They say your teen years are some of the best you’ll ever have in your life. It’s a time of growth, self-discovery, high school drama and bliss, first dates, road trips – potentially the most glorious time of your youth. So then why are there grey hairs protruding out of your head and trying to ruin your life? And what causes grey hair in teenage years anyway?
You may have noticed it in the mirror when getting ready for school or in those selfies you’ve been taking.
Your glowy, luscious tresses you’ve been taking for granted now look like they belong on a woman in her fifties whose age got the better of her.
But aren’t you too young for that? Yes and no.
Premature greying in teens’ hair isn’t usual in the slightest, but some genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors speed up the hair whitening process even before you’re of legal age.
Today, we’ll be talking about what causes greying in teenagers and what you can do to reverse, prevent, and cope with this unusual occurrence happening at a prime time of your life.
So, what causes grey hair in teenage years?
Before we get into the possible reasons why your hair is greying out too early in your life, we need to first understand why hair turns white, to begin with.
The color of our hair and skin is determined by the amount of melanin our body produces.
More melanin means a darker color, and fewer melanin results in lighter shades.
Melanin is produced by melanocytes, a special type of cell present in our hair and skin.
As we get older, the melanocytes in our hair get less active.
This is in contrast to those in our skin, which continually produce melanin without stopping.
That’s why when people get older, their locks start to fade in color and turn grey.
There’s a loss of pigment production in the hair because of aging.
When this happens to people before they hit the age of 20, it’s called premature greying.
This is more common in Caucasians because of their genetic makeup, compared to other ethnicities (premature greying usually only occurs at around age 25 for Asians and 30 for African-Americans).
Premature greying can usually be attributed to genetics, but there are also many health, lifestyle, and environmental factors that speed up the process too.
The tricky thing is that it’s not yet clearly understood why only some teens get grey hair early in life, even with unique genetics and habits.
That said, here are seven of the common reasons your hair can start greying out as early as in your teen years:
Typically, less active melanin production is a sign that you’re hitting the golden years of your life when you’ve become more mature and lived a full life.
But there’s a chance you could see little grey hairs growing out as early as your twenties or even your teen years because of genes.
Ask your parents, grandparents, and older brothers or sisters if they went through something similar when they were your age.
If you find that they did, then the cause of premature greying is probably hereditary.
Get tips and tricks from them to see how they handled their greying at a young age.
You can also start producing more melanin if you’re exposed to oxidative stress.
I know, big word. But it’s very simple.
When you don’t have enough antioxidants in your body and hair, you can’t counteract damage from free radicals that are usually in the air and pollution around you.
Free radicals can then bring harm to your body, speeding up signs of aging, or getting you sick.
This can result in a drop in melanin production because of the weakening of melanocytes.
It could also cause some medical conditions with premature greying as a side effect.
That brings us to the third common cause of premature greying – medical conditions.
There are a handful of diseases and medical conditions that note premature greying in hair as a side effect, even in teens.
Among these conditions are neurofibromatosis, vitiligo, and hyperthyroidism, all of which either slow down or destroy melanin in your hair follicles.
Hormonal imbalance can also increase your chances of seeing grey hair in your younger years.
Girls in their teens are likely to be going through many hormonal changes because they’re turning into women, so it’s also another probable cause of premature greying.
If you suspect your premature greying is because of an underlying condition, seek the help of your doctor or any medical professional.
Ask a trusted family member or your best friend to go with you if you feel you need extra support before your visit to any clinic.
There are some studies that link smoking to greying hair, especially when you get into the habit at a young age.
Smoking, like any other chemical dependency, adds stress to the body, and can make you age a lot faster.
That’s why many people who smoke for decades get wrinkles even before they hit age 50.
It can also be an indirect cause of your hair greying out early in life.
Teens are almost always under peer pressure to try new things and be part of the “in” crowd.
However, you should never do anything that could be detrimental to your health, such as getting hooked on smoking.
Greying hair is just another bullet you can dodge if you avoid smoking.
Poor eating habits
Another reason why your hair might be greying out is that your diet is not exactly the healthiest.
Teens are big foodies thanks to social media.
They love pizza, fried chicken, cronuts, and anything else trending in the online food world.
But when you don’t eat enough nutritious food that nourishes you, you can get vitamin deficiencies.
And when you’re low on key vitamins and minerals, it can turn your hair white.
A balanced diet is key to keeping your skin glowy and your hair thick and healthy.
So if you lack any of the essential vitamins and minerals, your outer appearance is likely to bear the consequences.
You must be sufficient in vitamin B6, B12, D, and E.
If you’re not, you run the risk of growing little grey hairs before graduation.
