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Youngsters Are Normalising Premature Grey Hair, but Why Has It Become So Common?

Over the past few years, more and more young people have been experiencing the greying of their hair prematurely.

Published
Fit
3 min read
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"I discovered my first grey hair last year, when I was 27. It troubled me way more than I thought it would,"Amyra (name changed on request), a 28-year-old from Delhi, tells FIT.

The one strand of hair, she says, plunged her into existential dreat at the thought, 'I am getting old'. But speaking to her friends about it completely changed how she felt about her newfound grey hair.

Almost all of them had discovered a grey strand of hair at some point, and almost none of them were particularly perturbed by it.

Over the past few years, more and more young people have been experiencing the greying of their hair early on in life. So much so that grey hair is no longer seen as a marker of ageing.

A 2019 study published in the Indian Journal of Applied Research had stated that, in a survey done among school children in the country, 10.6 percent children were found to have prematurely greying hair.

Why is it so common for so many people in their teens and early 20s to have some grey hair? Can premature greying be prevented or reversed?

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What causes premature greying of hair?

There are two major reasons for premature greying of hair – genetics and nutritional deficiency.

Dr Radhika Raheja, Dermatologist and Hair Transplant Surgeon, Radical Skin and Hair Clinic, Faridabad, tells FIT, "People who have hair greying in their 40s or 50s, their kids might start greying as early as in their 20s."

This means that with each generation, people are likely to get grey hair at a younger and younger age.

The other major cause is nutritional deficiency – vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, copper – or lower than normal levels of haemoglobin or thyroid.

Physical and emotional stress can also accelerate greying.

Dr Seema Oberoi Lall, Consultant, Dermatology, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, explains,

"The colour of the hair comes from melanocytes. Oxidative stress (or charged particles) in our body can damage melanocytes, which reduces their concentration, and ultimately the pigmentation in our hair."

However, both experts add that over the last few years, studies have shown other causes of premature greying too:

  • Environmental factors like pollution, exposure to sun and UV rays

  • Lifestyle habits like smoking, alcohol, or drugs consumption

  • Chronic diseases

  • Hormonal imbalance

  • Consuming processed food that might cause metabolic issues

Can premature hair greying be treated?

According to Dr Raheja, whenever a patient comes in complaining of early greying of hair, the doctor’s first task is running basic tests to determine if it’s genetic or caused by nutritional deficiency.

“For the genetics part, there’s not a lot that can be done. But if they are deficient in nutrients, we can put them on supplements or medication.”
Dr Radhika Raheja

Other treatment options include hair therapy, using hair serums, or prescribing calcium pantothenate supplements.

However, both the experts that FIT spoke to share a disclaimer – “Treatment does not mean reversal of greying hair.”

In some people, depending on the cause, further progression of hair greying can be slowed down with treatment.

Do desi nuske or home remedies work?

Not entirely. Dr Raheja explains that since early greying usually happens due to nutritional deficiencies and genetics, external remedies like homemade hair masks or gels can only do so much.

“They might have a minor effect, but nothing really significant.”
Dr Radhika Raheja

Can we do anything to prevent early greying?

Unless you have a genetic disposition, there are ways you can prevent premature greying of your hair. Dr Lall suggests:

  • Get on a proper diet.

  • Follow a daily routine.

  • Have a good exercise regime.

  • Avoid stress, if you can.

  • Use sunscreen for your scalp.

  • Don’t colour your hair with artificial colours, try to only use natural colours.

While it's always good to take steps to keep your hair healthy, grey hair itself doesn't impact your health, and is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Fortunately, young people are normalising prematurely greying hair. Not just that, they are unabashedly rocking the look too.

"I asked my friends and they told me they've had grey hair for years. That kind of made me okay with it. I see people around me wear it confidently, and not try to hide, dye, or cover it up. It's such a normal thing. And now I'm not trying to get rid of it either."
Amyra, 28

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