Health

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

- asks Kat from London

October 8, 2007
Gray hair can happen at any age--even in your teens or early twenties. [Credit: Abouthair.com]
Gray hair can happen at any age--even in your teens or early twenties. [Credit: Abouthair.com]

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.

About the Author

Discussion

369 Comments

Ro says:

Im 22 and ive started seeing grey hairs. I have no idea if its genetic for me since my mum is in her 50’s and she isnt grey, while my dad has always been grey since i can remember and my sisters arent showing grey hair. Though there is a high chance its stress coz i do stress alot but try not to. While i can understand the whole white look, im sure its not for me just yet.

shawn says:

I was about 13 when I got my first gray hair then by 16 I had a 1 1/2 inch white streak going from the front all the way to the back. Kinda like Elvira (probably didn’t spell that correctly). I did have jet black hair till I was introduced to hair dye. It’s always been an embarrassment to me because that the first thing anyone ever saw. I don’t have any family members that had this experience so I guess I am just the lucky one. lol

Jiyeon says:

Hi! I’m 15 years old and I’m Asian. Today my mom found a strand of white hair on my head and reading this article makes me feel… Better.

Keith M says:

I started going gray around 25. I am now 31 and got a lot more gray hairs. I hated when I heard 2 girls sniggering saying “his hairs turning gray” I didnt say anything but was thinking well girls I am not that young anymore.
I knew someone at school that had a patch on gray hair. It definitly can be caused by an extreme shock.

I enjoy reading an article that can make people think.
Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

Stadwin Strawsy says:

HELP! I am 6 years old and my hair is already half grey!! All the other 1st graders call me ‘gramps! Thanks, dad!

I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road. All the best

Christina says:

My mom and my aunt started going gray in their early teens. I knew this from a very young age, and I was actually excited for some reason when I got my first gray hair at 14. Now I’m 22, and I’m seeing more and more gray everyday, specifically in my bangs. I’m not excited anymore! I won’t start coloring my hair until it’s very noticable, which at this rate will be in few years.

Zuon Ambassador of Planet Tharg says:

Going grey is not even near as stressful as going bald. Nowhere near. Just think how many bald men would pay literally thousands to have a permanent set of greying locks.

Jeff the Zen says:

I didn’t quite remember when my hair turn white(I born black hair ), but when I was a junior in college, white hair was so obvious that my friends often jocked on me ,hey, which girl reject you ?

Now I am 33 and already have my family, but I still suffer from white hair, talking about stress is a reason by not the root… I am still looking for the root cause and the cure…

Starla says:

I noticed my first silver hair when I was 12 years old. It was in the front left side near forehead! I started coloring my hair in my late 40’s! It was an effort to me to schedule appointments, sit for appointments, pay for appointments and then schedule another appointment. I decided to NEVER color my hair again! I get comments and compliments everyday from women! They ask me what color I use! It is called All natural. Most men think it is blonde. I was upgraded recently by a man……. He called it PLATINUM! This is what the good LORD gave me! This is what I am using !!!! I will not ever color my hair again!!! I am 56 and I love my hair! NEVER EVER use the 4 letter word …… Gray or grey!!!! Come on!!!!!!!!!! We are silver. Sparkly, shiny like our personalities!!!! My youngest son is 26 ….. He is getting silver, too! He recently told me, “THANKS!” Love your hair…. Be yourself… Love your body!

Josh says:

Hello! I’m a 25-year-old man with about 10% grays which seem to be exponentially multiplying. You’re not alone people! I’m actually looking forward to being grey…I just don’t want to ever go bald. Thankfully, nobody in my family that I’m aware of has balding issues. :D

Lili says:

I was born with and have always had a single silver hair. I’m 21.

Callie says:

I’m sixteen and I have auburn hair but I’ve had solid white hairs since I was a very very young child. My family history suggests I’ll be solid white by 20-25. When my mom first mentioned it I got scared and a little worried, mainly because I’m very pale and white hair will probably not look quite right, as vain as that worry is. Now I’m having fun imagining what statements I could make with dye or haircuts. Going gray may not be that bad!

