Sure, a gray hair here and there is natural. But whether or not you're excited to look a little more like Storm, getting them earlier than the rest of your friends is definitely a bit confusing. So why do some people get to experience grays earlier than others? And why does our hair have to go gray at all?
First off, you have to understand that it's actually pigment that creates the color of our hair — not some integral element of the hair itself. And, as part of the normal aging process, your body's production of that pigment slows down. You'll notice more gray hair as the amount of pigment decreases and, when there's no pigment, hair will become white.
Most people notice their first gray hairs in their 30s and have a significant amount by their 50s. But it's not totally unusual for that process to start in your 20s with the odd gray hair or two. Whether or not you get those "premature" grays depends almost entirely on your genetics, but researchers are still figuring out exactly which genes are involved. And although the jury is still out as to whether or not stress causes grays, freaking out about those silver strands certainly doesn't help.
That said, there are a few health issues that can contribute to premature grays, though having gray hairs in your 20s doesn't automatically mean there's something wrong. Of course, gray hairs won't be your only symptoms, but knowing that they could be linked with something health-related may help you figure out why you're the only one in your family #blessed enough to be dealing with them at your age. Continue on to learn more about what could be causing your silver hairs.
Thyroid Disorders The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that produces hormones. Those hormones have a hand in regulating pretty much every bodily process imaginable — metabolism, heart rate, menstrual cycle, you name it. So it's not totally surprising that your thyroid would be a key player in keeping your hair color as well.
And when it gets a little out of whack — whether overactive or underactive — you may notice some extra gray hairs. In fact, research suggests that thyroid hormones directly alter our hair follicles, including the areas that encourage the production of pigment.
Autoimmune Disorders When you have an autoimmune disorder, your immune system is essentially attacking your body instead of the pathogens it's designed to strike against. That means that certain skin- and hair-related autoimmune disorders, such as vitiligo, can also cause premature grays because they attack the cells responsible for producing pigment. So you're left with patches of skin and hair without pigment.
Smoking The connection between smoking and premature gray hairs isn't totally understood, but it has definitely been observed in studies for decades now. More recent research confirms that having gray hairs before the age of 30 is more common among smokers than the rest of the population.
Nutritional Deficiencies A few nutritional deficiencies have been linked to premature grays. For instance, a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause hair loss and encourage gray hairs to form. This vitamin is found in eggs, meat, poultry, and dairy products. So, if you're a vegan or vegetarian — or otherwise limiting your protein intake — you could be at a higher risk for B12 deficiency. Make sure to check in with your doctor if you think that's the case.