Can You Get Rid of Your Gray Hair?

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
June 08, 2022
Can You Get Rid of Your Gray Hair?

If you went gray from stress, you may get some of those normal-colored hairs back. Here’s what you can do to return your hair to its normal color.

Scientists knew that stress can turn your hair gray. Yet, until now, there was no evidence that you can get your normal-colored hairs back when you’re more relaxed. Now there is, according to a study from a large international team.


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Your hair’s history is like that of a tree trunk

While hairs are growing, cells receive chemical and electrical signals from inside your body, including stress hormones. These signals seem to change proteins under the roots, and those proteins harden once hair grows out of the scalp.

The research team’s first step was to identify proteins that show if a strand was gray, white, or colored at any point during its history. There turned out to be 323 proteins in all.

Next, 14 volunteers gave the scientists hair samples and answered questions about how stressful their lives had been during the past year.

Looking at the proteins in the hair strands at different points allowed the team to see that some hairs that were now brown or another color had been gray or white earlier in the year. They could also match the changes in the proteins in the strands to the volunteers’ reports. “Just like tree rings hold information about past decades, and rocks hold information about past centuries, hairs hold information about past months and years,” the researchers wrote.

The changes may happen quickly on hair anywhere on the body. One woman went on a trip for two weeks and regained five hairs with color. How could the scientists match the colors and timing so closely? They knew that hair grows about a centimeter a month.

Everyone in the study showed evidence of regaining color, and it didn’t happen in any volunteers over the age of 40 in this study. More research will tell if de-stressing can reverse hair loss later in life.

How hair can regain its color

Stem cells are cells that can turn into other cells your body needs. When your hair regains its color, stem cells called melanocytes are probably at work. Researchers don’t know yet whether people have only a set number of melanocytes or if stem cells from another part of the body can replenish them.

Pictures do the talking

If you’re not convinced that stress changes your appearance, look at these photos of presidents over their time in office. Former President Donald Trump went white in his last year in office. You can see a similar dramatic change in former President Clinton. In fact, all recent presidents have visibly aged while in the Oval Office more than you’d expect from the passage of time.

If you look like you’re working in the Oval Office, sprouting gray and white hairs at a rapid pace, consider it a signal you need to lower your stress. It’s very common for people under stress to hunker down and try to wait it out rather than take on another challenge.

What you can do

Normally with age our hormones change, leading our hair to shed more and grow back more slowly, causing it to appear thinner. Other hormonal changes make hair dryer.

Low iron (anemia), autoimmune issues, or medication can also make your hair thin out. You might ask your doctor to evaluate your medication and check your levels of iron, vitamin D (especially if you live in an area with little sunlight or don’t go outside much), and other nutrients.

Your diet can make a difference. Early evidence suggests that fish oil supplements can promote hair growth.

Zinc pyrithione, an ingredient in many dandruff shampoos, can help a drying scalp even if you don’t have dandruff and may promote hair growth.

Avoid heating up your hair by blow-drying or using hot curling irons.

Massaging your scalp can promote hair growth, too.

Is gray hair a health problem?

Not at all, although gray hairs that develop over a short period of time may be a sign that you’re under too much stress. If that’s not the case, you could embrace your gray hair and enjoy celebrating your age.


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June 08, 2022

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN