11 causes of white hair at an early age

If age isn’t the issue, here are 11 other causes of white hair at an early age. From hormonal imbalance to genetics, white hair can also be the result of an underlying disease.

It’s normal to have white hair or experience premature greying after the age of 40. But what if it happens at an early age? Well, nowadays, many youngsters complain about dealing with white hair. While in most cases, it is associated with genetic issues, it can also be linked to underlying health problems. When hair follicles don’t produce enough melanin through the pigment cells, discolouration will take place. This can be triggered by several factors, such as stress, hormonal changes, or even a skin condition called vitiligo. Read on to understand the causes of white hair at an early age.

11 causes of white hair before 40

Just like hair fall can occur at a young age, your hair may turn white earlier than you thought. Health Shots reached out to Dermatologist Dr Rinky Kapoor, to understand all the possible causes of white hair.

1. Genetics

One of the most significant factors that cause white hair at an early age is genetics. If your parents or grandparents experienced premature white hair, you are more likely to experience it as well. Certain genes control melanin production, the pigment responsible for hair colour, which can lead to premature greying.

2. Oxidative stress

Oxidative stress occurs when there’s an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. External factors like pollution, UV radiation, and an unhealthy diet contribute to oxidative stress. Dr Kapoor explains that this stress can damage the melanocytes responsible for hair colour, leading to white hair or premature greying.

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Pollution can also take a toll on your hair! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

3. Vitamin deficiencies

Inadequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin B12, iron, copper, and zinc, can contribute to white hair. These nutrients play a crucial role in melanin production and maintaining the health of hair follicles.

4. Hormones

Hormonal changes in the body, especially during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, can influence the hair’s pigmentation, explain Dr Kapoor. Fluctuations in hormones, such as melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) and cortisol may contribute to the white hair.

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5. Chronic stress

Prolonged exposure to stress triggers the release of stress hormones, affecting various bodily functions, including hair colour. Chronic or high levels of stress accelerate the depletion of melanocytes, causing white hair.

6. Smoking

Smoking is linked to various health issues, and premature white hair is one of them. It introduces harmful toxins into the body, disrupting the natural processes, including melanin production.

woman smoking
Smoking can harm your overall health. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

7. Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a skin condition where the immune system attacks and destroys pigment cells. While it primarily affects the skin, it can also impact hair colour. In some cases, individuals with vitiligo may experience premature greying of the affected hair due to the loss of pigment cells.

8. Thyroid disorder

“Certain medical conditions such as thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism) and anaemia, along with treatments like chemotherapy, can influence hair colour,” says Dr Kapoor. The side effects of medications or the underlying health condition may contribute to white hair at an early age.

9. Chemical hair products

Excessive use of harsh chemical, hair treatments, such as bleach or using colouring agents, can damage the hair shaft and affect the melanocytes. Continuous exposure to these chemicals may contribute to white hair by compromising the hair’s natural pigmentation.

10. Autoimmune disorder

Certain autoimmune disorders, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells, can impact hair colour. Conditions like alopecia areata may lead to hair loss and changes in pigmentation, including white hair.

Woman with grey hair
Autoimmune disease can result in white hair. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

11. Pollutants

Environmental pollutants, such as air pollution, can have adverse effects on hair health. These pollutants generate free radicals, contributing to oxidative stress and potentially accelerating greying.

7 tips to prevent white hair

  • Consume a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support hair health and minimise white hair. Include foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
  • Practise stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to alleviate chronic stress, which can contribute to premature greying.
  • Avoid using harsh chemical hair treatments like bleaching and excessive colouring.
  • To stimulate blood flow to the scalp, regular scalp massage is essential. It promotes hair follicle health and maintains natural pigmentation.
  • Shield your hair from environmental pollutants and UV radiation by wearing hats or using protective hair products when outdoors.
  • Drink an adequate amount of water daily to keep your hair hydrated and prevent dryness.
  • Seek advice from a dermatologist to identify underlying health issues.

Apart from these tips, make sure you are following a healthy hair care routine to reduce the risk of white hair!