I’m 24 and I have gray hair! What’s going on?

- asks Kat from London

Gray hair can happen at any age--even in your teens or early twenties. [Credit: Abouthair.com]
By | Posted October 8, 2007
Posted in: Ever Wondered?, Health
Tags: , ,

I was only 18 when I spotted my first gray hairs, interlopers among my chestnut-colored tresses. As a freshman in college, I chalked these gray hairs up to stress from calculus class and a bad boyfriend. But by the time I aced calculus and dumped the boyfriend, those silver wisps were still there—and now, at the age of 25, a few gray strands have multiplied to what seems like nearly a hundred, silently taunting me when I look in the mirror as if to say, “You’re getting old. You’re getting old. You’re getting old.

To explain the mystery of graying hair, you must get to the root of the problem, err, I mean the root of your hair. Under the scalp, a tube of tissue called the hair follicle surrounds the root of every hair strand. Each follicle contains a number of pigment cells that produce melanin, the polymer that gives the growing shaft of hair its color. Usually these pigment cells continuously produce melanin, but if your body stops generating it, the strand of hair will have very little pigment to paint over it’s normally transparent hue; this base-transparency will then present itself as gray, white, or silver.

Melanin production is brought to a halt for a variety of reasons–some natural, some indicators of greater health issues. As people continue to get older, the number of pigment cells around to produce melanin will actually be reduced. Eventually, these cells will be so depleted, the hair will look completely gray. Incidentally, melanin also provides moisture to the hair strand, so when less is produced, hair tends to grow brittle, losing its bounce. This is why as your hair leans towards the color of the snowy peaks of the Alps, its texture becomes dryer and coarser, making it more curly or wiry.

My gray hair started when I was still in my teens—a far cry from the usual graying age range of 30 to 50. But it turns out that people can get gray hair at any age, depending on genetics. This means that most of us will start having gray hairs around the same age that our parents or grandparents first did. I called my mother to find out our family’s graying hairstory. She told me it wasn’t any surprise that I had started to gray at a young age—her uncle’s hair was completely white by the time he was 25. Aha! I thought. Now this mystery is starting to make sense.

Researchers have shown that gender plays a role in graying. The average male starts to gray around age 30, while women typically began to notice lighter strands around age 35. In some families, many members develop white hair in their 20s. “It obviously clusters in families in one sense. Whether that is a single gene or common gene we don’t know,” writes Dr. Meyer in the magazine Scientific American. “Generally speaking, among Caucasians, 50% are 50% gray by age 50. There is, however, wide variation. This number differs for other ethnic groups, again demonstrating the effect of genetics.” But this biological fact of life varies greatly from person to person, which made dermatologists and geneticists conclude that age is not the the only indicator of when gray hair will appear.

For starters, smoking is known to decrease melanin production. Sometimes, the arrival of gray hair can be a sign of an underlying health problem. Werner’s syndrome, a disease that mirrors the symptoms of aging in people as young as 20, can spur the premature growth of gray hair. Pernicious anemia, a disease marked by a vitamin B12 deficiency, is also associated with decreased melanin production.

Although there are people who think that a big shock or trauma can turn a person’s hair white overnight, only a rare disease has been known to cause this phenomenon. Called alopecia areata, the condition causes the thicker, darker hairs to stop growing before it affects the growth of gray hairs—meaning people with the disease seem to “go gray” overnight as the darker strands are diminished and the gray ones keep on growing strong.

Overnight graying myth aside, what about that pesky old wive’s tale that says pulling out a gray will result in five more springing in it’s place? That’s also wrong! So yank away. I, however, don’t have that kind of patience, so it’s back to the salon for me, for a little color to cover those stubborn grays.

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  1. I am 25, about to turn 26, and I been getting some gray hairs for a couple years now. The gray hairs that I’ve had come in are due to my hyperthyroidism, or so I’ve been told. I’m hoping with my thyroid getting better, that I will just maintain the same number of grays instead of progressively more and more, at least till I’m somewhat older. Is there a way to promote melanin production or anything besides dying your hair?