In case you’re deficient in some or all of these vitamins, it could affect melanin production in your hair negatively.
If you need help staying on track with your vitamins, take supplements to ensure you’re never deficient in any of them.
Copper and protein are also great for preventing premature greying, as well as other natural ingredients that we’ll be touching on later.
Eat healthy foods that contain these vitamins and minerals to boost hair health and prevent any greying that can dull down the glow and vitality your hair should have at your age.
To see what food can help you retain your natural hair color without premature greying, continue reading.
This is a huge one because it’s common hearsay that actually proves to be true.
When you’re stressed, have a lot on your mind, and are losing sleep because of it, it affects your health negatively.
One uncommon yet possible side effect of heavy stress and poor mental health is greying hair.
Whether it’s school or your relationships at home or with friends, too much stress can affect you inside and out.
Try to keep those happy levels up by unwinding so you won’t have to worry about long-term mental health issues or even premature greying.
Lastly, you can get premature greying in your teen years if you use extremely strong and borderline toxic chemicals in your hair.
That includes dyes and hair care products that contain harmful chemicals.
Hydrogen peroxide is one such chemical that can turn your hair grey at an early age.
It’s commonly found in hair dye, and as we know, teens love to play around with their hair to express themselves.
Avoid excessive use of bleach and dye so you don’t run the risk of premature greying.
Can premature grey hair be reversed?
Being able to reverse and then prevent the recurrence of greying depends on what caused it in the first place.
Some causes mean your greying hair can be salvageable, while others, not so much.
If genetics are to blame, then you likely won’t be able to reverse your hair greying and will have to find a way to manage it instead.
If it’s caused by a medical condition, it’s best that you seek the treatment you need from your doctor.
They may also even recommend specific hair care steps to help reverse greying.
Now, if your premature greying is caused by external lifestyle factors, there are fortunately many impactful things you can do or adjust to help put a stop to your hair turning white.
Some are easy to incorporate into your daily life, but others require commitment and diligence.
Now that we know what causes grey hair in teenage years, let’s see some of the things you can do to slow it down or end it completely:
If you’ve picked up the habit of smoking behind the gym in between classes or sneaking a few cigarettes when you’re stressed out, muster the courage to quit.
Your overall health in both the short and long term will benefit from that decision, and you can likely reduce and even stop the early greying of your hair.
Proper hair care
Go into your bathroom and check the labels behind your favorite shampoos and conditioners.
If you see ingredients like parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, and way too much artificial coloring and fragrance, these products may be extremely harsh on your hair and can trigger unforeseen greying at an early age.
Going for milder, more moisturizing hair products without harsh ingredients, like sulfate-free or medicate shampoos that can improve the overall health of your scalp and hair.
Dehydration can make premature greying more rampant, so be sure to pamper your hair with nourishing oil masques or deep conditioners once a week as well.
If you have extra time in the morning, spritz on some leave-in conditioner before leaving for school.
This keeps your hair hydrated all day long.
Earlier, we talked about oxidative stress that can cause damage to your hair because of free radicals moving freely in the air.
One way to beat that is to protect your hair from harmful UV rays.
Spray on a heat protectant before going under the sun to prevent any damage to your hair that can worsen greying.
Care for your mental health
If stress is a major cause of premature greying, then you should be taking measures to take care of your mental health, especially in this day and age when anxiety is rampant because of social media, insane current events on the news, and high school drama.
Pick up a hobby or self-care routine that can help you calm down when you’re getting too stressed out, like yoga or meditation.
Listen to podcasts to learn about how you can rid yourself of worries even just for a little while.
Fantastic mental health will do wonders for you physically and emotionally.
Reversing and reducing the risk of premature greying is just one of them.
Try natural remedies
Older generations believe that some natural botanicals help darken the hair and slow down the signs of aging, which include premature greying.
One popular natural remedy is the use of curry leaves in your hair care routine.
You can combine crushed curry leaves in your favorite hair oil (sweet almond oil is great for hair follicle care!) and apply it to your scalp, giving yourself a massage.
This helps keep your hair color dark and prevent greying.
Another popular yet hard-to-find botanical for the reversal of premature greying is amla, an herbal supplement that comes from the Indian gooseberry.
Amla fruit is rich in anti-aging properties to curb greying and some antioxidants that can fight against free radicals and oxidative stress.
You can also give yourself a black tea rinse every once in a while.
Not only can it make the hair shinier and smoother, but it’s said to prevent premature greying as well.
Most importantly, you need to eat the right foods to give your body the ability to grow healthy, luscious locks instead of dull and white strands.
Make sure you have a balanced diet and that all your meals are packed with the vitamins and minerals you need to reverse and avoid premature greying.
