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Reasons for premature graying of hair

This article explains various factors and causes which can cause premature graying of hair. Nutritional deficiencies, wrong eating habits, genetic factor, thyroid disorders, chemical dyes, environmental pollution, smoking, certain drugs, stress are some of the causes.


If the natural shade of hair changes into gray color at a very young age then this condition is called as premature graying of hair. Age of premature graying varies based on geographical locations and also on the race to which an individual belongs. In white people, if graying starts before 20 then they are said to be grayed prematurely. In Asians, it is 25 years and in Africans, it is up to 30 years. However, today a drastic change is seen in these numbers. Many individuals are suffering from premature graying of hair even before they turn 20. Premature graying is also referred to as canities.

Causes for premature graying of hair

  • Nutritional deficiencies
    Premature graying of hair is very closely associated with lack of nutrition in the daily diet. Deficiency of vitamin B 12, iron, iodine, and copper all can result in early graying of hair. Deficiency of vitamin C and E also causes hair to gray. If a person suffers from chronic protein loss from the body then this can also be a reason. Other factors responsible are decreased levels of serum iron, serum calcium, and vitamin D3.

  • Improper nutrition
    Hair health is a part of our overall health. If we eat healthily then we boost our overall health and in turn, our hair too enjoys good health. If we eat right then we can see its effects on our hair too. Premature graying of hair is seen in those individuals who do not eat healthy and right. This is why they suffer from numerous deficiencies which affect hair health and causes premature graying. Drinking too much tea or coffee is one such cause. Eating more junk or processed foods increase oxidative stress in the body and also deposit AGE's which stands for advanced glycation endproducts. These things will speed up the aging process of the body which in turn will cause hair to turn from its natural shade to gray or white in color.

  • Genetic factor
    Genes play a very important role in deciding the age of graying. Premature graying of hair is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. If either of the parents has experienced premature graying, then there is every possibility that their kids too will experience the same. Hair pigmentation occurs when interactions of a complex kind take place between various genetic factors. Also, overload of hydrogen peroxide and melanin which can result in the body genetically can also lead to premature graying of hair.

  • Thyroid disorder
    Both an underactive as well as overactive thyroid can result in premature graying of hair as it is known to affect melanin production in melanocytes. The thyroid is a small gland present in the neck and is shaped like a butterfly. It is powerful enough to cause a direct impact on hair health too. It can cause direct alterations in hair follicles and melanocytes. It is therefore very commonly seen that individuals suffering from various thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Grave's disease, Hashimoto's disease etc suffer from premature graying.

  • Autoimmune disorders
    When an individual is suffering from an autoimmune disorder then his immune system seems to attack his body instead of working against pathogens or foreign bodies. This is the reason that immune system starts attacking cells responsible to generate pigments for skin and hair and thus skin and hair color changes in autoimmune disorders like pernicious anemia, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, vitiligo etc.

  • Premature aging syndrome
    Premature aging syndromes like progeria and pangeria are quite rare but can cause premature graying of hair. Other signs of aging are also seen as early wrinkles, cataract formation, weak bone density, early onset of diabetes etc.

  • Smoking and substance abuse
    Smoking produces reactive oxygen species in large amounts. As a result, oxidative stress is caused. This will cause damage to melanocytes. Smokers are at four time's higher risk of graying hair at a premature age when compared with non-smokers. Substance abuse of any kind can also trigger the same kind of results and causes early graying.

  • Atopic diathesis
    Asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, allergic conjunctivitis all can form causative factors behind early graying of hair in an individual.

  • Ultraviolet light
    As seen in case of smoking, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light can also cause damage to melanocytes and thereby melanin production decreases or stops resulting in graying of hair at a very early age.

  • Lack of sunlight
    Hair follicles have vitamin D in them and thus they need more of it from the sunlight to replenish the loss. In absence of it, hair starts losing melanin pigment. Vitamin D is not absorbed from hair. In fact, sunlight on the skin matters. When we get exposed to sunlight, our skin absorbs vitamin D and thereby it is sent to the other parts of the body where it is needed.

  • Vitiligo
    In this disease, the damage is caused to pigment-producing cells of skin and hair. This is the reason that if an individual is suffering from vitiligo then it is very much possible that he will suffer from premature graying of hair as melanocytes which are located at the base of the hair follicles will get damaged and as a result, melanin production will stop in them.

