Perhaps your parents said your teenage years made their hair turn gray. Or maybe you have your own kids, and think the late nights spent worrying about them are responsible for any grays you see popping up. After all, we have all heard that stress leads to gray hair. Legend has it, Marie Antoinette's locks turned gray the night before her date with the guillotine. True, or just a good tall tale?
If you ask the experts whether stress causes hair to turn gray, you won’t get a definitive answer. That is, scientists and doctors say that the connection between stress and graying is a myth, yet extreme stress may cause a hair loss event (the condition is known as telogen effluvium, but that is a different area of investigation). So it’s not necessarily black and white, but a gray area, no pun intended.
One of the reasons aging, not stress, has been attributed to gray hair is because the rate in which we lose pigments is slow and steady. Hair grows about half an inch per month and the lifespan of a strand is about two to three years. This cycle may get disrupted during physiological stress, such as illness, drastic weight loss, or childbirth, but psychologically-derived stress is too temporary to change hair color.
If not daily stress, what causes hair to go gray? This much we know–hair color is produced by melanin, and as we age, we produce less of it. The rate of melanin production is determined by genetics. You can gauge when you'll begin to get gray hair by finding out what age it happened to your parents.
The good news: daily concern for your children, your career and other anxiety triggers are not causing or accelerating your change in color. Stress is still linked to wrinkles and hair loss (plus it's unhealthy), but when it comes to going gray, daily stress is not a factor.
Of course the silver lining to silver strands is that if you are going gray and want to cover it, it’s easier than ever with Root Touch Up, our instant root concealer, or with Root Reboot,™ our 2 week fix for gray roots. Check out this blog post to learn more about how to color stubborn grays, or click here to learn all about gray hair matters.