Gray Matters

Gray Matters

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Behavioral Health, Wellness

Gray hair is a blessing. Ask any bald man. While the age at which we start to turn gray is largely determined by genetics, recent scientific studies show that yes, stress does cause gray hairs. Look at before and after pictures of U.S. presidents if you have any doubt. 

Hair color is determined by pigment-producing cells called melanocytes, according to a study reported by the National Institute of Health. New melanocytes are made from melanocyte stem cells that live in the hair follicle. As we age, these stem cells slowly disappear. 

Nerves in your sympathetic nervous system – which is responsible for the body’s fight-or-flight response – go throughout the body, including into hair follicles. The study showed that stress causes the release of the chemical norepinephrine into the follicle. 

Here’s where stress highlights your hair. Norepinephrine affects the melanocyte stem cells living there. It causes them to quickly turn into pigment cells and move out of the hair follicles. Without stem cells left to create new pigment cells, new hair turns gray or white. 

To slow the process, take a deep breath and attempt to lower your stress level. Or pay a professional to wash the gray right out of your hair. 

Source: National Institute of Health


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