Bleaching of hair is a natural and inevitable process. Fortunately, it is very rarely a symptom of an illness.


"It's normal that you have so much white hair, you're stressed all the time!" ; "Do not pull out that white hair, otherwise others will grow!" Gray hair is still subject to many misconceptions. However, sooner or later, they lose their color, and will never regain it. Stress is often blamed. But if in some, the first gray hairs appear earlier than in others, it is mainly due to genetic predispositions.

No need, therefore, to favor such or such diet supposed to postpone the deadline. "We do not know how to delay hair bleaching"

A question of melanocytes
The color of our skin, hair, body hair or even our irises is linked to the presence of melanin, a pigment that can be brown-black or yellow-red. "The latter is produced by cells called melanocytes, present in each of our hair follicles", continues the dermatologist. Hair and hair originate in these tiny cavities - the surface of our body can number up to 5 million. Hair follicles also contain keratinocytes, cells that synthesize keratin, the main constituent of hair. As the hair grows, the melanocytes transmit melanin to the keratinocytes. The hair is therefore pigmented at the level of its root, which allows it to be colored over its entire length.

"But as they age, these melanocytes no longer transmit pigment, they are no longer functional". As the hair no longer receives melanin, it turns white. And since the melanocytes cannot reactivate, the phenomenon is definitive. Except in exceptional cases: certain diseases localized to the scalp or certain treatments for serious diseases can trigger re-pigmentation of the hair.

A genetic predisposition
Why do some have gray hair at age 20 or younger, while others are spared until age 50? "It is above all linked to a genetic predisposition", indicates the dermatologist. So, if your parents or other family members had gray hair early on, there is a higher likelihood that you did too. “The myth that when you pull out a hair, it causes the bleaching of others is therefore obviously false! It's just that if you have white hair, the general tendency of your scalp is to discolor, so others will turn white ”.

There are still some factors that could promote premature hair bleaching. Several studies implicate tobacco in particular. Severe deficiencies linked to undernutrition can also lead to discoloration of the hair, "but this is not the only symptom of the deficiency, far from it, and it is temporary". Hormonal disorders, in particular linked to thyroid disorders, can also play a role. "There is sometimes a diffuse whitening, distributed over the entire head," says the doctor.

Conversely, in the case of vitiligo - a disease characterized by depigmentation of the skin - the bleaching is very localized. The symptoms of this benign pathology are due to the loss of melanocytes, the discoloration, therefore, affects both the skin and the hair. Another example is that of albinism. This peculiarity is due to a genetic anomaly that causes a deficit in melanin production.

What about stress?
Legend has it that the morning of her execution, October 16, 1793, Marie-Antoinette woke up with completely white hair, although it was colored the day before. Today, "Marie-Antoinette syndrome" is a term used to refer to the very rapid bleaching of hair. Which is actually impossible. "It is in fact an alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease which can promote depigmentation of the hair, but above all, which more readily causes pigmented hair loss". Only white hair, therefore, remains in place, giving the impression that all of the hair has been bleached. "In rare cases, the onset of this alopecia areata can be linked to stress, but this factor remains marginal . "

Apart from these exceptions, no link between stress and the appearance of gray hair has never been proven. No reason to worry, therefore, if the first gray hairs appear early.

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