How Does White Hair Occur?

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There comes a time in everyone's life when they look in the mirror and spot their first strand of white hair. Whether it's greeted with excitement or a mild sense of dread, white hair is a natural part of aging. But, have you ever wondered why this change happens and if anything can be done to manage it?

Today, we will unravel the mysteries behind those silver strands. We'll explore what triggers the appearance of white hair, and divulge tips and tricks for ensuring it doesn't dominate your luscious locks before you’re ready. So, let's embark on this hair-raising journey!

The Science Behind White Hair

Before we dive into the different causes of white hair, it’s imperative to understand the science behind it. Hair gets its natural color from a pigment called melanin, produced by cells known as melanocytes. There are two types of melanin: eumelanin, which is responsible for black and brown hair colors, and pheomelanin, responsible for red and blonde hues. The combination and quantity of these melanins determine your unique hair colour.

As we age, the melanocytes' efficiency in producing melanin begins to wane. Consequently, the hair starts to lose its color, eventually turning gray and then white. This process, known as achromotrichia, typically begins in one's late twenties to early thirties but can vary widely among individuals. There are several factors that contribute to the timing and progression of achromotrichia. These include genetics, nutritional deficiencies, stress, and even some underlying health conditions.

But, fret not! Understanding these factors can empower you to take steps in potentially slowing down the graying process and maintaining the youthful exuberance of your hair for longer.

The Spectrum of Causes

Let’s delve deeper into the variety of factors that contribute to the emergence of white hair. It’s important to recognize that white hair is not solely an indicator of aging, as a multitude of influences can contribute to the decline in melanin production.


Genetics plays a paramount role in determining when your hair starts to lose its color. If your parents or grandparents went grey early, chances are you might as well. This is because you inherit genes that govern the vitality of melanocytes. While you can't change your genes, being aware of your family history can prepare you for the changes and help you make informed decisions about managing white hair. The science behind how exactly genes control the graying process is still evolving, but research indicates that certain genes are associated with the loss of hair colour.

Nutritional Deficiencies

A balanced diet is vital for the overall health of your hair. Deficiencies in vitamins B12, D, E, and minerals like copper and zinc can contribute to premature graying. For instance, Vitamin B12 is essential for DNA production, including the DNA in hair follicles. Copper acts as a catalyst for the production of melanin. Incorporating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean proteins can promote healthier hair and potentially delay the onset of white hair. Moreover, it's good to be cautious of consuming foods that might hinder the absorption of these vitamins and minerals.


It's no myth that stress can turn your hair white. Prolonged periods of stress can lead to hormonal imbalances that, in turn, affect the melanin production in hair follicles. The stress hormone cortisol can negatively affect the stem cells responsible for regenerating hair color. Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies can help maintain the natural color of your hair for a longer time. Implementing relaxation techniques and ensuring adequate sleep also goes a long way in managing stress levels.

Underlying Health Conditions

Certain health conditions such as thyroid imbalances and vitiligo can cause premature graying. Thyroid disorders can cause imbalances in hormones that are crucial for hair pigmentation. Vitiligo, an autoimmune disease, causes the loss of skin and hair pigment. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional if you suspect an underlying health issue to be the cause of your white hair. Managing these health conditions through medications or lifestyle changes can mitigate their impact on your hair.

Environmental Factors

Exposure to pollutants and excessive use of hair styling products that contain harsh chemicals can also cause the hair to turn white prematurely. Environmental pollutants can cause oxidative stress, leading to damage in the melanin-producing cells. Opting for natural hair products and protecting your hair from environmental damage can be beneficial. When stepping out, wearing a hat or scarf to protect your hair from pollution and sun exposure can be a good practice. Also, opting for hair care products that are sulfate-free and being gentle while washing and brushing can help in maintaining the health of your hair.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes, especially during life events like pregnancy or menopause, can also affect the pigmentation of hair. The fluctuating hormone levels during these times might contribute to changes in hair color. While these changes are often temporary during pregnancy, they might be more permanent in cases like menopause.

By being cognizant of the diverse factors contributing to white hair, one can make proactive choices in lifestyle, diet, and hair care that can potentially mitigate the onset and progression of the loss of hair color.

Can You Delay Going Grey?

One of the most frequently asked questions regarding the appearance of white or grey hair is, “Can the graying process be delayed?” While genetics is a major player in determining when you start to go grey, there are steps that can be taken to potentially slow down the process. Let's explore some of the methods that may contribute to delaying the onset of grey hair:

Proper Nutrition: We cannot stress enough the importance of nutrition in maintaining hair health. Ensure that your diet is rich in antioxidants, which fight off the free radicals that can damage the cells responsible for hair pigment. Foods high in vitamins B12, D, E, and minerals like copper and zinc should be incorporated into your daily meals.

Hair Care Routine: Adopting a hair care routine that focuses on nourishing and protecting your hair is essential. Use hair products that are free from harsh chemicals, and consider incorporating natural oils like coconut or almond oil, which can help in keeping the hair healthy.

Avoiding Smoking: Smoking is known to expedite the aging process, and this includes the graying of hair. The toxins in cigarettes can harm hair follicles and decrease blood flow to the scalp. Quitting smoking can be beneficial not only for your hair but for overall health.

Protecting Hair from Environmental Damage: Environmental pollutants and sun exposure can contribute to the premature graying of hair. Wearing a hat or using hair products with UV protection can help protect your hair from damage.

Managing Stress: As we discussed earlier, stress can play a role in the graying process. Incorporating stress-reducing practices such as yoga, meditation, or spending time on hobbies can have a positive effect on hair health.

Regular Exercise: Physical activity increases blood circulation, which in turn can benefit the health of your hair. Engaging in regular exercise can be an effective way to potentially delay the onset of grey hair.

Managing and Delaying White Hair

Understanding the causes of white hair is the first step; now let's talk about the steps you can take to manage and possibly delay its appearance.

A Nutrient-Rich Diet: As discussed earlier, a balanced diet is crucial. Focus on including foods rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential for hair health. For example, include eggs, dairy products, nuts, and seeds to ensure an adequate intake of B vitamins and minerals like zinc and copper.

Topical and Oral Supplements: There are products available that can either replenish the pigment in the hair or boost the production of melanin. These include certain topical applications and oral supplements. Before trying any product, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

Stress Management: Engage in activities that help to relieve stress. Exercise not only helps in stress reduction but also improves blood circulation, which can be beneficial for hair health. Meditation and engaging in hobbies are also effective ways of reducing stress.

Professional Consultation: Consider consulting a dermatologist or trichologist for professional advice. They can help in diagnosing any underlying issues and recommend treatments or lifestyle changes accordingly.

Embracing the Change: Sometimes, the best way to manage white hair is to embrace it. White hair can look chic and sophisticated. Experimenting with different hairstyles or cuts can enhance the look even more.

How Phoenix Can Help

For those seeking guidance and solutions from the comfort of their homes, Phoenix is an ideal solution. As a telehealth platform, Phoenix connects patients with Canadian doctors and pharmacies effortlessly. Through an easy-to-use interface, you can chat with doctors about your concerns regarding white hair, receive professional advice, and have prescriptions fulfilled by partnered pharmacies.

If a treatment plan is prescribed, Phoenix takes the hassle out of refills by automatically scheduling them every month and shipping them discreetly to your doorstep. This service is not only convenient but also ensures that you stay consistent with your treatment, which is vital for effectiveness.

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This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.

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