We tend to joke about how stress is turning our hair grey, but a recent study has revealed a sober truth. Hair colour is caused by melanocyte stem cells, and according to scientists from New York University, stress causes the stem cells to migrate to other parts of the body. When they do leave, they are not replaced, which is what causes the hair to go white.
The report, which was published in Nature Medicine reveals that the scientists, headed by Dr Mayumi Ito, began with the premise that when the body is injured, stem cells move from the hair to the skin, to prevent damage. This seems to be a crucial link in highlighting the physical damage that stress can do, if anyone is still under the impression that stress is simply a state of mind for people who can't handle their workload or family pressures.
On average, most people start greying from 25 onwards, and how early it begins and how widespread the colour change depends on many factors such as genetics, lifestyle habits and environmental factors. This is the first time that evidence has been found to show that stress may play a key role.
The most common outward signs a person is suffering from stress is when it affects their hair, nails and teeth.
Flor A Mayoral, MD, FAAD, clinical instructor in the departments of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine in Miami, said: “In treating hundreds of patients over the years with skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, acne and psoriasis, I have seen firsthand how stress can aggravate the skin and trigger unexpected flare-ups that, in effect, create more stress for patients,” said Dr. Mayoral. “Learning how to manage the effects of stress on your skin can help alleviate some of the anxiety and symptoms.”
Rather than reaching for the hair dye, here are several ways to immediately eliminate stress from your life:
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