“Stress may contribute to graying hair as it leads to oxidative damage which can lead to damage to the pigment-producing cells, leading to less melanin being produced,” adds Garshick. She points to a recent study that shows stress response in mice led to a depletion of melanocyte stem cells and can lead to graying. But at this time, she says more research is needed to better understand how stress impacts gray hair.
Stress Can Affect Hair in Other Ways
Stress is more of a risk factor with hair loss than with going gray. This type of hair loss, known as telogen effluvium, occurs when someone undergoes stress on the body or mind. King explains that stress can cause a large number of hairs to become synchronized and fall out more than the normal amount that you’re used to. The good news is, she says, that this kind of hair loss is reversible and does eventually grow back.
Best Ways to Care for Gray Hair
There is no specific treatment for gray hair that may be caused by stress. Instead, experts say to try to manage those stressors the best you can. It’s not a foolproof solution, but it might help. “Some basic science research suggests that addressing stress may also help reverse graying,” says Barbosa. “[But] more studies are needed in the area of reversing graying. Of course, finding healthy ways to manage stress is good for our overall health and well-being.”
Tweaking lifestyle habits and tending to health conditions may also help slow down the rate of your hair color changing. “Don’t smoke, treat any thyroid conditions, and make sure to have good nutrition,” says King. “[And] in general, I would recommend a predominantly plant-based diet rich in antioxidants.”
As for vitamins and minerals you can take, Garshick says studies show that biotin, calcium pantothenate, zinc, copper, and selenium may help with pre-mature graying. King points to products such as Arey that contain palmitoyl tetrapeptide 20, which have been shown in small studies to promote hair pigmentation. But more data is needed to back up these claims.
If you choose to embrace your new silver strands, one of the best ways to care for them is with products that focus on moisture.“Many people notice that the hair texture changes as their hair grays, with hair becoming more coarse and dry,” says Barbosa. “So, it is important to use hydrating shampoos and good conditioners to restore moisture to the hair shaft.” She adds that you can turn to products with blue pigments to tone down brassiness and yellow undertones. Products like the Dove Love Your Silver Purple Shampoo and Ultra Light Conditioner contain biotin and purple pigment to keep white hair looking bright and hydrated. Or the Oribe Silverati Shampoo and Conditioner, both of which contain fir extract for a boost of moisture and a mix of blue and silver pigment to prevent discoloration.
Gray hair is bound to happen to all of us—and that’s not a bad thing. If you notice a strand of hair changing color when you least expect it, don’t sweat it. There are much more important things to worry about. “It’s a normal part of the aging process and does not need to be corrected,” she says. “I’m so happy to see that people have really embraced gray hair recently. I think this is not just a trend but a paradigm shift that really speaks to our acceptance of beauty in all of its forms—even as we age.”