There is little more frustrating than finding a stubborn gray hair, and according to a study published by Harvard University, stress could cause you to go gray sooner.
“Nobody wants to see it, it can age you dramatically,” said Melyssa Hurley, owner of the Thomas Taft Salon. “I’ve been seeing a lot of younger and younger clients with gray hair.”
Scientists at Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute have confirmed the long-standing beauty myth that stress can cause gray hair, at least in mice. The researchers found that stress activates nerves that are part of the fight-or-flight response, which can cause permanent damage to pigment-generating stem cells in hair follicles.
“Under really stressful conditions, we have too much neuronal activity on each of these hair follicles, and that causes the stem cells to divide like crazy and basically completely deplete that reservoir associated with each one of those hairs,” said Christopher Deppmann of the University of Virginia’s Neuroscience Graduate Program.
While humans and mic have similar nervous system responses, researchers say they would need to conduct further experiments to find out if there’s a definitive link between stress and premature gray hair in humans.
These findings will also give scientists a better understanding of how stress can impact the body and hopefully pave the way for future studies that aim to manage the damaging effects of stress.