Q: My friend who is a hairstylist was telling me about a condition where your hair can turn white overnight from stress or shock
or whatever. I was wondering if this was true and what it is called.
A: Well, according to professionals such as dermatologists and other physicians, there is NO disease or disorder that will cause the
hair to go white overnight. Even the legendary reports are suspect in their details (Thomas Moore and Marie Antoinette are reported to
have undergone overnight whitening of the hair).
There has been suggestion that the cases of the hair going spontaneously white are a result of a
condition called ‘diffuse alopecia areata’. In this form of alopecia, the hair spontaneously thins as random hairs turn loose and are
shed. The diffuse alopecia is more likely to affect pigmented hairs as opposed to unpigmented (gray) hairs.
As a result, if an individual had a good mix of evenly dispersed gray and pigmented hair and
developed diffuse alopecia areata, the pigmented hair could be shed rapidly, giving the impression of nearly overnight whitening of the hair.
There is a case documented by a French doctor, Dr. Douglas Nelson, of a 45-year-old farmer whose
hair went from black to white over a period of 14 days. The hair reportedly stayed white for about six months and began to return to
black over a period of 4 months. He was completely healthy, underwent no shock or fright, and there has been no explanation found for his experience.