Ivan says:

I’m 23 years old and I noticed my first gray hair at 13… since then I probably have over 100 greys and people always comment on it and my reply is always “thanks for telling me like I don’t see it everyday in the mirror” lol. But you know most women accept it that I have came in contact with as far as dating goes. You just have to accept yourself and always keep your head up and have confidence. No matter how you may look or how you may age there’s always going to be people who don’t accept you for you. If I really worried about what others think i’d be half crazy by now. Just live your life and be happy, stressing about what you cant control is pointless!

Jed says:

I’m now 22 and my gray hair has gotten really bad. I have really thick dark brown hair. My ex girlfriend found my first one whin I was 19. I was working with a lot of cemaculs around that time for fiberglassing at the time. I was wondering if that could have something to do with it?

Jane says:

I have red hair and have always hated being a redhead. It does look good on a lot of people but for me it never looked good. I started developing pure white hairs about the age of 26 when I started to notice this. Now a couple years later I have a lot of white hairs mixed in. I celebrate the white ones. They are beautiful. It’s the pigmented ones that drive me batty. I wish all my hairs were pure white.

sarra says:

hi i’m only 16 and i have like 100 gray hair it’s so annoying and people always tease me about it , i hate it after all i’m only 16!

21 year old Irish/asian says:

I got my first three grey hairs when i was 18 years old. I remember being distraught and thinking this is really the first signs of old age! Now i am 21 and i have multiple grey hairs all over my head. And because i am asian and have jet black grey hair it is even more noticable. I dont have that many yet but i know i will as time goes by. Both my first cousins aged 29 and 15 have heads full of grey hair so it definately runs in the family. I personally think its due to stress and deficiancy in vitamins and minerals as ive never really had a diet rich in fruits and calcium. The best solution is to take vitamin supplements and improve your diet and take care of your health. The rest is in gods hands.

Ellie says:

I saw my first grey hair at the age of ten and I’m 15 now and I can’t believe that I have them. I know they in my genes because my grandad started getting them from age of 15.

Gaizupath says:

Heredity plays the vital role in producing gray hair. Stress is also a factor that you can’t deny. There are some proofs around where poeple claimed Stress as a reason of hair graying, ie: Barack Obama. Lifestyle and diet are another great aspects where the victim of premature gray hair must give proper attention.

Belinda K-S says:

My beautiful jet black hair started noticeably turning white when I was 11. My hair at 35 is probably more than 75% white. My eyebrows, arm, leg, ect… hair are all still black. I can’t seem to dye my hair back to it’s original black without it looking harsh and unnatural. My original black hair did not have any natural highlights. In the sun it just had a sheen and reflected light. Not like the other girl’s who had red or gold highlights naturally in the sun. When I was young my mother took me to an expensive colorist who did a great job at restoring my beautiful black hair. She started taking me to have it colored at 11. That expensive colorist and stylist passed away when I was in my mid twenties. Since then I have not found a colorist that can copy what he did. He mixed Redkin professional brand color himself. I also cannot do it myself. I would love to find a way to color or have my hair colored back to it’s original black beauty! My bigger worry is that my 9 year old daughter’s gorgeous black hair is also going to turn white. I want to know if there is any preventative action we could take? Is there such thing as a melanin producing supplement we could be giving her? Hitting puberty at 8 was bad enough for her! Her pediatrician says that is the norm now. So sad for little girls now. I don’t want her hair turning white to add to the stress puberty is already putting on her when she is not yet near mature enough to deal with it. She looks like a clone of me. Even my husband jokes with me in private about having nothing to do with how she looks. He doesn’t mind, he thinks we’re beautiful; but doesn’t want her hair to start turning white either. When he jokes I just tell him it’s his fault. He’s the one that made her a girl. She and I are both fair skinned, but can tan easily. Even through the sun screen we both wear. We both also have dark brown eyes. He does not tan. He does burn, then goes back to white. He also has green eyes. He is older than me and his hair went from light blond to white in his forties. His white looks distinguished, mine just looks wrong. Not just wrong, but bad. The progression of his light blond hair to white looked natural and good all the way until it was pure white. I want to prevent my daughter’s hair from prematurely turning white and to find a way to color mine that looks natural. When I blow it out and heat iron it, my hair feels silky. If I don’t it looks and feels wiry and coarse. I’m tired of settling for brown hair when coloring! It doesn’t look right either, but not as unnatural and harsh as when I or a colorist tries to color it black. I don’t want this for my daughter so young!

