Getting white hair isn’t as uncommon as you grow older. But if you’re getting white hair when in your early 20s, you may be experiencing premature graying.
Why is my hair white at 23? Several factors have contributed to it, including genetics, extreme stress and or an underlying medical condition. In some cases, it can be a combination of two or more factors.
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Read on and find out more about the reasons for your premature graying of hair. We will also be discussing the possible solutions for it.
The Hair’s Natural Color Explained
Hair follicles, or small sacs lining the skin cells, have pigment cells called melanin. In turn, melanin produces a pigment that gives hair its natural color. Depending on the amount of pigment, the color can range from black to blond, with black having the highest melanin content.
But over time, the hair follicles slow down and eventually stop their melanin production. It results in the graying of hair that, in time, becomes white hair.
The process can also be caused by the build-up of naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide in the hair. Hydrogen peroxide acts as bleach on the hair.
But what exactly is premature graying? While there’s no one-size-fits-all rule, people of Caucasian descent typically have graying hair by their mid-30s. For African-Americans, it’s their mid-40s, and it’s in their late 30s for Asians. About 50% of all people, regardless of race, will have significant graying in their early 50s.
The bottom line: If you’re a white person and you have white hairs in your early 20s, then you’re prematurely graying.
The Contributing Factors To Premature Graying
Keep in mind that there likely isn’t a single cause for your white hair in your early 20s. You may have genetics working against your favor, and your unhealthy lifestyle could have exacerbated it.
Whatever the contributing factors resulting in your premature graying, you can address the issue. Your options range from dyeing your hair to seeking treatment for an underlying medical problem.
It Is In Your Genes
The makeup of your genes has a significant role in the development of white hairs, particularly their onset. If you have white hair in your early 20s, your parents and grandparents likely experienced it. You may have even observed it as a teenager but didn’t think too much of it.
Unfortunately, there’s changing our genetic makeup! The best solution to white hairs, in this case, is to color your hair regularly. But the hair treatments will not stop premature graying, so set realistic expectations.
You should also weigh the risks of frequent hair coloring, especially DIY treatments. You may well end up with dry, brittle, and limp hair, if not suffer from hair loss.
It May Be Extreme Or Chronic Stress
Stress in itself isn’t such a bad thing! Your body deals with everyday stressors by releasing stress hormones that encourage your fight-or-flight response. In some cases, it may even save your life.
But when stress becomes extreme or chronic, it contributes to a wide range of health issues. These include sleep deprivation, anxiety attacks, appetite changes, and high blood pressure. Think about the days when you can’t sleep, eat, and function well because of extreme stress.
How does extreme or chronic stress relate to premature graying? There isn’t hard scientific evidence yet, but the anecdotal evidence is aplenty.
Look at the United States ex-presidents who seem to age by a decade after a single term. Former President Obama, for example, came into office with a full head of black hair. But after a few years, his hair had more whites than blacks in them.
There may be a grain of truth to the adage that a hard life can turn your hair white early.
It May Be A Thyroid Disorder
Changes in hormones can be caused by the thyroid’s under-activity (hypothyroidism) or over-activity (hyperthyroidism). The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland, aids in the regulation of many bodily functions, including melanin production.
If you have either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, your body will produce less melanin. If your medical condition isn’t properly treated, your hair will likely turn white over time. While it isn’t a guarantee, studies have shown that hair re-pigmentation can occur after treatment
It Can Be A Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
Vitamin B-12 plays a vital role to the production of healthy red blood cells. In turn, red blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients to the cells, including the hair cells. Indeed, it’s a vital vitamin in healthy hair growth and color.
With a Vitamin B-12 deficiency, hair becomes drier, more brittle, and less healthy and with less color and shine. Vegetarians are at high risk of developing said deficiency. It is also true for persons taking birth control pills and for people experiencing gastrointestinal issues.
Your doctor may recommend vitamin shots or pills if your prematurely white hair is due to Vitamin B-12 deficiency.
It May Be An Autoimmune Disease
An undiagnosed autoimmune disease may also cause your white hair. In an autoimmune disease, your body’s immune system treats its cells as a threat and attacks them. Think of it as your body rebelling against itself.
The most common autoimmune diseases that can cause premature graying are vitiligo and alopecia. In these conditions, the immune system attacks hair cells resulting in their loss of pigment.
It Can Be Brought On By Smoking
Smoking cigarettes doesn’t just affect the lungs and heart. The substances in cigarettes, such as tar and nicotine, constrict blood vessels. The constriction results in reduced blood flow to the cells, including the hair and skin cells.
Additionally, the toxic substances in cigarettes also cause significant damage to many parts of the body, including the hair follicles. The combination of reduced oxygen and nutrient flow and increased damage can cause early white hair.
While there’s no evidence that smoking cessation will result in darker hair, it has several health benefits. These include better heart and lung health as well as healthier skin and hair.
While white hair in your early 20s isn’t a life and death condition, it can cause mild distress! But it isn’t a lost cause either. You can have your white hair dyed, and seek medical treatment for an underlying condition and adopt healthy habits. You may even look into having a clean-shaven head a la Bruce Willis or The Rock.