Why stress turns your hair grey, according to science – and how to stop it

Moya Lothian-McLean@moya_lm
Thursday 23 January 2020 09:30
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Image:(iStock)

Stress is seemingly responsible for so many ills. From skin conditions triggered by heightened mental strain, to the increased risk of suffering a heart attack, stress tends to be the culprit in sickness across the board.

Which is why it’s no surprise that scientists have discovered that stress can speed up signs of aging, specifically turning your hair white (neatly demonstrated by a glance at a series of before-and-after photos of the US Presidents).

Now there’s a scientific answer for exactly why stress has this effect on our luscious locks – and how we can prevent it happening.

According to US and Brazillian researchers who carried out research on mice, physical pain (poor mice) caused them stress, via the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

This stress caused the depletion of the stem cells responsible for putting pigment in their hair follicles.

And once those stem cells were gone, so was the pigment. Voila; white mice.

But what scientists also found was that the changes could be blocked by giving mice anti-hypertensive drugs, which treats high blood pressure.

They were also able to work out exactly what protein (something called cyclin-dependent kinase aka CDK) was involved in causing the damage to the stem cells that controlled pigment production – and subsequently able to block that too, preventing the mice’s fur changing colour.

Now scientists say the door is “open” for manufacturers to create products that help delay the onset of grey hair by targeting CDK.

L’Oreal… your move.

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