  • Heart disease
    Studies have confirmed that hair graying is prominent in individuals suffering from coronary artery disease, damaged arteries and in individuals who have calcium deposits in their arteries.

  • Osteoporosis
    Premature graying of hair is closely associated with other features of aging like bone loss which is taking place at a very rapid rate. Thus, if graying of hair is taking place prematurely then it may be suggestive that person may be suffering from osteoporosis.

  • Medical conditions
    Individuals who suffer from certain medical conditions like cystic fibrosis, HIV infections, and Hodgkin's lymphoma may be at a risk of premature graying of hair.

  • Stress
    Stress does not have a direct effect on graying of hair. However, it influences it indirectly. More amount of stress generated will have a more negative impact on overall health. Those who often are seen taking excess and unnecessary stress are seen to be suffering from graying of hair when compared with others who don't. Stress whether it is physical or mental, both can result in premature graying of hair and this can be reversed if stress is reduced.

  • Drugs
    There are many drugs which can induce premature graying of hair. Some of them are chloroquine, interferon-alpha, phenylthiourea, triparanol, dixyrazine etc. Topically applied drugs can also result in same and some of such agents are PGF 2 alpha, dithranol, resorcin etc.

  • Pollution
    Pollutants which are present in the environment can speed up graying process. It is said that every decade our chances of graying increases by 10%-20%. Pollution also results in oxidative stress which is quite damaging.

  • Hydrogen peroxide
    This chemical is naturally produced by our body. If it gets accumulate can interfere with melanocytes function and thereby causes graying. This chemical is used mainly for bleaching purposes.

  • Unclean scalp
    If care is not taken to clean hair and scalp regularly then too much dirt and dust accumulated along with generated oils can affect scalp health. Harsh products which are used in cleansing hair and localized scalp diseases both can result in premature graying of hair.

  • Too hot water
    Taking head baths with excessively hot water will result in early graying of hair as too hot water can cause damage to hair follicles, roots as well as risk of melanocytes damage too increases.

  • Too much use of electric appliances
    When an individual excessively uses electric appliances like electric dryers and hair irons on hair then they cause damage not only to shafts of hair but also damage reaches the scalp and to the pigment-producing melanocytes.

  • Chemical Dyes
    Today more number of people are readily using these chemical dyes. Some of them to cover their grays and whites, whereas, others are using them as they like to experiment with different shades and colors. Chemical dyes can damage hair follicles and also cause damage to melanocytes and will result in unclean scalp. Excessive and frequent use of these dyes will introduce too many toxins into the scalp affecting its health. Most of the dyes contain ammonia which instead of solving the whole thing, further aggravates the problem.


Onset of gray hair as well as the speed at which graying takes place vary from one person to another. Growing premature gray hair in no way means that body's aging process is also taking place at an accelerated rate. Graying takes place due to a number of reasons and the most important factor that influences it is inherited genes. Premature graying is becoming a very common phenomenon now a day. It is not at all necessary that premature graying needs to be associated with any underlying pathology. However, in certain conditions, it may be a result of underlying disease or disorder or due to the wrong pattern of living like wrong eating habits which can cause nutritional deficiencies. Learn Home remedies to reverse premature graying of hair along with Management and prevention to deal with gray hair in a better way.

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Author: Swati Sarnobat11 Jul 2018 Member Level: Gold   Points : 1

Useful article! One of the most hidden reasons for premature graying is emotional stress. A person should learn to control his mind and manage day-to-day stress of life.

Author: Venkiteswaran24 Mar 2019 Member Level: Gold   Points : 3

Lack of sleep or erratic sleeping and eating habits is a very common cause of premature greying of hair nowadays. This can be evident from the problem among the many IT sector youths. Their sleep and eating schedule is erratic. In Ayurveda, in most cases, it is linked to Pitha dosha. When the internal body heat increases this kind of issues occurs. Following a regular lifestyle with respect to Food, Hygiene and Sleep can help in avoiding premature greying. However when it has already started, then it is best to see a doctor and remedy the causative problem. There are many popular Ayurvedic hair oils for daily use also.

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