Last updated: August 26, 2022
What causes hair greying?
Hair greying has to do not only with your genetics and hair biology. As with the rest of the skin cells, environmental stressors can also harm your hair melanocytes (the pigment-producing cells inside your hair follicles). Damaged hair melanocytes might stop producing pigment or die. Both things lead to hair greying.
What are those environmental stressors? Anything that contributes to the burden of ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species, aka free radicals) or diminishes the ability of hair melanocytes to cope with ROS (to counteract them) can potentially lead to hair greying. Namely, smoking, exposure to UV light, certain medications (for instance, some chemotherapy drugs can affect hair pigmentation), or emotional stress.
Is hair greying due to psychological stress reversible?
In the past, some scientific studies proved the relationship between emotional stress and premature hair greying. A new, recent study goes further and, for the first time, offers quantitative evidence that links psychological stress to hair greying in people.
The good news is they saw that hair pigment production can restart when stress disappears (aka, when you manage to handle it properly). In other words, those stressed hairs that suddenly turn grey can recover their original color once you regain control over your emotions and chill out.
How does that work?
Our melanocytes synthesize melanin (aka pigment) during the hair-growing phase (called anagen). However, melanin production is not linear throughout the whole growing phase. It varies with internal and external changes (such as environmental stress). Pigment production can temporarily stop when we stress out. The new study researchers observed this phenomenon at the microscopic and molecular levels.
Stress-induced changes in the mitochondria of hair melanocytes seem to be (partly) the reason for the loss of pigment production (about 300 proteins change when a hair turns grey). The researchers involved in the new study developed a mathematical model that links both things.
Mitochondria produce the high amount of energy required for pigment production and sense and respond to environmental variations (such as hormonal changes triggered by emotional stress).
Thus, when mitochondrial metabolism improves upon psychological stress removal, hair pigmentation might get better and eventually restore.
All that also offers a broader perspective about not only early hair greying but also premature human aging. And potential new ways to counteract both.
Check out the complete story and new study here. I cite and link it below too.
Please leave any comments or questions in the comments section below 🙂
See you soon!
Quantitative mapping of human hair greying and reversal in relation to life stress. Rosenberg AM et al., Elife, 2021; 10: e67437.