White Hair: Causes and Prevention

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

Modern lifestyle has its perks and drawbacks. White hair is one of the biggest drawbacks of a seemingly comfortable, technology, and stress packed life.

Even people in their early 20s start noticing the first white strands, but unfortunately, most of them either ignore the problem or camouflage it. Premature aging and graying can be prevented and in some cases treated. However, it’s important to find out the root of the problem.

The appearance of white or gray hair is inevitable as you age. It’s the result of the hair experiencing the loss of its pigments. When the pigmentation occurs, the hair becomes gray. And when there’s a total loss of pigment, the hair becomes white. The problem can be treated and prevented as soon as you see your first strands of either white or gray hair – be it in your 20s, 30s, or 40s. Read on to find out the triggers of white hair and what you can do to reverse it.

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What are the most common causes of white hair?

The body has tons of hair follicles – the small sacs lining the skin cells. These hair follicles contain melanin – the pigment cells that give the hair its natural color. Due to a number of factors, these hair follicles can start losing melanin and this usually results in premature white hair.

People with darker hair color are more prone to white hair as it’s more visible on them. Generally, white hair has always been the sign of aging, but today both gray and white hair strands can occur at absolutely any age – even teens, especially boys, can notice white hair. What’s the reason? Below are the most common triggers of white hair:

1.Oxidative stress

Oxidative stress is the major culprit for the growing number of health issues occurring these days. White hair is no exception. We all have to deal with stress each day. When you fail to learn how to manage your stress levels, you’re more likely to develop chronic stress that can lead to high blood pressure, appetite loss or gain, anxiety and intense panic attacks, and sleep disorders. White hair that occurs prematurely can be triggered by chronic stress as well.

The untreated oxidative stress triggers the imbalances within the body. It also causes the reduction in the antioxidant levels. When antioxidants are too weak to prevent the harmful effects of free radicals, premature aging can happen. The imbalances of unstable molecules, free radicals, damage the body cells, causing illnesses and fast aging.

The elevated level of oxidative stress stimulates the development of serious diseases and disorders, such as vitiligo – the skin-pigment condition that can result in white hair because of the loss of cell function or melanin cell death.


According to a report published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, premature hair graying or whitening is linked to genetics. So if you have some strands of white hair while you’re at school or college, find out more about your family tree. It’s more likely that your grandparent or parent also had or has white or gray hair at a very early age. Genetics are almost impossible to change so either embrace your new hair color or simply dye it.

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Ethnicity and race play a great role in premature white hair, too. For instance, early graying or hair whitening in white people can begin in the early 20s. African-Americans populations can notice white or gray hair in their 30s, while Asians experience the problem starting from 25, according to the report.

3.Nutrient deficiencies

The importance of supplying the body with all the essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is incredibly enormous. For instance, any deficiencies of vitamin D, vitamin B6, biotin, vitamin B12, or vitamin E, among the others, can trigger premature hair whitening or graying.

In most cases, premature white hair is a warning sign of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is responsible for many functions in the body, including the high energy levels and healthy hair color and growth. Moreover, if you’re deficient in vitamin B12, you have an increased risk factor for anemia.

The body should receive enough amounts of vitamin B12 on a daily basis for healthy red blood cells that provide the cells, including the hair cells, with oxygen. A vitamin B12 deficiency can negatively impact on melanin production and weaken the hair cells.

A 2015 study published in the Journal Development stated that different deficiencies, including vitamin B12, vitamin D3, and copper deficiencies are linked to premature graying hair. The study found that vitamin and mineral deficiencies negatively affect hair pigmentation. Researchers suggest that premature white hair color can be prevented with proper vitamin and mineral supplementation.

Another study conducted in 2016 and published in the International Journal of Trichology showed the factors linked to early graying in younger than 25 years old Indians. The study concluded that individuals with premature hair graying had the reduced amounts of serum ferritin in the body that is responsible for storing vitamin B12 and iron, as well as the good cholesterol.

4.Thyroid disorder

The hormones can either positively or negatively affect the pigmentation of the hair. The hormonal imbalance can trigger white hair. For instance, hormonal changes triggered by a thyroid problem, like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, can result in premature white or gray hair.

The butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck, the thyroid helps to manage a lot of critical bodily functions, including metabolism and hair health. An underactive or overactive thyroid suppresses the production of melanin, which is needed for healthy hair.


Smoking is often overlooked when it comes to searching the reason of early white hair. However, this bad habit can significantly impact on your hair health. A research done by a group of scientists from Jordan in 2013 and published in the Italian Dermatology Online Journal stated that people who smoke regularly have a greater risk of starting graying before 30 in 2 1/2 times unlike people who don’t smoke.

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Another research conducted in Korea in 2015 and presented in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reported that smoking can trigger premature white hair in men younger than 30 years old.

