of grey hair.
However, it can condition the body’s well-being overall, affect the digestive system and the nutrient absorption, the nervous system, among many other negative effects.
Due to these nefarious effects it might promote hair loss or increase the rate of hair turnover, which in turn will waste the scalp resources leading the strands to become lighter and lighter each time.
Why does hair turn gray?
This is a very common misconception. The hair doesn’t turn gray, it grows grey. This is why you won’t wake up suddenly one day with more grey hairs than the night before. It’s a progressive transition.
The hair color is given by a pigment named melanin. As the body ages, it produces less and less melanin until its resources are exhausted. Once you start approaching this end, each new strand will become progressively lighter until the follicle is empty of melanin and, henceforward, that strand will be forever grey.
Humans aren’t born with a set number of pigments. Some people have more than others, which explains why grey hair start to appear at different ages and even young people might have them.
The effects of stress in your body
Does stress cause grey hair? No, but this is probably the only thing it doesn’t affect. As mentioned before, stress doesn’t condition the melanin production, but, because it promotes a higher hair turnover, it exhausts the resources of this pigment quicker.
As for the body in general, stress seems to negatively affect pretty much everything:
- Weakens the immune system, increasing the risk of infections.
- Raises the blood sugar levels.
- Tenses the blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure.
- Tenses the chest muscles, making it hard to breathe.
- Triggers headaches.
- Increases the risk of depression.
- Makes the heart pump faster.
- Triggers nausea, stomachaches, and acid reflux as it increases the production of acid in the stomach.
- Increases the risk of heart attack.
- Affects the sexual well-being, by reducing the libido, disrupting the menstruation, promoting erectile dysfunction and triggering fertility problems.
- Worsens insomnia symptoms, as it makes harder to fall asleep.
What can you do to prevent stress from affecting your hair?
The obvious answer is: avoid anything that makes you stressed. It’s much easier to say it than to do it, but if it was easy you probably wouldn’t be looking for solutions to it.
Detox your life from all the objects and people that might be affecting you negatively. Following a detox diet to get rid of toxins is not enough. You also need to get free of whatever is making you accumulate the bad energies in your body.
There are several other strategies to reduce stress and anxiety that you can use, such as deep breaths, pouring your heart and worries to a close friend, relaxing teas you can drink and relaxing oils you can inhale.
Your diet is also very important as some foods increase the negative effects of stress, while others help to balance it.