Does stress make hair gray faster?

Does stress make hair gray faster?

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Myth or truth - can hair turn gray faster due to stress?

"Don't let gray hair grow over it" - most of us are familiar with this phrase. She says that you shouldn't worry too much about something, be stressed out, and bring stress or excessive worry to gray hair. Again and again one hears stories that a young person suddenly gets gray or white hair due to a shock. But can stress actually make our hair turn gray prematurely?

Study explores relationship between stress and gray hair

In a current study on mice, researchers from Harvard University investigated which mechanisms make hair gray. They succeeded for the first time in establishing a concrete connection between stress and premature graying. The results have now been published in the journal "Nature".

What's behind it?

Our hair grows out of tiny protuberances on the scalp, the so-called hair follicles. There are stem cells, which in turn contain cells that produce pigments (dyes). During the regeneration or recovery phases of the hair, some stem cells convert into pigment-producing cells. There are nerve branches (sympathetic nerves) in each follicle that release the substance norepinephrine (also called norepinephrine) when stressed. Noradrenaline is a stress hormone and neurotransmitter.

In their experiments, the scientists discovered that noradrenaline stimulates the stem cells particularly strongly. This not only converts some of them into pigment-producing cells, but all of them. The reservoir will be exhausted prematurely. The hair can no longer be colored. Once the pigment-producing cells are used up, they cannot be restored. The hair stays white or gray forever.

"When we started to investigate this, I expected stress to be bad for the body - but the harmful effects of stress that we discovered went beyond what I had imagined," said Ya-Chieh Hsu, a professor for regenerative biology at Harvard University in an article by the Harvard Gazette. “After just a few days, all pigment-regenerating stem cells were lost. Once they are gone, you can no longer regenerate pigments. The damage is permanent. ”

How can you prevent?

If you want to keep your natural hair color as long as possible, you should avoid stress as much as possible, limit it or actively counteract it with relaxation methods. Since stress not only causes the hair to turn gray prematurely, but is also associated with the development of many diseases such as Alzheimer's, dementia or depression, stress reduction and sufficient relaxation are definitely sensible and promote health.

You can also actively counteract the stress with various relaxation methods. And if relaxation doesn't work right away, don't let gray hair grow over it! (kh)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Magistra Artium (M.A.) Katja Helbig


  • Zhang, Bing, Ma, Sai, Rachmin, Inbal et al .: Hyperactivation of sympathetic nerves drives depletion of melanocyte stem cells; in: Nature (published 22.01.2020) 2020, Nature
  • Harvard University: Feel like kids, spouse, work giving you gray hair? They may be. (Accessed on January 23, 2020), The Harvard Gazette

Video: How You Can Avoid Premature Grey Hair (October 2022).