Smoking places a big pressure on the blood vessels, lowering the proper blood circulation to the hair follicles and causing premature white hair and hair loss. Furthermore, toxins found in cigarettes can harm certain body parts, including the hair follicles, triggering early gray hair.

6.Melanin deficiency

Melanin deficiency is one of the primary causes of early white hair. The thing is, the melanin production highly depends on protein supplements and well-balanced nutrition. Poor nutrition reduces the level of melanin in the body, resulting in numerous health issues, including white hair and hair loss.

7.Autoimmune disease

The majority of autoimmune diseases can trigger early white or gray hair as well. An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system of the body attacks its own cells, leading to serious diseases and disorders.

In the case of vitiligo and alopecia, the immune system can target hair and trigger the pigment loss and white hair.

8.Chemical hair products and dyes

Chemical hair products and dyes, even a shampoo and a conditioner, can cause early hair graying and whitening. Most of these hair products are high in harmful ingredients, which reduce the melanin level in the body. Found in most hair dyes, hydrogen peroxide is one of the most dangerous chemicals that contribute to bad hair health. Bleaching hair too often can eventually result in white hair.

How to prevent white hair

Unless your white hair is caused by natural aging or genetics, there are a few things you can do to treat and prevent premature white hair. Mainly, it’s all about good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. However, if a serious medical condition triggers your early white hair, then it’s best to start treating that condition and then keep returning your hair color.

According to one Spanish research, if white hair is caused by a thyroid problem, re-pigmentation of the hair happens after a medical hormone therapy treatment. If white hair is triggered by smoking or stress, there is no evidence that reducing the stress levels or quitting smoking can restore hair pigmentation, albeit it can prevent the further hair whitening.

If premature white hair is caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, taking supplements or shots to treat a deficiency will boost the hair follicle health and can even bring your natural hair color back. More research is needed to prove this fact, though.

Including foods rich in antioxidants is vital when it comes to treating and preventing early white hair. Antioxidants help to fight oxidative stress and prevent the premature aging of the entire body. Be sure your eating plan includes antioxidant-rich foods, such as seasonal fruit and veggies, berries, olive oil, green tea, pecans, beans, prunes, and others.

Also eat more foods that promote hair health and growth, such as eggs, berries, spinach, sweet potatoes, nuts, avocado, seeds, sweet peppers, beans, soybeans, carrots, and dark chocolate.

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Switching to safe organic hair products, especially shampoos and conditioners, will also help you keep your hair healthy and young for longer.

Natural remedies to treat white hair

There are a few tried and tested natural remedies that are believed to reverse white hair and overall improve the health of your strands.

1.Black tea treatment

Black tea supplies hair with potent antioxidants and prevents the early growth of white or gray hair. Black tea treatment will help to darken your white hair color and add a natural shine to it. Brew black tea, strain, and let it cool. Apply it to your scalp and hair. Massage for 5 minutes and let it stay on your hair for about an hour. Wash your hair with a shampoo and a conditioner that don’t contain sulfate. Perform the procedure 2 to 3 times a week.

2.Lemon juice and coconut oil treatment

Lemon juice is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B, and phosphorus – the nutrients needed for hair health as well as the maintenance of the hair follicle pigment cells. Coconut oil nourishes the hair, keeping it younger longer.

Mix 2 tbsp. coconut oil and 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice and microwave for several seconds until it’s a bit warm. Apply the mixture to your scalp, gently massaging for a few minutes. Apple the rest to your tips and leave for 25-30 minutes. Wash your hair with a shampoo and a conditioner that don’t contain sulfate. Do this treatment twice a week.

3.Mustard and castor oil treatment

Castor oil helps to reverse hair loss and promote hair growth. Mustard oil contains minerals that help to keep the color and health of the hair. The treatment nourishes your follicles and prevents graying.

Mix 2 tbsp. mustard oil with 1 tbsp. castor oil and microwave until the mixture is warm. Massage it onto your scalp and leave for 15 minutes, massaging every 5 minutes. Apply the left mixture to your hair and leave for 30 minutes. Wash with organic shampoo and conditioner. Do the treatment 2-3 times a week.

4.Sage tea treatment

Sage tea helps to preserve a natural hair color, keeping your hair from whitening or graying. A regular sage tea treatment can even help to restore the pigment to white hair.

Bring water with a bunch of sage leaves to a boil. Let it simmer for a few seconds until it’s brewed. Leave the liquid to cool and pour it into a spray bottle. Apply the sage tea to your hair and wash it after 2 hours. Do it 2 to 3 times per week.

Before you mask your problem, treat the root of it. White hair is no joke as it causes a lot of discomforts and can even lead to hair loss. As you can see, it’s actually possible to treat and prevent early white hair, unless it’s triggered by genetics, a serious medical condition, or the aging process.