When I look at gray hair two things come to mind: aging and stress. Gray hair is most often
associated with aging because it’s thought that when you grow older, your hair follicles produce
less color which eventually results in that infamous gray color. Stress can impact the number of
gray hairs that come out of your head. Now that might be a scary thought, but it turns out when
stress is eliminated, hair color can be restored Understanding how stress affects hair color can
give us insight on how stress affects our body.
Hair follicles carry a lot of our biological information. When under the skin, the hair is subject to stress and other influences of the mind and body. When hairs have grown out of the scalp, they mature into a stable form that reflect those exposures. Ayelet Rosenburg developed a method for capturing highly detailed images of small areas of human hair, about 1/20th of a millimeter wide. The individual hairs from 14 volunteers were analyzed by researchers and were compared with each volunteer’s stress diary where the volunteers rated their stress levels for each week. The study revealed obvious associations between stress and graying of the hair. Researchers also found that grays hairs started to revert to their original color when the stress levels of volunteers decreased. Researchers also measured the levels of protein in the hair and how the levels changed. When researchers produced a mathematical model that stimulated a graying head of hair over time, there were changes in about 300 proteins that were observed when hair color changed. The model suggests that changes to the mitochondria may induce stress related graying. The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell and respond to different signals, like psychological stress.
The data in this study show a connection between the mitochondria and stress, and their effects on hair. Researchers also discovered that graying can be reversed with the elimination of stress. The impacts that stress has on your body need to be better understood and studied, but it’s clear that it takes a toll on the body. So, it’s important that we take care of ourselves physically and mentally. And if you see a new gray hairs in the mirror, that may be a sign that you are due for a vacation.
Morianna Saint-Cyr (9)