Brey says:

I’m only 15 and I already have gray hair. I was in the first grade when I first spotted that I have a gray hair. At a young age, it was very hard for me to accept that I already have this kind of hair,because others tease me about it, but as time pass by, I am learning to accept my characteristic. I just bear in my mind that this is a God given gift and I should be thankful about it. Besides, I know I’m not the only person in this world who has a gray hair at a very young age. :)

Blaz says:

Grey hair and hair loss are very common. The major factors that cause grey hair are stress, both psychological and physical, lack of exercise and unbalance diet. There is no doubt that hair dye makes it worst. I will definitely recommend to eat food rich in folic acid like green leafy veggies and fruits, cereals, cowpeas, etc. And don`t forget mental relaxation!

Diana says:

The first time I got gray hair was when I was 8. It wasn’t exactly gray but it was platinum yellow,(I’m asian). Don’t know why, but over the years before my hair turn gray, it turn to a platinum yellow color first, then it became gray. Now I’m 20 and got more then 500 strands that are gray. If find it no big deal, ’cause I kinda like it.

Andrew says:

I started getting grey at 17. I am now 35. Im really salt and pepper, lighter around the sides and back. I never had a problem with it. I own it!!! I never had problems getting into relationships with nice and very attractive women. I get compliments on my hair and looks. I think it all comes down to your attitude and your confidence. This is who I am and how I look……..if you don’t like it……get out of my way because I have no time for those people.

Macey says:

Im 15, soon to turn 16. I first spotted my grey patch when i was in class last year and a friend was standing behind me when she pointed it out! i thought i had paint in my hair! but no, it was a grey patch of about 10 hairs. they were short so they were obviously newly growing not turned colour over night. i have naturally soft hair. but these are really wiry and rough. They have now grown longer, and i do occasionally pull them out when they are sticking up. but i will admit i am very self conscious of them due to past teasing from the ‘friend’ that actually pointed them out! i hate it and wish i didn’t have them. but i think they are from stress. I’m hoping to die my hair, so hopefully you won’t be able to see them anymore. i do not want to accept my grey hairs. i HATE them.

Dara says:

I am 31 and about 90% of my hair are white. My biggest problem is that my skin color is tan/brawn so it’s contrast with my skin color is extreme. At some point my ex bitched about it because her friends who never in real life but on FB mocked her on dating an old man. I’m really confused on coloring it or not coloring it. I’ve decided not to color it anyway!!

Nydia says:

I was in middle school when my little sister spotted a white hair. Then when I was about 17 she started to notice more white hairs. I was freaking out. So I told her to pull it all out lol. I’m 28 now and I have a lot of white hairs. A lot of people notice it and ask me if i’m going to dye it. Because I usually dye my hair red. So I have decided not to dye my hair again. I’m going to let it grow all out. I had seen this beautiful woman while I was working and she had long beautiful salt and pepper hair lol. She said she started to have white hair at age 9! 9? and that she never dyed it. It was so beautiful. So I’ve learned how to accept that I have white hair. :) My boyfriend likes it. So I don’t have to impress no one.

R says:

I’m 15.Ok, so i read i lot of the comments and can relate to a lot of them. I noticed them at like 13 and i hate when people point them out because i already know i have them and that just makes me feel bad.. After all i don’t think it’s a thing you should freak out about but i have to admit that sometimes i do. I wanted to do highlights but i keep changing my mind. Yeah it’s hard being a human xD

Mike says:

29 years old here and probably 80% grey on top. Started noticing around 16 years old a single strand which kept multiplying yearly. I get the usual looks and my co-workers think I’m more like 37-38 due to it.

I try not to let it bother me but think about how much longer I could look if my hair remained dark brown. Uggh. I guess it’s something I have to live with.

The only thing I’ve done was shaved it down pretty low, skin low on the sides, and a #1 on top which is military style practically. Luckily my head isn’t too bad with the look but the grays come back very quickly. Within a week the sides are showing up white already all around and I need to rebuzz it. Gets annoying but I figure I’m doomed to doing this until I’m dead, lol.