    Dominique, September 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm
  2. Hey im 22 and about 8 months ago i started getting one or two greys, now iv got about 10-15 mostly on the side of my head, and yeh it pisses me off coz iv always loved my hair (its dark brown so that dont help either)and iv always looked after it. i was thinking about dieing it but its jus to much hassel, so what i do is cut it short about every 2-3weeks and jel or wax it, and i cant notice them anymore (neither does anyone else)jell/wax does help hide them if that helps. sometimes my m8s take the piss out of me but i jus laugh it off and take the piss back, im sure their not perfect either. Also most people who go grey at a young age keep all their hair while people who dont tend to go bald and id rather keep my hair and go grey anyday :D

    BeN-G, October 6, 2010 at 6:03 pm
  3. well im experiensing the same problem.1st gray hair appeared when im in high school and i was nearly 18 years.Now im 22.The problem increased since last year. I want a soulution for this than coloring hair. From some websites i found that lack of vitamin B12 can cause for gray hairs, So as a first experiment im going to use B12. if u fine any solution to overcome from this problem pls comment here below…and let us know.thanx.

    natssy, October 8, 2010 at 8:28 am
  4. I got my first gray hair at eleven and now i am 14 and am about 1/4 gray

    Mario, October 16, 2010 at 11:45 am
  5. I noticed the first gray hair last year at age 33 and was not shocked. I have no family history of gray hair but it happened at a time of a divorce and finishing up my college degree. The men in my family have a history of baldness, I will take the gray hair over that anytime.

    Chris, October 18, 2010 at 7:31 am
  6. i have gray hairs and im only 13 but it started 4years ago i hate people asking me about it and i dont know what to say so can u help mee out

    olajide, October 18, 2010 at 4:01 pm
  7. be happy your going gray not going bald..

    roy, October 21, 2010 at 9:37 am
  8. sigh…I am a 25 yr old man and I actually began going gray at the age of 14. I didn’t start to dye my hair until I was 19. I had Jet black hair so you couldn’t really tell the grays for a while they just looked like shiny black strands because i cut my hair short. When i started dying it I only died it every couple months or so and my hair remained healthy and dark. Now at age 25 I am dying my entire head every 2 weeks and touching up my roots every week or so so that nobody can tell I have the grays. Because of my frequent dying I am afraid that my hair is thinning, but I feel as if I am left optionless. Theres no fucking way in hell that I am ready to sport a head of gray hair at 25. I feel robbed of my life :( which I am sure mostly everyone on here go’s through on a daily basis as well. My hair used to be so thick and amazing and now it is just brittle and week and constantly falls out when I run my fingers through it or wash it. I find myself staring at other peoples roots all the time in jealous fashion. Its so bad I am depressed all the time except for like the 3 days after I dye it until the roots start to come in and it sucks because I am a super up beat outgoing guy and this just shatters my self esteem into a million pieces. anyone on here that has a couple gray hairs at age 33 or even 30 for that matter you have no idea in the world what it truly feels like to be prematurely gray it is severely life altering.

    Mike, October 23, 2010 at 3:34 am
  9. I saw my first grey hair when I was about 16 or 17. Now I’m 24 and have probably 40 or 50 of them :( I do dye my hair sometimes, but it’s still annoying.

    Ingrid, November 11, 2010 at 8:52 pm
  10. hey, I started having gray hair since high school…..was around the time I started smoking. But I think that if smoking causes melanin pigments mal-production. Then quiting my at least kinda help. So, I am quiting now and will let you guys know how right I was in a month or two….PEACE

    Nick, November 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm
  11. help, my pubic hairs are starting to turn gray. it hurts more to pluck them than my head hairs. is there a cure?

    jbow, November 23, 2010 at 9:59 pm
  12. I m 23 yrs old. My hairs length are limited to short lenth Even they are not dense.
    Can u give me a solution? What if i cut throughout.
    Will i gain a good hair?

    Heena, December 20, 2010 at 5:27 am
  13. I’m 25 years old and scared to death to get gray hair before I turn 45! My mother started going gray around 43 and my father started going gray around 48. So maybe I’ll be lucky enough to start going gray around 50. I’m always stressed out over the slightest things and I smoke 3-4 cigarettes a day so now I am learning not to stress as much and I’m trying to stop smoking for good by 01/01/10. I’m also taking biotin, cod liver oil and many other vitamins that are good for your hair, skin and nails every single day along with having a healthy, balanced diet and big glasses of water and juice.

    Sheena, December 26, 2010 at 7:33 pm
  14. I have noticed a gray or two in my head and didn’t mind it. BUT a few days ago I saw one on my eyelash. Maybe its always been there and I never noticed it because of the Mascara that I wear. But now it’s getting crazy! I just found TWO gray pubic hairs. There has to be something wrong with me….Oh by the way Im 26.

