Premature grey hair cause & treatment: Dermatologist guide

Written By Dr Surbhi, MD Skin

Last updated: 19/09/18

“Doctor, I am noticing grey hair at a young age of 20, What causes premature greying of hair? What is the treatment of white hair and is there any medicine for grey hair?"

 

These are the questions, which I often receive in my dermatological clinic. Your hair turns white because of the decrease in the melanin (the pigment that imparts a black or brown colour to your hair). The admixture of black and white hair gives grey colour hue to your hair.

 

Now, the question arises, do you need medicine for grey hair?

Yes, you need medicine for grey hair if they appear for the first time before the age of (1):

  • 20 in the fair skin.
  • 25 in the wheatish skin.
  • 30 in the black skin.

Well if you fit into the above age group, then read further to know the cause, treatment, home remedies and various other aspects of premature grey hair. 

 


Click below to directly read the topics covered in this article:

 

I have summarised the key points of premature greying of hair in this video:

 

We can help you find the key areas to work on to reduce your grey hair. All you need to do is fill out this questionnaire: https://goo.gl/forms/7sRUYve31btyH3m93. Dermatocare expert will contact you on WA for cause and treatment options available for grey hair.

 

What causes grey or white hair at an early age?

Although the Internet has many causes for premature greying of hair, I am listing only those which have some evidence in dermatological literature: 

1. Hereditary: Premature greying is inherited as an Autosomal dominant trait, which means either of your parents; siblings or close relatives might have the history of going grey at an early age. The premature greying of hairs, in this case, occurs as an independent trait and is not accompanied with any other abnormality.

2. Autoimmune disorders: Premature greying of hair is common in those who have an autoimmune disease like pernicious anaemia, hyper- or hypothyroidism.

3. Premature ageing syndrome: As expected, a rare cause of greying early is premature ageing syndrome like Progeria and Pangeria. Do not worry these are very rare syndromes wherein other changes of ageing like wrinkling of the face, weak bones, diabetes, cataract, etc. are also evident at a very early age.

4. Atopic diathesis: Allergy in lungs (asthma), eye (allergic conjunctivitis) nose (allergic rhinitis) or skin (atopic dermatitis) might be associated with the early greying of hair.

5. Nutritional causes: Unlike commonly thought of, only severe or chronic loss of proteins, iron, folic acid, vitamin B12 and copper can cause premature greying of hair. This occurs commonly in the case of various malabsorption syndromes, nephrosis, kwashiorkor, etc. One study showed significantly low levels of Calcium, Vitamin D3 and Ferritin in people with premature greying of hair. Yet another study showed the low copper level in healthy kids of average age 15 with premature greying of hair(2).

6. Undue stress: Daily stress cannot cause greying of hair, however, undue stress both physical and mental can cause reversible greying of hair.

7. Medications: Premature greying of hair can be caused by following drugs:

  • Chloroquine
  • Mephenesin
  • Phenylthiourea
  • Triparanol
  • Fluoro butyrophenone
  • Dixyrazine
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor
  • Interferon-alpha

8. Medical disorders: Premature canities can also occur in diseases like HIV infection, cystic fibrosis, and Hodgkin's lymphoma.

9. Smoking and substance abuse: Both chronic smoking and drug abuse have shown correlation with early greying of hair.

10. Environmental damage: Damaging reactive oxygen radicals generated as a result of pollution, UV rays from sun, inflammatory stress in localised scalp diseases, harsh chemicals, etc. might damage pigment forming the cell of hair and hence, lead to premature greying.

 

How to prevent further greying of your hair?

Grey hair or white hair are usually rough, stiffer and are more difficult to manage, so you might be having a hard time getting them styled. 

I have listed 7 simple hair care tips to prevent further greying of your hair:

  1. Do not blow dry grey or white hair often, air drying is best for grey hair.

  2. Do not use hot iron for straightening often because heat makes grey or white hair frizzier.

  3. Do not get them permed.

  4. Do not get them straightened often: The harsh chemicals used for hair straightening can further damage grey hair especially if the chemical touches the scalp and gets absorbed into the hair root where the pigment-forming cells are located.

