Woman in her 20s with gray hair

Find out why you go gray

When gray hair starts popping up, one of your first thoughts may be, "Why me?!" Well, the answers to that question might not be what you think they are. This is particularly true if you've been blaming stress. Here's the real deal on the three major factors that determine when and why you go gray.


It turns out that you may have your parents to thank for those gray strands. Your hair will likely start turning gray at the same age that your parents' hair did. That means if one or both of your parents went gray prematurely, then chances are that you will too. Genes play the biggest role in regulating the point at which hair follicles will start losing their pigment. This loss of pigment is really all that graying is.

Health and habits

While genetics largely determine when your hair turns gray, your health and daily habits can determine and even speed up the rate of graying. Smoking, vitamin and nutrition deficiencies and thyroid conditions can influence the production (or lack thereof) of melanin. Melanin is the pigment responsible for providing color to hair.

Damaged or dying melanocytes

OK, so the loss of melanin is the catalyst for the graying process, but how exactly does that work? Melanocytes are the cells responsible for producing the melanin pigment. When they become damaged or begin dying (which is natural with age) our hair begins to gray.

So does stress cause gray hair? Not necessarily. Stress often gets a bad rap for bringing on the grays, but it’s not usually to blame. Stress is more closely linked to hair loss and shedding than it is to silver streaks.

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Comments on "Why your hair turns gray"

Alicia April 04, 2014 | 10:34 PM

Josephine Skitt... I'm currently experiencing the same thing as a result of chemo. Glad to know I'm not alone.

Kay March 22, 2014 | 5:33 PM

Grey is the Canadian/British spelling, Adele. Get educated. Also, greeting doesn't occur from aging in many cases. Melanocytes have many reasons to die off, and most reasons are normal.

Lois March 12, 2014 | 7:40 AM

I was born with dark brown hair w/with redish hightlights. Colored it black from age 20-40 something. I was diagnosed w/ Lupus at 30. My hair would fall out during Lupus flair-ups, then grow back again. Wasn't fun. Wore every hair style in creation depening on how much hair I had. Mid to late thirtiesI stated to get grey streks and continued colorig my hair but from black to dark brown or dark alburn. When I turned 50 my roots started turning white while the rest stayed the same. I thought i'd try soemthing different and let the roots grow out and stop coloring it and just keep triming the length with the hopes of it all being one color since the white or gray hair seems to be in style these days. At 55 I got tired of that so I thought I would try coloring my hair alburn which wasn't a good idea. The top half of my head looked like a carrot and the other half was dark alburn,big mistake!! Prety funny though but not at the time. Went back to dying it black. White roots starting coming in white again and I keept trimming it's length. Now at the age of 57 my my head is half white and half dark brown with white streaks. I stoped coloring my hair and just keep trimming it with the hopes that my whole head would turn white and just say, oh the hell with it! Let nature takes it's course! I figure I should just be greatful for life and was able to live this long with the Lupus. Life is wonderful!! I have two grown sons and a beautiful Grandaughter. Be greatful for what we have.

Susan March 10, 2014 | 3:04 PM

Mary Mercer, I have Lupus too and I have all the same exact issues with my hair. Straight then curley, dark brown then lt brown with blonde streaks and totaly white hair, not grey, gray..lol had to put that in there for tun..lol. And all the same issues. Maybe it's something to do with Lupus I thought I was just an anomaly and glad that I'm not. Thanks for sharing. I just hate the gray because it's right on my front hairline alone, no where else. I'm 54. And it is stark white against brunette hair...I HATE IT!! So, I dye it and its not going well, but I'll keep trying until I find what works.

Mary Mercer March 04, 2014 | 7:08 AM

I have lupus...and my hair was Auburn; in my twenties (I am now 58) my hair changed to a shade brown w reddish highlights....over the years, depending on my health, I think, my hair has had some grey strands, white strands, thinning, hair loss and regrowth, bald spots from scarring; and sometimes the grey or white strands start to grow in Auburn again; plus the texture of my hair will change..I had a slight wave to it; but at times of poor health, it would go curly; and then go back to the way it was before....it never ceases to amaze my or my hairdresser....Thanks to her I am still 'Auburn' sometimes with Gold foils; although we have stopped adding the foils now because it is too hard on my hair...LOL

kes March 02, 2014 | 9:24 AM

The spelling of Grey or Gray are both acceptable. Look it up and stop being so rude!

Trichomania February 27, 2014 | 4:28 PM

of course, there is no such thing as grey hair. hair either has pigments, or not. if not, it is transparent/white. the impression of grey results from the blend with the other natural colour/the previous colour and the eyes incapability to see each single hair. www.trichomania.cz

ADELE GRIFFITHS February 27, 2014 | 4:24 AM


josephine skitt February 25, 2014 | 2:48 PM

My hair turned, black, white & grey, mainly grey - its what is know as salt & pepper after it grew back after chemotherapy 3 years ago. I had hoped that my original co,lour would have come back by now but it hasn't

Cheryl February 23, 2014 | 10:39 PM

I don't believe hair turns gray. I think it turns white; at least that is what I see!

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