Premature graying may be reversed with vitamin B12 supplementation only if vitamin B12 deficiency is the cause. If you are graying due to other factors, such as genetics, zinc deficiency, and medications, your gray hair cannot be reversed.
If you are going gray early, you must contact your doctor to know the underlying cause. Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common causes of premature graying. It is, however, advisable to see a dermatologist and not try self-treatment for premature graying.
You may have other underlying causes of premature graying or have additional nutritional deficiencies besides B12 deficiency (such as folic acid, iron, or pantothenic acid deficiency). Hence, a proper diagnosis is essential for treatment.
How does vitamin B12 affect your hair?
Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient for overall health. It is essential for making DNA which is the genetic material found in all cells of the body including blood, nerve, and hair follicles.
- Hair follicles are present around the lower end of the hair, called hair roots, which help keep the hair anchored to the scalp.
- Hair follicles produce a substance called melanin that provides hair its color.
- Hair follicles depend on the blood cells for getting oxygen and nutrients.
Because vitamin B12 deficiency hampers the growth of healthy blood cells, it can lead to the under-nourishment of hair follicles. Hair loss and premature graying are, thus, commonly seen in people with vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is naturally present in foods of animal origin, such as meat, eggs, and dairy. Thus, vegetarians or vegans may be at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. It can also occur in individuals who have some problem with vitamin B12 absorption.
What is premature graying of hair?
Premature graying of hair (also called PGH) is a condition in which hair starts graying at a much earlier age than expected. The normal or expected age for premature graying differs with ethnicities.
|Ethnicity||Expected age for hair graying to begin||When to call it premature graying|
|Caucasians||Early 30s||If graying starts before the age of 20 years|
|Asians||Late 30s||If graying starts before the age of 25 years|
|Africans||Mid 40s||If graying starts before the age of 30 years|
Graying of hair is regulated by your genes, thus, you are expected to start graying at about the same age as your parents. Several health conditions and lifestyle factors affect the graying of hair.
Premature graying can affect your confidence and self-esteem. It may limit you from socializing. If you are concerned about premature graying, you must contact your dermatologist. For most people, graying is normal and not caused by some disease or deficiency. Hence, if your doctor assures you that you do not have any health issues, then you need not be concerned about graying.
If gray hair makes you conscious, you can opt for natural or artificial hair colors to camouflage your silver strands.
13 causes of premature graying
Premature graying may be due to various reasons, such as:
- Vitamin deficiencies, such as B12, biotin, or folate deficiencies
- Emotional or mental stress
- Mineral deficiencies, such as iron or copper deficiencies
- Thyroid diseases
- Protein deficiency
- Genetic diseases, such as neurofibromatosis and tuberous sclerosis
- Radiation exposure
- Alopecia areata (an autoimmune condition that causes patchy loss of pigmented hair)
- Certain medications
- Exposure to harsh chemicals
- Chronic health conditions
- Excessive calorie restriction or a very low-calorie diet
Can you prevent premature graying of hair? 8 Tips
There is no definitive way to prevent premature graying of hair. Many people are genetically predisposed to gray earlier. This means that their genes are normally programmed to cause graying of hair at an earlier age than expected.
Furthermore, several factors may play roles in causing hair graying. Hence, you cannot target one particular factor to solve this problem. You can, however, take healthy lifestyle measures to maintain overall health including the health of your hair.
- Eat a balanced diet rich in various whole foods including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage stress
- Stay physical active
- Meet your daily protein requirements through healthy foods, such as lean meat, seafood, soy, and eggs
- Address underlying nutritional deficiencies
- Quit smoking
- Avoid using harsh chemicals, such as bleach on your hair
Urban P. Why Does Hair Turn Gray as You Age? AARP. https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2021/causes-gray-hair.html
University of Utah Health. Finding gray hairs in my 20s – Am I normal? https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_5183607w
Shmerling RH. Why does hair turn gray? Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/hair-turn-gray-2017091812226
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