  5. Do not spend on shampoos or spas that promise to blacken your hair, they are unlikely to help.

  6. Do not expose them to the bright sun: Make sure that you cover them up with a cap, scarf or bandana when you are in bright sunlight because as they lack melanin they cannot protect themselves from damaging UV rays of the sun.
  7.  Colour them safely: Yes, grey or white hair needs to be coloured but the truth is that they do not take dye as easily as normal hair. Grey or white hairs are more resistant to get coloured, and your multiple ineffective efforts might expose them to hair dye chemicals to the extent they start falling. Here are a few tips that you should follow:

  • Hair dye should be applied in a proper way so that the dye does not touch the scalp and gets distributed evenly.

  • The more the gap between colouring sessions, better it is.

  • Pay for saloon visits to achieve better and long lasting results. A single session of evenly spread hair dye sparing the scalp roots done by a professional is better than multiple inefficient efforts at home.

  • Prefer highlighting to limit the exposure of hair colour to your normal hair.

 

Natural remedies for grey hair

You can try following home remedies to either prevent or colour your grey hair:

  • Coconut oil and curry leaves: The vitamins in curry leaves and nourishing properties of coconut oil makes this a perfect combo. Watch this video on how to make the mixture:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4qVJ3nMDTI
  • Tea: Boil tea in water for a few minutes, strain and use the cold mixture to rinse your hair, this might give a temporary black colour to your hair.
  • Coffee: Boil coffee in water for a few minutes, strain and use the cold mixture to rinse your hair, this might give a temporary brown colour to your hair.
  • Henna: This is a natural hair colour that gives red highlights to black hair, but white or grey hair might get orange coloured. The advantage of henna is that it is unlikely to cause any allergic reactions. You can make a paste of henna in water boiled with tea or coffee to give a black and brown colour to your grey hair.
  • Other natural hair colours: Amalaki (Emblica Officinalis), Bhringaraj (Eclipta alba), mooncake seed tree (Sterculia platanifolia), and the lotus tree (Zizyphus spina-christi) can be found in addition to henna in many natural hair colours available on amazon.com, amazon.in, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca
  • Try Ayurvedic oil with herbs that prevent grey hair: With the paucity of allopathic medicines to stop greying of hair, you might like to try one of these products that can help in getting rid of grey hair.

 

Treatment of grey hair

The dermatologist consultation usually begins by finding the cause of premature grey of hair. If needed, your doctor might request you to check the levels of iron, folic acid, copper, vitamin B12, thyroid hormones, etc.

  • If test result shows a nutritional deficiency, then you might have to take supplements.
  • If the thyroid hormonal profile is deranged, you might need a further check-up to rule out the auto-immune cause.

Though there is little evidence of success with the multivitamin in cases without documented lab result showing the deficiency of vitamin or mineral, we usually give a 3-month trial, considering the non-harmful nature of treatment. And, there are studies that show calcium pentathionate might help premature greying of hair independently. 

Well, best is to ask your doctor for effective hair supplements available at the chemist and to find the cause of your hair loss. However, if you cannot visit a doctor, then instead of spending money on any hair supplement, I am providing you with few brands of hair supplements that have copper, calcium pentathionate, zinc, iron etc. available over-the-counter:

  • INDIA: Muscle XP available online on amazon.in
  • US: Perfectil Plus Hair Tablets available online on amazon.com
  • UK: Vitabiotics Perfectil Plus Hair available on amazon.co.uk
  • Canada: Vitabiotics Perfectil Plus available on amazon.ca

If you have hair loss as well, then you can find the best supplement for both hair loss and grey hair in this article, Best hair supplement for hair re-growth. Though these supplements are safe, please check contraindications or allergies to any of the component used in these supplements. 

 

Association premature greying of hair with bone or heart diseases

Though studies have still not proven significant correlation, there is evidence that people with premature greying of hair might develop:

  • Osteopenia or low bone density later in life. This means that they might be more prone to fractures(3).
  • Coronary artery diseases or in simple language heart attacks is more in men with premature greying of hair (no such correlation was found in the case of females). Thus, a healthy lifestyle and discussion about the same with your doctor cannot be overemphasised (4, 5).

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