Stress is a condition that drains us physically and emotionally. But can the appearance of gray hair or white hair be related to stress?
There are several harmful consequences that stress can cause in our body, affecting the muscular, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems, among many other effects.
New research, recently published in the scientific journal Nature, found that stress can cause gray hair, an irreversible process.
The research describes the relationship between gray hair and stress after tests with guinea pigs reveal that it triggers a process of production of cells responsible for hair pigmentation.
Gray hair and stress. Myth or truth?
The group of researchers from Harvard University, which includes the Brazilian Thiago Mattar Cunha, researcher at the Center for Research on Inflammatory Diseases (Crid) and professor at the Ribeirão Preto School of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (USP), explained to Terra what:
“There is a popular myth that stress causes white hair, an acceleration of hair whitening. There are reports in history of people who suffered a lot of stress and had white hair, like Marie Antoinette, after being captured in the French Revolution, but there was no scientific evidence of this happening. "
Cunha had already identified in his research that guinea pigs, after a stressful event, had a whitish coat. The explanation is that the sympathetic nervous system is activated and, as a result, increases the heart rate and muscle supply. Both are defense mechanisms in the event of a fight or flight from a risky situation.
“What we observe in this case is that stress leads to a sympathetic elevation (activation of the sympathetic nervous system), and this system supplies the hair follicle. The follicle is filled with stem cells, which give rise to cells that produce the pigment that gives hair its color. The norepinephrine released (due to stress) differentiates stem cells and they lose the ability to produce pigment cells ”, explains the Brazilian researcher.
Although the research was conducted in animals, the researchers believe that the same process occurs in humans and other species. In guinea pigs, the white hair process took place in just four weeks. In humans, the genetic factor also needs to be considered.
Not just stress
Dermatologist Juliana Toma told Terra that the first white hairs tend to appear after 30 years. If they manifest before that age, the doctor advises that a specialist should be consulted to analyze the causes of the acceleration of this process.
“It is not always stress. It can be an initial form of vitiligo, which only appears on the scalp, nutritional diseases, hypothyroidism, medications or diseases of the scalp ”, explains Toma.
Against stress, try to cultivate quiet moments and pleasant activities, for the sake of your head.
By Gisella Meneguelli