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6 Causes of White Hair at a Young age

white hair young age

The thing is every age at which your hair strands lose their original colour and turn white must be quite early for you. It doesn’t matter whether you have seen these white hair strands in your 20s or even 50s.

After youth ends ( according to the UN; youth generally ends at the age of 24) unavoidable physical and mental changes slowly start happening in the human body.

Hair loss, wrinkles, weakened memory, fragile bones are only a few of these changes. And, as we all know hair greying also occurs as a consequence of this transition period, from youth to adult life.

But what if your hair starts turning white/grey in your early 20s even before your youth ends? In this case, should you think that you are experiencing premature greying of hair?

These questions bring us directly to our topic ” white hair at a young age”. To be able to effectively investigate this topic we, at the outset, have to define what age is young age when it comes to white hair.


What Age is Early When it Comes To White Hair?

Firstly of all, it is safe to say that your genetics and also race and ethnicity are the primary factors that determine when your hair turns white.

According to experts and scientific studies; in general white people in their mid-30s, Asians in their late 30s and African-Americans in their mid-40s start experiencing white hair (1),(2),(3).

What experts underline is that: Only if hair strands turn white before the age of 20 years in white people, before 25 years in Asians and before 30 years in African, premature greying is considered to happen (2), (3).

In light of these given age ranges, you can find out whether you have premature white hair.

Bear in mind; if you encounter white hair strands at an early age you should know that you are not alone.

The number of young individuals who experience premature greying of hair in their 20s is increasing each passing day throughout the world.

In this article, we are going to discuss the 6 main causes of white hair at a young age. But, before dive in, let’s briefly discuss what gives your hair its original colour.


What Determines Hair Colour

With the simplest explanation, your hair colour is determined by the amount of melanin ( which is a pigment ) in your hair follicles. The more melanin your body produces the darker your hair is.

When the amount of melanin pigment decrease in hair follicles for any reason, hair strands turns respectively grey and white.

One of these reasons is ageing indeed. As getting older the human body produces less and less melanin (4).

The decrease in melanin production results in hair loses original colour.


6 Causes of White Hair At a Young Age

Now it is time to focus on the common causes of white hair at a young age.


1- Genetics

Your genetic makeup plays a huge role in your life. Your height, stress levels, susceptibility to cancer, eye health, the power of the immune system and so on are influenced by your genes.

So your hair is not an exception. That means your hair too is heavily affected by your genetic makeup either in a negative or positive way (5).

You can get bald at an early age due to your genetic. Or, your hair colour might be bright yellow or jet black based on the genes you inherited from your parents.

As for the issue of white hair at an early age; according to experts, family history (your genetics) is a massive factor when it comes to having white hair at a young age (6).

If one of your parents (or even grandparents) went grey prematurely, then there is a significant chance that you can notice white hair strands around the same age.


2- Stress- Anxiety

You might have been wondering whether or not stress/anxiety can speed up the greying process. Well, scientific studies and experts suggest that there is a significant correlation between stress and hair greying.

One of these scientific study (animal study) funded by the  NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) and other NIH components researchers discovered that stress can induce hair greying by triggering noradrenaline release (7).

Ya-Chieh Hsu, PhD, a lead study author said ” “When we started to study this, I expected that stress was bad for the body — but the detrimental impact of stress that we discovered was beyond what I imagined. After just a few days, all of the melanocyte stem cells were lost. Once they gone, you can’t regenerate pigments anymore. The damage is permanent.” (8).

Similarly, a 2018 study found a potential connection between increased risk of premature hair greying and psychological stress (9).

Aside from scientific studies; seeing the presidents’ hair turn white during their time in the office can convince many of us that stress may speed up the greying process.

Nevertheless, what we are talking about here is long-term stress rather than the daily stress of everyday life in major cities.

It appears that long-term stress may speed up the hair greying process thus leading many people to notice white hair strands at a young age.


3- Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

Vitamin deficiencies in the body manifest themselves with different signs and symptoms. One of the deficiency symptoms of vitamin B-12 is premature hair greying.

While vitamin B-12 plays a significant role in the body from helping to make DNA to enabling oxygen circulation, this vitamin is also vital for hair (10).

According to Healthline; vitamin B-12 deficiency is one of the most common causes of having white hair at a young age (11).

To further consolidate the claimed relationship between vitamin-b12 and premature white hair, let’s look at a case report.

A male patient who suffered from vitamin b-12 deficiency developed premature white hair. After the treatment, his skin and hair colour returned normal (12).

As for the question of how exactly vitamin B12 deficiency causes white hair; when the body lack vitamin B12, oxygen circulation is hindered in the body. As a result of the poor blood circulation, melanin is negatively affected in the hair cell, thereby, hair strands start turning white.

If you think you have vitamin-b12 deficiency work with your doctor to ascertain the situation.


4- Smoking 

Whether a smoker or not, nearly everyone is aware of the fact that smoking can cause various health problems, especially in the long term. That is why it would be pointless to say smoking causes serious medical conditions such as lung cancer, heart attack, etc.

Related to our topic, smoking can also cause white hair at a young age. And, scientific studies prove the cigarettes’ hair greying impact.

The findings of a well-rounded study point out the strong correlation between smoking and white hair before the mid-thirties (13).

Hair greying is not the only consequence of smoking for your hair. Smoking is also known to accelerate hair loss by constricting the blood vessel that carries blood into hair follicles.


5- Air Pollution

For many people, air pollution is an unavoidable consequence of living in a city. Not only factories pollute the environment but also exhaust smoke and fossil fuel use in cities are contributing to air pollution.

What does it have to do with our topic, namely premature white hair?

Scientific studies and related articles indicate that free radicals and other harmful particles found in the contaminated air can damage the melanin pigment thus paving the way for premature hair greying (14), (15).

Many experts draw attention to the positive correlation between increased air pollution globally and an increased number of young individuals with prematurely white hair.


6- Diseases and Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes and autoimmune diseases are also potential causes of white hair at a young age.

To briefly explain; an autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system attacks the body’s own healthy cells for an unknown reason (16).

The immune system can damage the melanin pigments, resulting in hair strands turn grey or white.

For instance; Alopecia and vitiligo are autoimmune diseases that can affect hair colour. As per a study; autoimmune diseases such as alopecia or vitiligo may speed up hair greying (17).

Thyroid disorders are also held responsible for premature white hair. When a problem occurs in the thyroids, it affects hormones in the body and that in turn can affect the production of melanin, which give your hair its colour.