    Tia, December 27, 2010 at 12:52 pm
  15. I had started having grey hair when I was 12 , and I was never so stressed , its in genetics , now I am 30 and I have 50% grey , the best thing you can do is color them once when you get a hair cut that is once a month and have number 3 or more hair cut , and its not bad at all I have been doing this since last 15 years and will continue it for at least another 15.. Cheer up guys life is to short to cry over such little things enjoy..:)

    sammy, January 10, 2011 at 11:11 am
  16. why are you all complaining?

    im 24 and nearly totally gray…guess what? i love it!!!!

    it makes me stand out and be different, trust me, embrace the gray/white.

    dermot, January 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm
  17. When I was in Jr. High (mostly 12-14 year old kids), there was a kid there that was going bald. (he had a bald spot on top, closer to the back of his head)

    SuperNinja, January 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm
  18. we are all here for a reason. so lets all feel the bond and pary for one another huh?
    And lets try hair vitamins like Reminex GH.Anybody have success with it?

    Jack, January 30, 2011 at 1:30 am
  19. I m 18 .. n i m 70% gray .. I m nt worried about being gray .. But is this an symptom of any bigger issue .. ?? Plz Help me Out ..

    Unknown, February 4, 2011 at 10:32 am
  20. 4 years on and this article is still going strong!

    its great to know that you’re not the only one suffering from this unfortunate fate. ive had grey hair since..in my early teens. at the rate im going at, ill probably be horribly grey by 25.

    thank goodness for hair dyes right? (delaying the process for as long as possible though ><)

    cheers people, we're all in this shit together.

    shithappens, February 5, 2011 at 7:28 pm
  21. I’m 21, and had my first gray Hairs found on my head yesterday, some were salt and pepper strands where others were completely white. as soon as i saw these i was super excited and i honestly don’t know why, i guess i like the idea of having white hair without having to drastically dye my hair white/brown/ red/ black etc and instead, letting it change over time on its own. Gray hair isn’t hereditary on either side of my family, i’m just different and thats the way i like it.

    Sarah, February 8, 2011 at 9:44 pm
  22. I’m 33 years old and I’m almost completely gray. I started getting gray hair when I was in high school but it wasn’t too bad so I wasn’t too concerned. It started to bother me when I was about 25 years old and I noticed that when people talked to me they would stare at the top of my head (it still happens when the roots start to show) so I started to dye my hair. I was always afraid people could tell that I dye my hair but about a year ago I was talking about my grays to my stylist and he was in shock. He says he couldn’t tell my hair had been dyed…that it looked so natural and didn’t feel like gray hair. Since then, I’ve decided that if I can hide it (whether it’s gray hair, blotchy skin, etc.)then I ain’t gonna worry about it. It’s the stuff I can’t hide that worries me like wrinkles. haha So Ladies and Men, don’t sweat the small stuff like gray hair. We’re lucky to be here on this Earth living and breathing this beautiful air.

    Jess, February 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm
  23. I noticed my first gray hair at around 11. Been dying my hair since I was 22. In my forties now. Noticed the first gray hair on my 8.5 yr old last week. It’s genetic and runs in the family I told her. I didn’t understand what was happening when it happened to me, but I didn’t want her to have the same feelings, even if she wouldn’t have noticed that one lone hair for a few years. I told her that if a bottle of hair dye could fix this thing, then not really a big deal. My kids know I have to dye my hair regularly, and it’s just part of the “upkeep.” Her color is much lighter than mine, she’s much luckier than me in that way when it gets to the point she has to deal with it.

    Julie, March 7, 2011 at 6:45 pm
  24. I noticed my first gray hair when I was 27. I am 29 and noticed 4 more last night all growing together in a little clump. I say yay to gray. It is not so bad. I saw a girl in her early twenties on the train whose hair was completely white/gray and she so look beautiful I had to stop myself from staring at her.

    verity, March 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm
  25. Im 15 and I have now spotted 4 pure white hairs.
    Reading this kind of scares me but my mom says
    Their just damaged from dyeing my hair but uv only dyed
    It 2 times. Theirs no history of early grating either in fact my
    Grandma looks very young for her age not just in hair but her
    Skin is nice to. What’s happening!?

    Jojojlc, March 15, 2011 at 11:10 pm
  26. I’m only 18 and my hair is already greying.
    I hate it and feel so embarrassed, especially when people notice and comment.
    I liked my naturally black hair but now I just wanna shave it off.
    I actually feel ashamed because it shouldn’t be happening.

    Beth, March 17, 2011 at 1:31 am
  27. iam a man, i had my first grey hair when i was 11 and then i started to get a few when i was 21 22 23 and im 24 next month, but i think its normal, but then i got an afro, so they are blatant in ur face, but i think it looks kool. peace out people

    dont worry be happy, and i think its genetics totally.

