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Gray Hair Caused By Stress: Discover The Surprising True Facts

While excessive levels of stress have already been linked with increased risk of cardiovascular issues, scientists now believe they have discovered the answer to does stress cause gray hair?

Stress is something that everyone is familiar within the modern world. The simple fact is that a society based on instant gratification is bound to be stressful. 

Gray Hair Caused By Stress: Discover The Surprising True Facts

The Facts Are Gray Hair Caused By Stress

The simple answer is yes.

Gray hair is hair that has lost its pigmentation. The color of your hair is actually defined by the presence of melanocytes. These are stem cells that live at the bottom of your hair, in the follicles on your skin. The aging process causes these cells to gradually disappear, a few less melanocytes will lighten your hair, when sufficient has been lost you will have gray hair. Lose the rest and your hair will go white.

The question of does stress cause gray hair has been postulated on for many years. Experts have always believed that stress is a relevant factor. However, recent research by Dr. Ya-Chieh Hsu of Harvard used mice to assess the effects of various different types of stress.

The mice were exposed to mild short term pain, psychological stress, and restricted movement. All types of stress cause them to get gray hair. Tests showed that their melanocyte cells were reduced.

This simply confirmed the link that everyone believed existed. The next step demonstrated that a combination of cortisol, (the stress hormone), and noradrenaline irrefutably caused the loss of melanocyte cells in mice, resulting in gray hair.

Gray Hair Caused By Stress: Discover The Surprising True Facts

Interestingly, while cortisol is released by your body in stressful situations, it actually triggers the release of noradrenaline which is the substance that prepares your body for fight or flight.

It’s the combination of these two chemicals that causes the reduction of melanocyte cells and gray hair. This leads to a question regarding whether you can be stressed and not produce noradrenaline.


Can Avoiding Stress Prevent The Occurrence of Gray Hair?

Is gray hair caused by stress – yes. But that doesn’t mean that reducing stress will eliminate the gray hair.

What Dr. Ya-Chieh Hsu was concerned about was that the release of noradrenaline is thought to only occur in truly life or death scenarios, not normal stress situations. This would suggest that reducing stress levels could prevent the occurrence of gray hair.

However, with further research, it became apparent to her that noradrenaline is released during any stress response, but in lower quantities that an extreme situation. The funniest part is that the hair color change is actually the fault of the melanocyte system. It misreads the signals from noradrenaline as a cue to create more hair.

In doing so it depletes its stores of pigment, making the hair turn grey. It’s the melanocyte cells that create pigment, but they lose their ability to regenerate after they have regenerated multiple times. It’s not possible yet to determine if every melanocyte cell ahs the same number of regeneration possibilities or not.

Gray Hair Caused By Stress: Discover The Surprising True Facts

Final Thoughts

What this research really shows is that while the answer to is gray hair caused by stress is yes. Reducing stress will delay the occurrence of gray hair. The assumption that your stores of pigment are limited means that you will ultimately get gray hair. Stress simply hurries the process along a little.

It would appear the only way to prevent gray hairs is to discover how to maintain pigment reserves. Not that would be a scientific breakthrough!

Of course, the real benefit of this research is a better understanding of stem cells. These cells are instrumental to every function in the human body. Understanding how they interact will help scientists to predict the effects of stress on the entire body and devise steps to reverse the effects.

It may not be the elixir of life, but history may show it as being the first step on a long path to longer-lasting life, without gray hair.


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