Freaking Out Over Getting A Few Grey Hairs In Your 20s? Here’s Why It Happens

It's totally normal, BTW.

I was lying on the grass in a park one sunny day in college when a pal leaned over, inspected my unevenly home-dyed head and said: “God, you’ve loads of grey hairs.” I immediately got defensive. I was 20 years old! I couldn’t have grey hairs! But I did.

Now, at 26, they’re everywhere – winking out at me when I curl my hair, sprouting straight up from the top of my scalp like weeds, glinting malevolently in the bathroom mirror. I’m not at all close to going fully grey, but the sheer number of silver strands on my head cannot be denied any longer. These days, I’ve stopped freaking out about my own mortality every time I spot one, but I still want to know WHY it has to happen at all.

So what makes hair go grey in the first place?

Your hair goes grey when the cells responsible for giving your hair colour stop being produced. It typically starts happening to white women in their 30s, Asian women in their late 30s and black women in their 40s.

It’s quite normal to see a few grey hairs in your 20s – and about 50% of the population will be 50% grey by the time they reach 50.

Is going grey early a genetic thing?

Yep! Chances are if your parents and grandparents went grey early, you will too. Genes also affect how fast you’ll grey, as well as the exact shade of silver/white you’ll end up with.

My mother claims to have only started getting grey hairs very recently – my dad, meanwhile, started going salt-and-pepper in his 40s. Saying that, my mother has had a full head of blonde highlights for nigh on 30 years now, so it’s entirely possible she’s missed a few greys popping up.

Are there any other things that could make us go grey early?

There are a few medical reasons you could go grey – a vitamin B deficiency, vitiligo, or issues with your pituitary or thyroid glands.

It’s often thought that stress leads to premature silver fox-ifying, but there’s no scientific evidence to back that up. Smoking, however, has been consistently linked to going grey early. Just something to think about…

Is there any truth to that old wives’ tale about plucking grey hairs?

Tatler Hong Kong 🇭🇰

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That if you pluck one, more will grow back in its place? No. But plucking is still only a temporary fix, because the follicle that produces the hair is still there, ready to sprout another grey to replace the one you pulled out.

Plus, continuous plucking may damage the follicle to the point where it won’t grow any hair at all -leaving you with the attractive decision of either going grey or balding. So do resist the urge to pluck them if you can help it.

Why are they so ugly and wiry?

This is what I always think when I’m trying to pull out a particularly coarse and curly one (I’m giving up plucking tomorrow, I promise).

But here’s the thing: Grey hair just seems coarse – it’s actually finer than normal hair. It gets wiry and weird because the oil glands in the follicle are less productive, leading it to become dry, brittle, or frizzy. So it’s not just the greyness we have to contend with, it’s that, too. Great!

Is there any way to stop it?

You could start taking multivitamins, eating healthily, and trying to reduce stress (which couldn’t do you any harm either way) but there’s no real way to stop the grey hairs from coming in.

If you’re really stressed about them, dyeing your hair is the best option. For now, I’ve chosen strategic balayage as concealment, and looking to Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada as my future grey hair inspiration. Solidarity to my fellow early somewhat-silver foxes.

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