Premature Gray Hair? Don't Panic (or Pluck)

by April 05, 2017

premature gray hair

Image by Madison Reed

When did you get your first gray? 30? How about 20? 18 even? Yup, some people start going gray early, even as early as their teens or early 20s, while others are in their 60s before the first hint of silver strikes. So why do some people go gray so early? The good news is, it's nothing to stress about. And contrary to popular belief, stress is not what causes premature gray hair. In fact, there are a lot of misconceptions around premature gray hair, and gray hair in general. Read on as we bust these other early gray hair myths wide open.

Myth #1: It’s all your parents’ fault

If you got gray hair young, it’s only mostly your parents’ fault. (And your grandparents, and your great-grandparents…) Premature graying is almost completely determined by your genes. The way it works is, your hair follicles contain pigmented cells that produce melanin, which gives your hair its color. When these cells stop generating melanin, your hair will start growing in gray, silver, or white. Biology pretty much dictates when the color-producing cells will decide to go on strike and quit producing pigment. But, it turns out you can’t blame your parents for everything. For instance, your ethnicity does make a difference. On average, white women go gray the earliest, usually in their mid-thirties. Asian women tend to go gray in their late thirties. African American women typically start going gray in their mid-forties. Your lifestyle can also influence premature graying. Research has shown that heavy smoking, a vitamin B-12 deficiency, or certain issues with the pituitary or thyroid glands can all affect going gray earlier.

Myth #2: The more you color, the faster you’ll go gray

Thank goodness, this one’s false. In actuality, the frequency with which you color your hair has zero effect on premature graying. There is also no way premature gray hair can be reversed—sorry, everybody. Once it starts happening, there are two options: rocking the heck out of the “distinguished” look, or embracing permanent color. If you choose the latter, be sure to look for a product specifically created for gray coverage, because gray hair can actually have a harder time absorbing color if it grows in coarser than its original texture. You also want a hair color that adds dimension to tone down your grays for a more blended out look. Ahem–Madison Reed Radiant Cream Color...

Myth #3: Pluck one gray and more will grow

We’ve all heard this old wives’ tale: pluck one gray hair and three will show up to its funeral. Nope. If you use your tweezers on the odd gray hair sprouting up here and there, you will not give yourself more gray hair. But honestly? It’s not the greatest idea, and here’s why. It could grow back in more wiry, because you’re damaging your strands’ natural texture. And when it does grow back, that wiry texture will make the gray hair stick straight up as it grows, making it much more obvious. Even worse, it may not grow back in at all. Repeated trauma to the hair follicle means the follicle will eventually quit producing a hair shaft. That means no new growth, not now, not never. And isn’t one gray hair so much better than a bald patch? So, if the sight of your grays makes you want to tear your hair out, don’t. Just start coloring your hair. (It's so easy—we promise.) Or, if you must, carefully and precisely trim that pesky premature gray hair with a pair of hair scissors. Aaaaand...cut.

Related: The Gray Hair Cover Up

Be sure to read our in-depth article on What Causes Gray Hair and Gray Hair Care.