Teenagers and Gray Hair

Teenage girl with gray hair
Photo: Tinnakorn Jorruang/Shutterstock
Gray Hair and the Agony it can cause Teenagers
Gray hair and teenagers are not synonymous, 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 unfortunate 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 "melanogenic 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 to turn 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 the 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 a source of ridicule and can consequently result in misery.
Some medical conditions can also affect teenagers' hair and cause it to turn 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.
Discovering your first gray hairs
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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 among 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 among teenagers.
Smoking has also been associated with causing "premature graying" among 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 wanting to look after their health. While 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 aesthetic 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 elderly person, 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 have gray hair by the time they reach their 18th birthday, there is little that can be done to prevent this inevitable misfortune from occurring.
There are certain steps, however, to help minimize the severity of the graying and prolong the process of becoming partially or completely gray. As mentioned above, refraining from succumbing to peer pressure and avoiding starting smoking will bring a multitude of benefits to a teenager's health, including reducing the chances of their hair turning gray.
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