10 Causes of Going Gray Early

Fuzail Aamir Apr 03 2016
gray hair

How does your hair get its natural colour? What are the causes of going gray early? What are the possible remedies to prevent or at least slow down the graying of hair?

Graying of hair is a natural occurrence, which with age at one point of time would happen to everyone. What alarming is the increasing frequency of the phenomenon, becoming more common in young ages – even in teenagers.

Although graying of hair starts in the late 20’s in the majority of Asians, but it usually goes unobserved at that time of life. Premature Graying of hair for Asians and Africans starts before 30 years of age, while in Caucasians, it occurs even before age 18.

A human scalp has a bulb-like tubes known as the follicles; an average human head has around 100,000 to 150,000 follicles, where the hair grows. Hair, in its original condition, the unpigmented state, would have been white. It gets its colour from a pigment known as melanin. The shade of the hair gets its colour by the mix of two melanins present in the human body: Phaeomelanin, (reddish yellow) and eumelanin (black/dark brown).

As per one suggestion, ageing slows down or stops the melanin to get access to the hair, turning hair gray, but as the frequency of gray hair in young is increasing, dermatologists are looking forward to find out answers to the problem of hair turning gray early.

Here are ten top reasons of hair growing gray early.

Causes of Gray Hair


One major reason of hair turning gray at a young age is heredity. Children with parents whose hair turned gray at young ages have a higher chances of growing gray hair in their youth.

Build-up of hydrogen peroxide

Hair cells build up an acid, hydrogen peroxide; when there is too much of the acid in the follicles, oxidation occurs, a process similar to metal rusting, which can naturally bleach the hair.

To counter the effect of hydrogen peroxide, the human body produces an enzyme: Catalase, that prevents oxidation by converting hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. The lower level of Catalase allows the hydrogen peroxide to build-up.


As per the tale of Marie Antoinette, her hair turned white in one night, prior to the morning she had to be hanged. It is assumed, that it was the stress of her awaiting future that lay just around the corner, which made her hair loose color within hours.

Although scientists are not yet certain of any direct relation of stress with gray hair, but in 2011, Robert Leftkowitz, Nobel Prize winner discovered that stress can impact on our DNA and result in premature aging and graying of hair.


Smoking does not only cause premature hair graying, but actually contributes to premature aging, as a whole. According to a study published in the journal Science News, smokers compared to non-smokers have 4 times more likely to gray hair. Another study published in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal concludes that Jordanians who smoked had 2.5 times more likeliness of gray hair before the age of 30, compared to nonsmokers.

Insufficient nutrition and dehydration

Dehydration causes one’s skin and scalp to become dry. Although, lotions and conditioners may help combat dryness, but our body needs to be hydrated as well. The water a person drinks is the source of moisture, and therefore dehydration makes the hair rough, dry and gray.
Insufficient or poor nutrition directly affects one’s development or progression; it leads to premature graying of hair.

Deficiency of vitamin B-2, B-6 & B-12

B vitamins help our body perform physiological functions and create DNA. Vitamin B-12 helps the human body produce red blood cells and vital proteins – its deficiency can cause premature graying.

Caffeine or Alcohol Overdose

High intake of Caffeine and Alcohol can cause dehydration and promote the release of stress hormones. This would not only result in hair to turn gray, but would cause multiple other issues including skin issues and premature aging.

Extreme use of hair sprays/gel, hair irons and electric dryers

Processing the hair again and again can cause follicular damage. Electric dryers and hair irons transmit high levels of heat damaging hair strands and the follicles.
Hair dyes, sprays and gels are commonly used to cover up unwanted hair conditions. Every time you use them, some damage is done to the hair follicles – and over a period these follicles lose the ability to produce color pigments.


Getting less sleep is a key reason of stress; it causes body, skin, and hair damage and thus early aging.

Less intake of copper, Iodine and Selenium

A human body requires copper to produce pigment for your skin and hair. Scientists are closing up on particular nutrient deficiencies linked to gray hair. In one research, published in the Biological Trace Elements Research Journal, Individuals with gray hair had significantly lower copper levels than the rest of the sample.

Remedies and Preventions

  • Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditations or Yoga to control stress.
  • Drink around 8 to 12 glasses of water to keep the skin and hair moisturized.
  • Cereals, grain breads, bananas, dairy, eggs, poultry, meat and vegetables are a good source of vitamin B.
  • Nuts, beans, shellfish and fruits (bananas, grapes and tomatoes) are a good source of Copper.
  • Always use a pillow and a mattress that is comfortable for a good sound sleep.
  • Exercise helps boost the flow of minerals and vitamins to the hair follicles.
  • Oil massage helps the blood flow to the skin and scalp.

It is always advisable to visit a dermatologist to rule out any unexpected graying of hair.


Fuzail Aamir

Fuzail Aamir:

He is a reporter for HTV Web and a student at Ziauddin University.