    Philip, March 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm
  28. Noticed my first grey around 2 months ago, pluke it out and now theres atleast 10 grey hairs growing in and around the same place! Theres also grey appearing behind my ears. I’m a 24 years old healthy male and NOBODY in my family went grey this early. If theres any other product besides the obvious hair dye PLEASE let me know.

    Gc, March 23, 2011 at 4:42 pm
  29. I have a full head of dark brown hair at the age of 19 and it completely sucks, I would love to have silvery long hair as I think it looks great! But unfortunatly no silvers or even greys… guess I will have to await my turn…

    Leon Gorman, March 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm
  30. I am 25 and completely 100% grey…!! I noticed my first grey hair when I was just 16, and then more and more began to appear over the next few years, it was kind of gradual and then all of a sudden before i knew it every hair on my head was silver..!! I am Scotish and have jet black hair so it is very noticable, I believe that it is genetic as early greying runs in my Dad’s family, but I think a very stressful period in my life gave it a speedy boost, as out of 4 siblings im the only grey one so far. Dyeing my hair every couple of weeks is a bit of a pain but its part of my routine now. Oh well people at least we’ve already gone through the trauma of turning grey…..th erest have still got that to come haha….!!! =)

    Jade, April 9, 2011 at 5:07 pm
  31. I had my first white hair when I was 9! I checked my hair today again and I found round 50……. and I’m only 13!
    I’m afraid that when I am 25 my hair would be 50% white…
    Plus I have black-brown hair so its kind of hard to hide those white hairs.
    I am a healthy girl so I don’t know why i have so much white hair.
    Might be all the stress I have….

    Claudia Martin, April 30, 2011 at 7:26 am
  32. I’m a 29 years old female and I just noticed a whole bunch of gray hair. I got to really looking and noticed there all over! I made a highlight appointment with my stylist right away!!!! My hair is dark brown with auburn highlights and I know that I’ll have to have blonde hightlights put in to cover the gray. Sad day!:( My parents started graying in their 30’s, thanks mom and dad. I’ll just embrace my gray hair, learn to live with it…

    Jennifer,April 30,2011, April 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm
  33. I’M 14 and i have so much gray hair! they’re not noticeable but when you pull out the first layer of hair you can see at least 50 of white hair! omg help me! ><

    Asian, May 2, 2011 at 4:23 am
  34. When i was 12 my mum started seeing white hairs , so we started pulling
    them out . but im 13 now and they keep on coming !! Help Please !!

    Nia, May 10, 2011 at 1:40 am
  35. I’ve struggled with gray hair since I started high school at 15 years old. I think it started because of all the stress. I freaked out too because my mom also started in her late teens and now she dyes her hair almost every 3 to 4 weeks. Because my hair is dark brown it is easy to spot my white hairs, they are kind of weird because they are really thick. What I have done to hide them is to dye my hair, I do it once every 6 to 7 months and I usually pick a shade that is a little darker than my natural hair color; I have found this to fight back the apperance of my grays. Using hair dye doesn’t that damage your hair that much if you take care of it properly and stay away from the pools especially you blondies because your hair might turn green. I started dying my hair when I was 16, it was after this kid at school kept pointing out that a white hair was sticking out from my pony tail, which I would also wear to hide my grays. I kept ignoring him but he ended up telling the whole class. I felt really embarrassed, so that same weekend I bought a hair dye from the store and asked my sister to do it. My family is really supportive about it, but other people aren’t. Gray hair might look good on guys but for girls it is a little embarrassing. Thanks for reading.

    Lily, May 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm
  36. I started graying in my teens. Now, at 21, I have more gray hairs than any of my 25-35 year old coworkers. Sometimes I’m insecure when when I’m around others closer to my age, but the majority of the time, I take my locks with stride.

    Sarah, May 13, 2011 at 9:06 am
  37. I started seeing gray hair when I was in 6th grade and by 8th grade my head by 50/50. As an Asian, people was noticing it and I was so embarrassed by it. My little sister started getting gray hair when she was in 5th grade. Her gray hairs was not as bad as mine but it was noticeable as well. I would dyed my hair but as time went by, I knew that it was damaging my hair so I stopped. It was stress but genetic as well. My mom told me that her aunt got gray hair when she was young too. I’m in my late 20’s now and still have gray hair. I have learned to live with it.