Maureen says:

I wish i have grey hairs.I so much love and admire it.Sure i understand what it means going grey at very young age. Dont feel bad ok? At 36 i have no single grey hair. May be because im an african. You can dye or let it be. But i love grey. I cant wait.

ivy says:

i first notice my gray hair when i was 8 years old…and it keeps multiplying after a year…at the age 11 1/3 of may hair is gray already…and my classmates often teased me..saying that im an old lady..so i dye my hair black..back again

Fernando says:

I no how y’all feel I am like tht to

Fernando says:

I hate when people talk about my white hairs I just dont like I cut my hair like every week and I had then since 7th grade and they r getting worse and worse am 16 and I have like 68 white hairs

Great site. A lot of helpful information here.
I am sending it to a few buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious.
And naturally, thank you on your effort!

Niro says:

I am only 27 and have soo much white hair and I have dark black hair, maybe 50 or more hair in the front and its so frustrating …I noticed my first white hair when I was maybe 17. I don’t know why I have so much white hair on my right side than left. I haven’t dyed it yet … I don’t want to put chemical dyes in my hair and might try henna but its so time consuming…I don’t know why I am getting so much white hair at this young age.

Jack says:

What if I have premature genetic grey hair and I ate alot of food that is vitamin b copper iron and stuff like that…will it reverse my grey hair?

Jack says:

Plz help me as I am really worried. ..and my grey hairs alot of them are salt and pepper the roots of my hair is white and the tip are black (my natural colour) can anyone tell me if I have genetics or what…

Jack says:

Well im 13 I have few greys my mother spot it and says I followed my father but I dont think so coz when I looked at my fathers young photos his hair were all black like normal…and my mothers hair that was first spoted grey hair was 35 years old and my father was 25-30 years old ANYONE HELP ME PLZZ if im genetics or not…but lol my bigger brother have full or white hairs more then my fathers but daily I dont eat something like fruits and stuff like that I daily eat chicken and rice and somtimes vegetables ONLY and I dont think that my grey hairs is from genetic s mybe becouse of my lifestyle I always eat 2-3 a day so can I know if Im genetics or what…only me and my olderbro have greys my small brother dont have my small sis dont have my smallest brother dont have my grand mother from my mother side dont have my grandfather all 100% white hair my father side my grandfather dont have my grand mother dont have so I REALLY DONT KNOW Y I HAVE GREY HAIRS SOO WORRIED HELP ME ANYONE PLZ

Nick says:

You bunch of woosies . Going grey is nowhere near as stressful or confidence destroying as going bald.No even close . Its like comparing mlld dandruff to decapitation .Get a life .You still have hair. Many do not.

Lyle says:

Hair turning gray, white, or silver is natural. and attractive imo. why try to hide what is natural with dye

Ty says:

I too had grayhair since teens, 17 or 18. now I’m 50, it’s about 40 percent. I never happy with it, but somebody said better than being bald. that’s very helpful.. anyways, I still have plenty of hair at my age, but I dyed it(about 25 years ago) tired of dying it though.. Don’t know how long I’m gonna keep on dying my hair.. I wish there’s a way to cure it, not by taking pills, but by eating the right kind of food. Maybe Vitamin B12 or something.

SkyWishesYouLuck says:

My hair is interesting. I have very thick curly brown hair. When I was 10 I found one silvery, coarse hair. I am now 13 and I have noticed that segments of individual hair strands have become either very light brown or even silver. My parents are both 40 and have very minimal gray ing hair. I have no idea what’s causing it? Please hhelp!

Khristi says:

My hair is black I got my first strand of gray hair when I was 11 , It was a at first red , since it runs in my family , then it suddenly turned gray

John Mark says:

My hair is also black I am a filipino asian I started growing white hair at 10 years old now im 16, im very proud of my white hair because pastors say’s that white hair are wisdom a crown from the lord i do not know how did i get my white hair but I am realy thankful of it.

MoWo says:

I spotted my first white hair when I was 17. By my late 30s, I was 75% white just like my Dad and one of his sisters. Now, in my 50s, my hair is shiny platinum white. I wear it long and get compliments all the time. I respond with gratitude but it is just the way it grows. Happily, my hair has inspired several women to abandon their hair coloring regimens and go natural. Color if it makes you happy but once you’re mostly white, it is very high maintenance and I personally have much better things to do with my time and money.

Gary says:

Maybe you should go to the gym and Tone your Mella

Gary says:

Don’t let your children read philosophy books in kindergarden

Eze says:

My parents spotted my first grey hairs at age 10!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe

The Scienceline Newsletter

Sign up for regular updates.