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 vitiligo or neurofibromatosis. 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.
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.
- 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).
- 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).
- Medical conditions: Genetic and autoimmune conditions such as Werner’s syndrome, vitiligo, and thyroid disease are associated with premature hypopigmentation of hair (3).
- 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).
- 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).
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 conditions 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 healthy sleep pattern may also help control the graying.
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.
Tips To Prevent Premature Graying Of Hair
These measures may help children and people of a young age to prevent white or gray hair.
- According to a study, massaging with coconut oil improves blood circulation, restores hair color, and prevents graying (6).
- Adding foods rich in vitamin B12 and calcium supply nutrition to hair follicles and may prevent further graying of hair.
- Treating the underlying diseases or medical conditions may stop graying of hair.
- The use of antioxidants may help in the prevention of premature graying of hair. Some foods rich in antioxidants include berries, pomegranate, tomatoes, and pecans (7).
- According to the International Journal of PharmTech Research, Murraya koenigii or curry leaves can help in the prevention of premature graying of hair (8).
- A research study has found that Indian gooseberry prevents graying hair and also maintains the color (9)
- Bhringraj or false daisy was used in traditional therapies for premature graying of hair (10).
The preventive methods may or may not work for all children. Moreover, some children may be sensitive to the 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?
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.
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.
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)