Joel Schlessinger MD discusses a new study that suggests stress really can make your hair turn gray

Can stress really turn your hair gray? Joel Schlessinger MD explains.

A recent study shows that stress may have a link to an increase of graying hair. According to a recent study published in Nature Medicine, the appearance of gray hair could be caused by periods of stress or skin damage. The study’s findings may also lead to new methods of treatment for pigmentation disorders such as vitiligo or piebaldism.

Joel Schlessinger MD shares the science behind this study.

Hair and skin both receive their pigment from melanin, which is produced by melanocytes. These melanocytes are created by stem cells at the base of the hair follicle. When the skin is stressed or damaged, these stem cells migrate to repair damage, leaving the follicle without its own supply of melanocytes. The surprising part of this study is that, contrary to previous findings, the stem cells migrate without replicating first. Without the ability to produce melanin, the hair follicles turn white.

This link could lead to improved treatments for other skin conditions, according to Joel Schlessinger MD.

Gray hair during aging is caused by exhaustion and the loss of melanocyte-producing stem cells. Stress can cause these stem cells to migrate faster, leading to an earlier appearance of gray hair.

Additional research needs to be done, but these new findings could provide a better understanding of skin conditions that have troubled dermatologists for years. More information about how stem cells migrate might even lead to improved treatment of vitiligo (depigmentation of the skin) and hyperpigmentation (an excess of pigment in the skin).

What do you think of these findings? Share with us in the comments.

Posted Monday, June 24th, 2013 at 2:00 pm
Filed Under Category: Skin Care Myths
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