Young adults having grey hair is normal, it’s about time we normalise it: Experts

05 February,2024 06:50 PM IST |  Mumbai  |  Aakanksha Ahire

Most of us get judged for having grey hair at an early age. Two women in their 20s express the toll it takes on their mental health and experts highlight why its natural for young adults to have grey hair

Many variables affect hair colour, therefore early greying is not always a bad thing. Photo Courtesy: iStock

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The salt and pepper look trend sounded cool but it also might have been a desperate attempt to normalise people having grey strands at an early age. Many might believe that grey hair, earlier considered a sign of ageing, has evolved into a style statement but that might not be true for some.

Sakshi Mathur, a 27-year-old woman residing in Haryana noticed a few grey hair two years ago. "I don't like it. I always hide my grey strands by trying out different ways to tie my hair. My grey hair makes me self-conscious and awkward in front of people."

Sakshi says she loved her hair and often experimented with different hairstyles. Now, however, the sole reason she tries out hairstyles is to stop her grey hair from being visible.

"Over the past few months, my grey hair has become more prominent. It bothers me. I have tried various home remedies like henna, amla, and methi paste, but nothing has worked for me," says Sakshi. She adds, "This has severely affected my confidence and self-esteem."

Tanya Bhatia voices similar concerns. "I have been mocked and called old by my friends and colleagues at work for having grey hair," says a 26-year-old Tanya. "I started developing grey hair at the age of 21. The first time I spotted a grey strand, it started worrying me," says Bhatia. She speaks of feeling embarrassed every time her friends or colleagues mocked her. "It still bothers me. I resort to colouring my hair to hide grey hair."

Bhatia consulted a doctor who assured her that the greying was purely due to hormonal imbalance and prescribed a shampoo and hair conditioner. "I couldn't get myself to use these prescribed products as I fear it will exacerbate the condition more."

Both Sakshi and Tanya say that it is high time society begins to normalise having grey hair at an early age. "Body positivity is crucial for everyone's mental well-being, and judgement based on looks can have a negative impact. We all need to understand that the use of chemical-filled products, evolved lifestyles, stress and many other factors are causing early greying of hair," says Sakshi.

According to Tanya too, "Normalising and embracing grey hair in the young promotes self-acceptance and reduces the stigma associated with ageing. It encourages a more inclusive and realistic portrayal of beauty."

Like Sakshi and Tanya, many young women and men are subjected to judgements from society. This negatively impacts their mental health and results in issues of low self-esteem as well.

Considering the impact grey hair can have on one's mental health, we roped in health experts who assert that this biological change is normal and suggest ways how to embrace this bodily change.

"Societal standards of beauty may contribute to negative self-perceptions, leading to feeling of ageing and potential loss of attractiveness," says Dr Sonal Anand, psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospitals.

Anand states that how one perceives themselves plays a crucial role. Some may embrace grey hair as a natural part of their life, while others may experience anxiety, depression, or a decline in self-esteem due to perceived changes in appearance.

In times when young adults question their looks, Anand says support and reaffirmations from friends and family can go a long way.

Also Read: 50 shades of grey hair? Check out home-based remedies to reverse premature greying

Experts say greying of hair is natural
We often fail to realise that just 10 years ago, the life we lived was different from what we live now. Many external factors cause massive changes in our health as well as lifestyle. Dr Shefali Trasi Nerurkar, consultant dermatologist at Dr Trasi Clinic and La Piel Skin Clinic says, "We can't control the way our bodies change. As we age, we do develop grey hair. Ageing is natural and so is grey hair. Besides, with increasing stress, bad lifestyle and bad air quality index the body ages earlier leading to premature skin and hair problems."

Nerurkar explains that the death of cells producing melanin pigment leads to greying of hair. This leaves fewer cells to produce colour and spread it to the hair strand, eventually causing the hair to have no colour at all.

"There are many variables that affect hair colour, therefore early greying is not always a bad thing. Moreover, accepting oneself as you are challenges unrealistic beauty standards and fosters a positive body image," comments Dr Asmita Dhekne Chebbi, Venereology and Leprosy dermatologist, cosmetologist, Apollo Spectra Hospitals.

Biological factors causing grey hair
1. Genetics:
An important factor is family history. You may be genetically prone if your parents or grandparents suffered premature greying.

2. Hormonal changes:
Premature greying can be brought on by hormonal imbalances, especially during adolescence and pregnancy.

3. Nutritional deficiencies:
Premature greying may result from inadequate consumption of vital vitamins such as B12, iron, and copper.

External factors causing grey hair:
1. Smoking:
By harming hair follicles, the noxious compounds in cigarette smoke can hasten the greying process.

2. Stress:
Prolonged stress causes hormone imbalances, which accelerate the onset of grey hair.

3. Chemical hair products:
Greying may result from the overuse of strong chemicals in styling products and hair dyes.

4. Bad haircare habits:
Greying can be accelerated by bad hair habits including overusing heat style tools and not moisturising your hair.

5. Environmental pollution:
The colour of hair can be affected by oxidative stress caused by exposure to UV rays and airborne contaminants.

A diet lacking essential nutrients such as B vitamins, iron and antioxidants can also contribute to premature greying. Excessive consumption of processed foods and sugars can also exacerbate greying of hair.

To prevent or delay the greying of hair, both Nerurkar and Chebbi urge young adults to add foods containing vitamin B (leafy vegetables, nuts), iron (lean meat, legumes), and antioxidants (berries, green tea) to their daily diet. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish also promote hair health.

Reversing grey hair is not possible
Chebbie clarifies, "Grey hair can't be completely cured, although some treatments can slow down its progression. Natural hair masks and oil massages are examples of at-home therapies that might nourish hair but are unlikely to stop greying."

Nevertheless, Nerurkar states, "There have been some revolutionary treatment updates for premature greying of hair which include Greyverse (MSH biomimetic peptide), Darkenyl (antioxidant) or camouflage techniques."

For most individuals, oral supplements may be prescribed to slow the growth of grey hair. These treatments often focus on nourishing the hair follicles and correcting the underlying deficiencies.

"However," Nerukar says, "all these treatments take a long time to show any effect. Till then patients often lose hope, get frustrated and give up on them. With some patience, one can achieve great results. Hence generally when a dermatologist starts with treatments it is advised to use it regularly for at least a year or so to see desirable results."

For individualised treatment recommendations, speaking with a dermatologist is advised.

Tips to embrace your grey hair
One must have a positive attitude to be able to embrace their grey hair, affirms Psychiatrist Anand.

Here are some tips that can help
1. Positive affirmations: Reinforce positive self-talk to challenge negative thoughts about ageing and appearance.

2. Self-reflection: Understand that grey hair is a natural part of life, symbolising wisdom and experience.

3. Support networks: Connect with others experiencing similar feelings for mutual understanding and encouragement.

4. Assertiveness: If anyone points out your grey hair, politely express your comfort with your appearance and the natural process of ageing.

5. Educate: Share positive perspectives on grey hair with those who comment on your hair, emphasising it is natural.

6. Set boundaries: Establish personal boundaries regarding discussions with others about your overall appearance.

In conclusion, embracing grey hair among young adults requires a change in social attitudes and a deeper understanding of the multifaceted causes. By demystifying and encouraging self-acceptance, we can create a more complete story about premature greying, promoting a positive and confident outlook for those who experience this natural phenomenon.

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