Gray hair and teenagers is not synonymously intertwined, as those golden years when childhood gradually merges into adolescence, gray hairs protruding through supposedly ‘youthful’ and ‘buoyant’ hair,
could not be further from a teenager’s mind. Because of the distant associations between gray hair and teenagers, for a minority of youths who are unlucky enough to be plagued by the premature
onset of gray hair, life can be sometimes excruciating.
Why do Some Teenagers Have Gray Hair?
Two main factors contribute to a teenager’s hair turning gray, illness or genetics, with the latter being the most likely cause. When youngsters start to produce gray hair it is known as “premature graying”
or “canities”. A cell biology professor from a university in England described our hair as containing a “melanogenetic clock”, which is genetically predisposed to decrease or completely stop the amount of
melanin being produced in our hair. When there is a lack of melanin activity, it means the hair follicles are lacking pigmentation, which then causes the hair turns gray. Typically this does not start to
occur until we reach our 30s, but occasionally a reduction in the production of melanin can begin as early as during teenage years, and is a result of nothing other than our genes being programmed to do so.
How quickly the gray hair engulfs the whole head is also determined by genetics, and can be a long and drawn out process, which can take many, many years, or it can develop more rapidly causing a person to
be ‘completely gray’ in no time at all. Either way, if a teenager is faced with any amount of gray hair which is visible to their ‘peers’ it can provide for a source of ridicule and can consequently result in misery.
Some medical conditions can also affect teenagers’ hair and cause it to become gray. As a young person’s body fights some diseases such as neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder which affects the nervous
system, and other rare conditions such as Vogt-Koyanagi syndrome, the antibodies created destroy the pigment melanin, causing the hair to turn gray. Vitiligo is a disorder of the skin which can also cause a
teenager’s hair to turn gray or even white, as can hyperthyroidism, which slows down the melanin activity in the hair follicles. One common symptom of a deficiency in vitamin B, which is often linked to
anemia amongst teenagers, is both the hair turning gray and the hair falling out.
Certain drugs, herbs and supplements, such as Echinacea and vitamin E, have also been linked to causing gray hair amongst teenagers.
Smoking has also been associated with causing “premature graying” amongst teenagers. Youngsters, are not only continuously exposed to peer pressure, but they are also extremely impressionable, and often the
lure of ‘looking cool’ and being part of ‘the ‘in crowd’ by smoking cigarettes, surpasses any feelings of being sensible or wanted to look after their health. Whilst many ‘scaremongering’ tactics are employed
to deter teenagers from smoking, the link between gray hair and smoking is often ignored. If teenagers were better informed about the aesthetical downsides of the habit and knew that cigarettes are associated
with gray hair and may have the potential to turn their luscious locks brimming with youth and vitality, into hair that resembles an old age pensioner, they may think twice before jeopardizing their appearance
in order to ‘be cool’.
Ways in which Teenagers can Overcome Gray Hair
If a teenager is genetically destined to having gray hair by the time they reach their 18th birthday, there is little that can be done to prevent this inevitable misfortune from occurring.