    Nick, June 1, 2011 at 7:08 pm
  38. yes i have gray hair. im pretty young. i am NOT going to dye it. if we all refuse to dye our hair, then there wont be the sort of stigma to young people with gray hair that there is now. So, I think that if you dye your hair, then you are to blame. stand up and fight instead.

    lars sledgehammer, June 3, 2011 at 3:43 am
  39. My newborn son has pitch black hair. He has this one strand of white hair in the front. Should I pluck it out? Please help.

    Yusuf, June 25, 2011 at 1:44 am
  40. I had my first grey hair when I was 17, now I’m in my mid twenties and I have about a hundred, I pluck them out, is that bad? I haven’t dyed my hair yet, I’m going to wait until it’s noticeable.

    Mimi, June 29, 2011 at 6:33 am
  41. Eh I got my first grey hair at age 9 Now I’m 15 and theyre flooding in! Haha I take pride in them! I’m actually hoping to have a full head by 20 hahaha!

    Mizu, July 19, 2011 at 3:31 am
  42. Hey guys just wanna share my hair woes with u all. I noticed my first grey hair when I was 16, Im am now 32 and have steadily got greyer i would say im about 40% grey now. I seem to be getting them more on the sides than on top. I have frequently dyed my hair through my 20s until i hit 27 and decided to keep it short that remedied it for a while as it was less noticeable now it doesnt work my gery hair tends to want to grow outwards not downwards so i had to keep trimming every few days to keep up the illusion lol

    Now i have grown it back again and started to dye it but have now noticed am thinner on top (im not having much luck lol) and the dyed hair is really dry and brittle and its as if the dye wont take to the grey the hairs go lighter within a week, i think ill need to speak with a stylist and find out a decent practical and pragmatic solution to it there must be one where i can still sport a head of hair(while i have it)and cover the grey without causing too much further damagen i like to have a short hair style which means frequent dyeing mybe grecian 200 might be an option . Im kinda stressing about it now which isnt a good thing stress = hair loss. If u guys can think of anything post it am all ears.

    Martin, July 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm
  43. I came on this site about a year ago. I was facing the same issue as most of you guys. It took a lot out of me to admit to the world that I was grey. I had been covering it up since I was 16 hoping that nobody would notice. It was also very theraputic and realizing I’m not the only person in the world facing this was very comforting. I used to think that having grey hair young would make me a freak, and that nobody would want me etc…I’m 26 now and I have stopped coloring my hair for the most part. I’m trying to let come back little by little so I’m not walking around with grey roots and dark hair. So far it is working well and I’m looking forward to seeing the end result. I hope you guys soon realize that it’s not that big a deal and men with grey hair are very sexy i.e. Richard Gere, Steve Martin and I’m sure women can be too, I hope to prove that in the near future.

    Kristin, August 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm
  44. So today I went to get my hair trimmed at the salon and my usual hair dresser said “Hey, look I found two gray hair. Did you know?” I just about died I said “Pull them out!!” She wouldn’t do it because she said two more would grow back in their place. I’m 23 almost 24. I’m just not ready for this! I don’t even have kids yet..

    Bethany, August 22, 2011 at 8:39 pm
  45. I am 21 years old and i cant belive, i actually got few grey hairs in this early age!!! it started last year..dont know if it is because of too much stress and tensions. I am really unhappy with it. :(

    Vanessa, September 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm
  46. I started getting greys my Freshman year in college, so I blamed it on my courseload. I became a teacher, then the greys REALLY started shining through! I’m only 24 and I look over 30 when it comes to my hair. Time to make a hair appointment!

    Shayna, October 1, 2011 at 7:45 pm
  47. A recent study shows that the DHFR gene interacts with recycling BH4 needed for lots of things including boosting tyrosine levels needed for melanin. If your DHFR gene is only partially working then you would likely have problems with grey hair, serotonin, nitric oxide, hypothyroidism, etc. One potential solution would be to take Folinic acid instead of Folic acid, alleviating the strain on the DHFR gene. This appears to have only been looked at a few times in very limited studies, but it did appear to work in those.

    Chris, October 4, 2011 at 11:00 am
  48. Vanessa what the hell! grey hairs makes me cry!

    Lucy, October 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm
  49. omg like totally white is so gross-_____-! i would rather be dead then caught with my dad and his silver head.!!!
    Sincerely, white chica.

    Pancho de la villa, October 5, 2011 at 12:25 pm
  50. Is any shot or chance for it i hate to much i am 26 and i have over 20 gray hairs

    SJ, October 10, 2011 at 6:26 pm
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