Does Premature Hair Loss And Graying Indicate Something More Serious?

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Hereditary genetic conditions, certain diseases (heart issues, lung tissue scarring, aplastic or pernicious anemia), exposure to radiation, Vit B12 deficiency, thyroid problems, stress, and lifestyle choices like smoking can cause premature graying and hair loss. Ayurveda advises avoiding hot, spicy pitta-enhancing foods and advocates the topical application of maka juice, amla, triphala, on the scalp.

Being called a silver fox or mistaken for being older than you are – these are things anyone who has begun going gray will relate to! Gray hair may be a sign of wisdom and growing older for most of us, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes when your hair starts turning gray in your 20s or early 30s, it could be masking an underlying problem.

Why Does Your Hair Turn Gray?

As you grow older, your hair shaft starts wearing down and the hair follicle itself too begins to age. As the follicle gets older, the melanocyte function responsible for giving your hair its color also becomes less effective. And that’s when your hair starts turning gray.

Premature aging due to a family history or genetic condition, exposure to radiation, and lifestyle choices like smoking could all bring on premature graying. Your scalp itself undergoes both internal and external aging due to what you expose your body to.

Here’s a look at some of the factors that could cause your hair to go gray before it should.

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress from free radicals in the body can bring on premature gray hair. Researchers have found that this interferes with melanocyte growth, depleting their number and causing hair to turn gray in the absence of these specialized cells responsible for pigmenting hair. Oxidative stress can come from inflammation in the body, exposure to radiation, and even psychoemotional stress, making it vital that you address the root cause to prevent long-term damage or more serious consequences.1

Genetic Causes And Family History

Find out how old your parents and grandparents were when they began to see visible signs of graying hair. Familial premature graying is not uncommon, and it could well be the case that you’re genetically predisposed to gray hair early on. In general, Caucasian or white-skinned people tend to see signs of graying in their mid-30s, while Asians begin to go gray in their late 30s. African-Americans gray later than other races.

Dyskeratosis congenita (DC) is a rare syndrome with premature graying of hair as a symptom. An inherited syndrome and aging disorder, it causes patients to have increasingly short telomeres (the coating on the DNA that determines how we age). This results in the graying of hair, higher risk of osteoporosis, dental loss, and in more severe cases eventual bone marrow failure.2

Heart Disease, Lung Scarring, And Aplastic Anemia

Short telomeres, which can cause signs of aging such as premature graying, are also present in those who are susceptible to heart failure. Those with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or scarring of the tissue on the lung also see telomere shortening. The shorter length and telomerase activity levels impact how well stem cells can regenerate tissue, including hair.3

Aplastic anemia, where the body is not producing adequate new blood cells, could also result in early graying.4

Vitamin B12 Deficiency And Pernicious Anemia

Vitamin B12 stimulates the body’s melanocytes that give your hair their color. A deficiency of this essential vitamin or pernicious anemia, which prevents absorption of adequate levels of the vitamin by the body, can also cause hair to lose its pigmentation.5

Thyroid Problems

Human hair follicle function is impacted by thyroid hormones. As one study found, T3 and T4 both modulate various aspects of hair biology including pigmentation. And that’s why a thyroid problem could also result in early graying.6

Smoking And Graying Hair

Studies have found that smokers may show signs of aging before their time. Smokers may develop facial wrinkles and even find their hair going gray earlier than it should. Researchers found a link between graying hair and smoking in both men and women. The good news is if you stop smoking soon enough, you may be able to halt the progress of this accelerated aging and restore it to normal levels.7

How You Can Fight Premature Graying

Your first line of defense against premature graying is understanding what specifically is causing the problem. If you find it is due to a deficiency or disorder that is treatable, your doctor may prescribe appropriate medication or treatment to help. Topical products like hair conditioners, antioxidants, photo protectors, and humectants made from anti-aging compounds will usually be suggested. Hair transplantation may be an option for some.

Newer solutions like topical liposome targeting of proteins and melanins are also being explored. Until then, hair care products and natural looking hair colors also offer a means to address aesthetic concerns around premature aging and can restore a younger-looking you.8

Ayurveda’s Answer To Premature Graying

In general, maintaining good mental and physical health is considered the best way to ensure good glossy hair. According to Ayurveda, a pitta imbalance is manifested as palitya or premature graying in some people. The body’s digestive essence called rasa is believed to determine hair color and overall health.

There are some tried and tested ways you can use Ayurvedic remedies to stop graying hair.

  • Avoid eating too much hot, spicy pitta-enhancing food when you have such an imbalance to slow graying. In addition, nasya karma, or the administering of medicines through the nostrils, is suggested to treat the problem.9
  • Applying maka or bhringaraja juice to the hair is a commonly used ayurvedic treatment for darkening hair naturally. Besides this, formulations using amla, triphala, harada, and beheda are other options.10

References   [ + ]

1. Arck, Petra Clara, Rupert Overall, Katharina Spatz, Christiane Liezman, Bori Handjiski, Burghard F. Klapp, Mark A. Birch-Machin, and Eva Milena Johanne Peters. “Towards a “free radical theory of graying”: melanocyte apoptosis in the aging human hair follicle is an indicator of oxidative stress induced tissue damage.” The FASEB journal 20, no. 9 (2006): 1567-1569.
2. Walne, Amanda J., and Inderjeet Dokal. “Advances in the understanding of dyskeratosis congenita.” British journal of haematology 145, no. 2 (2009): 164-172.
3. Blasco, Maria A. “Telomere length, stem cells and aging.” Nature chemical biology 3, no. 10 (2007): 640-649.
4. DeZern, Amy E., and Eva C. Guinan. “Aplastic anemia in adolescents and young adults.” Acta haematologica 132, no. 3-4 (2014): 331-339.
5. Finner, Andreas M. “Nutrition and hair: deficiencies and supplements.” Dermatologic clinics 31, no. 1 (2013): 167-172.
6. van Beek, Nina, Eniko Bodo, Arno Kromminga, Erzsébet Gáspár, Katja Meyer, Michal A. Zmijewski, Andrzej Slominski, Bjorn E. Wenzel, and Ralf Paus. “Thyroid hormones directly alter human hair follicle functions: anagen prolongation and stimulation of both hair matrix keratinocyte proliferation and hair pigmentation.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 93, no. 11 (2008): 4381-4388.
7. Mosley, J. G., and A. C. C. Gibbs. “Premature grey hair and hair loss among smokers: a new opportunity for health education?.” British Medical Journal 313, no. 7072 (1996): 1616-1617.
8. Trüeb, Ralph M. “Aging of hair.” Journal of cosmetic dermatology 4, no. 2 (2005): 60-72.
9. Singh, Nishant. “Panchakarma: cleaning and rejuvenation therapy for curing the diseases.” Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 1, no. 2 (2012).
10. Patkar, Kunda B. “Herbal cosmetics in ancient India.” Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery 41, no. 3 (2008): 134.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.