But what types of food should you be looking at if you want a diet that can help maintain your young, gorgeous locks?
Luckily, there are lots of healthy yet scrumptious options on the menu.
Is there food to prevent white hair?
Sadly, there’s no list of miracle foods you should eat to bring your hair back to its natural color and curb all signs of premature greying.
However, there are key vitamins and minerals you should always nourish your body with.
There are specific foods rich in those vitamins and minerals that can help eliminate greying.
One of the most important vitamins you need in your system to ensure your hair doesn’t grey out at an early age is vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin.
This vitamin strengthens the hair follicles by producing more red blood cells, so it’s definitely a need for healthy hair.
You can find vitamin B12 in dairy products like cheese and milk.
You can also find this vitamin in eggs, tuna, seafood, or red meats from pork, beef, and even the occasional lamb.
If you’re practicing a vegan lifestyle, you can opt for fortified, cobalamin-rich cereals or take vitamin B12 supplements.
This vitamin helps to stimulate hair follicles, where each strand grows out from.
If you want to ensure proper hair growth that isn’t grey at your age, you need to stock up on some vitamin D.
Foods rich in vitamin D include oily fish like salmon, herring, or sardines.
You can also eat extra eggs, milk, and cheese to load up on this vitamin.
Our hair is made of a protein called keratin.
When we’re deficient in protein, it thins out the hair and makes it less healthy because there’s not enough keratin to keep it strong.
You can find protein in lean meats and poultry like chicken.
It’s also in spinach, nuts, and tofus.
Lentils such as beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts are also good sources of protein.
Building up antioxidants in our body is great for reducing premature greying caused by oxidative stress.
Squeeze in some antioxidant-rich ingredients when preparing meals, such as fruits and veggies, fresh green tea, and olive oil.
This mineral is great for keeping melanin production in your hair active, so you can’t afford to be deficient in it.
Walnuts, leafy greens, mushrooms, and liver are all rich in copper, so make sure you add them to your diet.
And for dessert, you can down a bar of dark chocolate, also rich in copper.
This is yet another mineral that helps maintain your natural hair color.
You can get zinc in many multivitamins and supplements, as well as food like beans, shellfish, nuts and seeds, and cheese.
Ways to cope if your hair is greying in your teenage years
Premature greying cannot come at a worse time for teenagers.
Your teen years are a very formative age with many physical, emotional, social changes.
Teens are very self-conscious about how they look and tend to compare themselves to others, no thanks to social media and the battle for likes on selfies.
Teens with greying hair can feel insecure about how they look, especially since often, they think they’re going through it alone.
It causes anxiety about people whispering about their grey locks.
Because of this fear and lack of confidence, many teens miss out on good opportunities, like meeting new people and pursuing passions, all because they don’t want the extra attention and eyes on them and their hair.
Thankfully, there are some techniques to manage grey hair in the short-term.
Dyeing your hair
One of which is dyeing your hair every now and then.
You can buy a box of DIY hair dye at an affordable price and cover up those grey strands peeking out.
It’s a lifesaver if you have a huge event going on, like prom night.
However, note that dyeing your hair can make your hair dehydrated and parched, so avoid doing it too frequently.
You can compensate by doing nourishing treatments on your hair.
If you want to experiment on the safer side, you can also use a color-depositing shampoo that can gradually darken your grey hair strands as you wash your hair.
This method hides those distracting grey hairs without you having to worry about damage from chemical treatments.
Lastly, do things that will make you feel more comfortable and confident with your hair.
Trendy haircuts, accessories
Get trendy haircuts, use cute and colorful hair accessories, and start experimenting with flat irons and curling wands every now and then to spice up your look (provided you use heat protectant).
Doing these will help you come to terms with the greying and build your confidence back up again even if you don’t always like what you see in the mirror.
Don’t let a couple of grey hairs stop you from loving yourself and finding your own personal style, as you should be doing at your age.
So you see, you’re not some kind of weirdo or oddball for having some grey hairs as early as your high school years.
You now have an idea about what causes grey hair in teenage years.
There’s always some kind of logical explanation behind it, although it’s difficult to pinpoint unless you talk to a medical professional or study your family tree.
There are lots of ways to cope and manage premature greying at your age.
You can incorporate dyeing your hair into your self-care routine now and then, or even embrace this change and go full silver fox in a few years.
Whichever way you choose to deal with premature greying, know that the best thing you can do for yourself at this time of your life is to love and care for yourself.
Do things to stay healthy, mentally, and physically.
Eat good food, avoid toxic habits, don’t sweat the small stuff, and enjoy being a teen!
Who knows, maybe it’s all you need to do to make your anxiety about rocking a salt-and-pepper look in your twenties disappear completely.