Anecdotally we have believed that stress can cause our hair to turn gray.  If you have ever seen pictures of a president’s first day in office versus their last, they certainly leave with a head full of gray hairs.  For ourselves, at the first sign of gray hairs we often blame our children, spouse, or work for these stress induced gray hairs.  Well it turns out we may have been right, as researchers at Harvard may have found a link between stress and premature gray hairs in mice.

The study, Hyperactivation of sympathetic nerves drives depletion of melanocyte stem cells, was published this month in the journal Nature and found a link between the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight-or-flight response, and premature greying of hair in mice.  So how does this happen?  The hair follicles get their pigment from melanocyte stem cells, which deplete as we age.  However, the researchers found that during the fight-or-flight response, the sympathetic nerve in the follicle releases norepinephrine, which is causing the pigment producing cells to activate and deplete prematurely.

Obviously, more research needs to be completed to see if the link is the same for humans, but the researchers believe that the sympathetic nervous system and pigment producing stem cells in mice are very similar to those in humans.  Overall, it is important to understand that stress can have significant impacts on our hair and body.  Even if we are still not 100% sure that stress can cause hair to turn gray prematurely in humans, we know it can impact the health of the hair and cause shedding.  We cannot always mitigate stress completely, but it is important to be proactive to try to de-stress and we all should consider stress reduction activities like yoga and meditation.  Lastly, it is important to utilize treatments like vitamins and supplements and low-level laser therapy that can counteract the effects of stress and improve hair health and decrease shedding.

Posted by Your Medi Tresse Team