Premature Graying Or White Hair In Kids: Causes And Prevention

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Noticing white or gray hair in children might cause concern in parents. The graying of hair in older adults is a natural process. But premature graying of hair in children is not.

Although the reason might be genetic in some children, it might also be associated with a health condition such as vitiligoiXAn autoimmune condition that results in white patches or loss of skin color or neurofibromatosisiXA rare genetic disorder that typically causes benign tumors in the skin and the nervous system . Thus, it is essential to get your child checked by a doctor if you start to notice the graying of their hair.

Read on to know more about the causes and treatment options available to help with this condition.

In This Article

Possible Causes Of White Or Gray Hair In Children

Hair color comes from melanin pigment. Hair begins to gray or turn white due to a reduction in the melanin quantity. It usually happens with aging, but some other reasons may cause hair to turn white in children.

  1. Genetics: It is one of the many factors responsible for premature graying of hair. According to a study, hair graying is inheritable, but the underlying mechanisms are elusive (1).
Genetics can cause white hair or gray hair in children

Image: IStock

  1. Nutritional deficiency: The lack of vitamin B12 may lead to the graying of hair. A research study on the young Indian population associated premature hair graying to the deficiency of calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D3 (2).

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Research has found that vitamin B12 deficiency is concurrent with vitamin B9 (folic acid) and vitamin B7 (biotin) deficiency in individuals with premature hair graying (12).

  1. Medical conditions: Genetic and autoimmune conditions such as Werner’s syndromeiXA rare genetic disorder indicated by the symptoms associated with aging , vitiligo, and thyroid disease are associated with premature hypopigmentation of hair (3).
  1. Synthetic hair products: Using shampoos, dyes, and lotions that have chemicals in them may also result in premature graying of hair at an early stage (4).
Synthetic hair products can cause white hair or gray hair in children

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Other factors: Some external factors such as stress, exposure to pollution and UV rays may also be responsible for gray and white hair at a young age. These external factors could cause oxidative stress leading to premature graying of hair (5).

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An NIH-funded study found that “stress can cause premature hair greying by affecting the stem cells responsible for regenerating hair pigment (13).”

There is no single reason for the development of white hair in children. It may be a result of one factor or a combination of several factors. Spotting a white hair on your child can prompt you to look for a remedy.

Can Premature Graying Or White Hair Be Treated In Children?

There is no specific treatment for premature graying. Certain causes of white hair like faulty genes or autoimmune disorders may not have a cure. You may discuss with a pediatrician about the best course of treatment that could work for your child.

However, some measures may help control further graying of hair. For instance, having a nutritious diet and taking nutritional supplements (as prescribed by the doctor) may help the child in reducing white or gray hair.

Protection from harsh sun rays and a healthy sleep pattern may also help with graying and facilitate proper hair care.

Can White Hair Be Prevented?

If premature graying of hair is due to genetics, then it cannot be prevented. However, if it is due to a medical condition or due to diet or lifestyle changes, then you may be able to prevent white hair or worsening of it.

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Research studies show that the IRF4 gene is associated with premature hair greying, and its effect on greying was found to be 30% (14).”

Tips To Prevent Premature Graying Of Hair

These measures may help children and people of a young age to prevent white or gray hair.

  1. According to a study, massaging with coconut oil improves blood circulation, restores hair color, and prevents graying (6).
Applying coconut oil on hair may prevent premature graying

Image: IStock

  1. Adding foods rich in vitamin B12 and calcium supply nutrition to hair follicles and may prevent further graying of hair.
  1. Treating the underlying diseases or medical conditions may stop graying of hair.
  1. The use of antioxidantsiXCompounds that inhibit the oxidation process and protect the cells from damage  may help in the prevention of premature graying of hair. Some foods rich in antioxidants include berries, pomegranate, tomatoes, and pecans (7).
  1. According to the International Journal of PharmTech Research, Murraya koenigii or curry leaves can help in the prevention of premature graying of hair (8).
  1. A research study has found that Indian gooseberry prevents graying hair and also maintains the color (9)
Indian gooseberry may prevent graying

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Bhringraj or false daisy was used in traditional therapies for premature graying of hair (10).

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Feed children copper-rich foods such as asparagus and almonds, as studies show that lower serum copper levels may cause premature greying (15).

The preventive methods may or may not work for all children. Moreover, some children may be sensitive to natural or herbal remedies. Speak to your child’s doctor before trying any treatment for premature graying of hair in children.

Is It Okay To Pluck White Or Gray Hair?

Here’s a myth – Plucking one gray hair will give rise to several new gray hair.

Dr. Shashank Kraleti, UAMS family and preventive medicine physician, debunks it by saying, “Plucking strands of hair may traumatize the follicle and may even cause scar formation or infection. If you want to get rid of gray hair, you need to cut it off carefully (11).”

Can White Hair Turn Black Again Permanently?

White hair cannot turn black naturally. However, lifestyle changes and a balanced diet may help further whitening or graying of hair.

