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5 Reasons for Premature Greying

May 02, 2023 10:29 IST
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Stress is one of the leading causes of premature greying, warns Dr Monica Chahar.

IMAGE: Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposes. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sameera Reddy/

Hair has always been considered a symbol of youth and vitality. So, when those first few strands of grey or white hair make an early appearance, it can be a surprising and unsettling experience.

Premature greying, or the loss of hair colour at a younger age than expected, is a phenomenon that affects many people around the world.

Premature greying is a common problem faced by people of all ages. It can be quite disheartening to see grey hair appearing in your 20s or 30s when you are not expecting it.

While greying is a natural process, the onset of grey hair before age 30 is considered premature in Asians.

There are various reasons why people experience premature greying, and in this article, we will explore the top reasons and what you can do about it.

What is Premature Greying?

Premature greying refers to the condition where an individual's hair begins to turn grey before the typical age of greying, which depends on the race and ethnicity.

In Indians, greying of hairs before the age of 25-30 years is usually considered as premature. This premature greying can occur as early as in the late teens or twenties, and in some cases, even in childhood.

It is a result of the loss of pigmentation in the hair shaft, causing it to lose its natural colour and turn grey or white.

Our hair colour is determined by a pigment called melanin, which is produced by specialized cells in the hair follicles known as melanocytes.

Melanin gives our hair its natural colour, ranging from black and brown to blonde and red. However, several factors can disrupt the normal functioning of melanocytes, leading to premature greying.

1. Genetics

Genetics play a significant role in premature greying. If your parents or grandparents had early greying, then it is more likely that you will experience the same.

This is because genetics determines how much melanin your hair follicles produce, which is responsible for giving your hair its natural colour. If your hair follicles produce less melanin, your hair will start greying earlier.

What you can do about it:

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about genetics. You can, however, adopt a healthy lifestyle to slow down the greying process.


2. Stress

Stress is one of the leading causes of premature greying. When you're stressed, your body produces cortisol, which can lead to a reduction in melanin production. Over time, this can cause your hair to turn grey.

What you can do about it:

To reduce stress, try practising meditation or yoga. You can also engage in activities that you enjoy, like reading, painting, or playing sports.


3. Nutritional deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies, especially in vitamin B12 and folic acid, can cause premature greying. These vitamins are essential for melanin production, and a deficiency can lead to a reduction in melanin levels.

Some other nutrient deficiencies like that of copper, iron, vitamin D and calcium can also give rise to early greying of hairs.

What you can do about it:

Include foods rich in vitamin B12 and folic acid in your diet.

Foods like eggs, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of these vitamins. You can also take supplements and dietary advice under the guidance of a healthcare professional for other deficiencies.


4. Smoking

Smoking is harmful to your health in many ways, including premature greying. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes can cause oxidative stress, damaging hair follicles and reducing melanin production.

What you can do about it:

Quit smoking. It is the best thing you can do for your overall health and help slow down the greying process.


5. Autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune disorders like alopecia areata and vitiligo can cause premature greying.

These conditions cause the immune system to attack the hair follicles and melanocytes, which can lead to premature greying.

What you can do about it:

Consult a healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for your autoimmune disorder.

Treatment Options

If you are experiencing premature greying and it bothers you, there are various treatment options available.

However, it is important to note that reversing grey hair is not always possible, and treatment effects may vary depending on the underlying cause. Some common treatment options include:

  • Hair Dye: Using hair dye is one of the most common and straightforward methods to cover grey hair. There are numerous hair dye products available in the market that can help you achieve the desired hair colour.
  • Nutritional Supplements: Taking nutritional supplements, such as biotin, vitamin B12, and copper, can help improve melanin production and slow down the greying process in some cases. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before taking any supplements to avoid potential side effects.
  • Topical Treatments: Some topical treatments, such as minoxidil, have been shown to help stimulate melanocyte activity and promote hair pigmentation. However, these treatments may not be effective for everyone and should be used under medical supervision.
  • Addressing Underlying Medical Conditions: If an underlying medical condition is causing premature greying, treating the underlying condition may help slow down or reverse the greying process. Consultation with a healthcare professional is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.

To sum up, premature greying can be caused by various factors, including genetics, stress, nutritional deficiencies, smoking, and autoimmune disorders.

While some causes are beyond our control, adopting a healthy lifestyle, eating a nutritious diet, quitting smoking, and managing stress can slow down the greying process.

Remember that grey hair is a natural part of the ageing process, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Embrace your natural hair colour and take good care of your hair and overall health.

Dr Monica Chahar is the Chief Dermatologist and Director, Skin Décor, New Delhi.

Disclaimer: All content and media herein is written and published online for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It should not be relied on as your only source for advice.

Please always seek the guidance of your doctor or a qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Do not ever disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read herein.

If you believe you may have a medical or mental health emergency, please call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital, or call emergency services or emergency helplines immediately. If you choose to rely on any information provided herein, you do so solely at your own risk.

Opinions expressed herein cannot necessarily provide advice to fit the exact specifics of the issues of the person requesting advice.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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