Most women are not happy when those gray or white hairs start showing up. There are many of us whose hair turned white before the age of 30. It was pretty annoying until I got older. When I was young, it prompted me to dye my hair early in life. I am often asked why your hair turns gray early. Hair goes gray when the cells that produce hair color stop producing its pigment. But why do the cells stop producing color? That is the question we want answers for.
At what age is gray hair considered prematurely gray? This depends on your ethnic heritage. If you're white, statistically you will start going gray in your middle 30s; if you are Asian in your late 30s; and if you are black, by your mid-40s. Half of the population, from all genetic backgrounds, tends to go gray by the time they are in their 50s.
Causes of Premature Gray Hair:
Genetics:Premature gray hair, when not caused by disease, is carried in the genes. My mother was completely gray by 30. Everyone thought she was my grandmother, which was really irritating as a teen. I turned gray by 25. My oldest sister was white-haired by 25. My middle sister was the only one who did not gray early. It is interesting that my mother, my oldest sister and I share some genetic similarities in health problems, as well as premature gray hair. My mother and I share genes for gray hair, mouth and teeth problems, thyroid problems, curvature of the spine, and phlebitis in the right leg. I am closest to my mother in health genetics. My daughters are 32 and 39, and are beginning to get gray hair. They did not turn gray before 30, though. My youngest daughter received my genes for curvature of the spin and leg problems. Genetics is very evident in health problems and premature graying as well. So in the genetic gene role of the dice, sometimes family members are skipped in early graying. It will be interesting to see if my three young granddaughters go gray early.
Thyroid Problems: The thyroid is one of the most important endocrine glands. It affects every function of the body including the quality of your hair and skin. More women suffer from thyroid conditions than men. Thyroid affects hair in many ways, including causing your hair to be more coarse and more dry, possible hair loss, and to gray prematurely. Thyroid conditions that can cause premature graying include Grave's disease, Hashimoto's disease, hyperthyroidism, and hypothyroidism. It is suggested if you are turning gray early, to have your thyroid function checked out. My mother was diagnosed hyperthyroid when she was in her late 30's and I was diagnosed as well in my teens. My sisters did not have theirs checked out for years so we don't know. My mother could have had it for years but it was not until she gained weight abnormally, that the doctor gave her tests. There are thousands of cases of undiagnosed thyroid patients and many who run subnormal tests. Their thyroid tests are not considered abnormal enough for thyroid treatment. Even if your thyroid function is mildly subnormal, you can have symptoms.
Anemia; Vitamin B-12 deficiency: Causes include problems in red cell production, destruction of red blood cells, loss of blood, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, infections, problems in the GI Tract, gastrectomy, and deficient nutrition. Addison's pernicious anemia is one form of Vitamin B-12 deficiency caused from an inability to utilize B-12 from the GI tract. Symptoms of these disorders include premature gray hair in some cases.
Vitiligo: Pigmentation disorder affecting the melanocyte cells that produce color in the skin and hair. White patches appear on the skin, scalp, retina, and mucous membranes. Hair turns white in some cases as well.
Alopecia Areata: Non-scaring hair loss caused from conditions such as inflammation. It can occur in both men and women and sometimes even in children. Symptoms are hair loss that occurs in patches or in severe cases, complete hair loss on both the head and body. It can cause changes in hair color including premature graying.
Werner syndrome: A rare genetic disease that causes premature aging, beginning in the teens. It causes you to age at an accelerated rate, with early death.
HIV Infection; AIDS: AIDS involves problems in nutrition, the immune and hormonal system. These health problems can affect the hair quality, including premature gray hair.
Hormone Levels: There is ongoing research investigating the relationship between hormones, bone density problems (osteoporosis) and premature graying. Some researchers feel that the combination between hormone imbalances and bone density problems may affect melancyte cell pigmentation.
Stress: Stress, though generally thought of as a major cause for premature graying, is not by itself. When stress disturbs the endocrine system enough to cause thyroid or other endocrine problems, it then can be an underlying problem. It is reported that in war, hair can turn white very quickly. In this case, it may be that stress causes acute metabolic distress, which in turn causes the hair to turn white.
In closing, it is wise to have a physical if your hair begins to turn white early.