Can Children Dye Their Hair?

Dyeing is usually not recommended for school children

Image: IStock

It depends on the age of your child and the cause behind premature graying of hair. Dyeing is usually not recommended for school-going children because the dyes are often laden with chemicals that may be more harmful to children than adults. If white hair is causing distress to the child, and they insist on dyeing, then consult a doctor, who might suggest products that are safe for the child.

White or gray hair in children could result from various genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors. Although most underlying causes may not be preventable, this condition is seldom a cause for concern and usually doesn’t harm a child’s overall health. However, if you are concerned about premature graying of hair in your child, speak to a doctor to comprehend the reasons and possible remedies or treatments. Also, ensure that you offer ample emotional support to your child to avoid the unfavorable effects of this condition on their mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there hereditary factors that may increase the chances of a child developing white or gray hair?

The primary risk factor of premature gray hair is considered to be genetic (2). Studies have found one gene, IRF4, to be associated with hair graying. The gene is responsible for synthesizing the pigment melanin (16).

2. Are there any psychological effects of white or gray hair in children?

Premature gray hair in children may adversely affect their self-esteem (5).

3. Are there any long-term risks associated with white or gray hair in children?

Premature graying of hair may be associated with long-term underlying health conditions such as thyroid disorders, metabolic disorders, oxidative stress, and nutritional deficiencies (vitamins B12 and D deficiency). It may also be linked to aging disorders (progeria and pangeria), atopic diathesis (asthma, allergic and atopic dermatitis), and autoimmune diseases (5).

Infographic: Which Micronutrient Deficiencies Can Cause Premature Graying Of Hair?

Hair health depends on the nutritional status of the child. Although heredity may influence premature hair graying, it is unlikely to happen in children. Go through the infographic to learn common micronutrient deficiencies leading to premature graying of the hair in children.

micronutrient deficiencies that can cause premature hair graying (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Your hair gets its color from melanin pigment. Signs of gray or white hair arise due to a reduction in the melanin quantity.
  • There are many factors responsible for premature graying of hair, including genetics, nutritional deficiency, underlying medical conditions, synthetic hair products, stress, pollution, and exposure to UV rays.
  • One can prevent further graying of hair by consuming a nutritious diet, protecting hair from harmful UV rays, and maintaining a healthy sleep pattern.
  • Premature graying of hair due to genetics cannot be treated.
  • White hair cannot turn black naturally. One can only prevent further graying of hair.
  • Massaging the scalp, consuming a nutritious diet, treating underlying medical conditions, and using antioxidants can help prevent further graying of hair.
White hair or gray hair in children_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

It is not a common occurrence for kids to have white hair and if your child is one of the few you may wonder why this is happening. Check out this informative video exploring the potential causes of this phenomenon and also providing helpful advice.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

1. Y. Bian et al., Global downregulation of pigmentation-associated genes in human premature hair graying; Experimental And Therapeutic Medicine (2019)
2. S. Chakrabarty et al., Factors Associated with Premature Hair Graying in a Young Indian Population; International Journal of Trichology (2016)
3. C. Black, Familial aggregation of phenotypic expression of premature hair hypopigmentation in the craniofacial region; Dentistry 3000 (2015)
4. O. G. Bhusnure et al., Holistic Approaches to Maintain Healthy Hairs of Human Being; International Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Research (2015)
5. A. B. Kumar et al., Premature Graying of Hair: Review with Updates; International Journal of Trichology (2018)
6. R. Mahajan et al., Premature Graying of Hair and Role of Oiling in Indian Perspective; Journal of Dermatology and Therapies (2017)
7. Antioxidants: The Secret Protector of Your Hair; AK Clinics (2018)
8. M. Nishan and P. Subramanian, Murraya koenigii (curry leave) – A review on its potential; International Journal of PharmTech Research (2014-2015)
9. H. S. Grover et al., Therapeutic effects of amla in medicine and dentistry: A review; Journal of Oral Research and Review (2015)
10. R. Jahan et al., Ethnopharmacological Significance of Eclipta alba (L.) Hassk. (Asteraceae); International Scholarly Research Notes (2014)
11. Does Pulling One Gray Hair Cause More to Grow in its Place?; University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (2019)
12. Deepashree Daulatabad et al.; Prospective Analytical Controlled Study Evaluating Serum Biotin, Vitamin B12, and Folic Acid in Patients with Premature Canities; NCBI (2017)
13. How stress causes gray hair; NIH
14. Burçin Aktaş and Oytun Erbaş; Interferon Regulatory Factors 4 (IRF4) Gene and Hair Graying; Researchgate (2021)
15. Farahnaz Fatemi Naieni et al, Serum iron, zinc, and copper concentration in premature graying of hair; NCBI (2012)
16. Ewelina Pośpiech et al.; Exploring the possibility of predicting human head hair greying from DNA using whole-exome and targeted NGS data; BMC Genomics

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