Grey hair is a condition that we usually associate with old age. It is of course shocking to any parent to experience their school going develop grey hair. Premature greying can be an unpleasant experience for both the child and the parent.
First of all, it’s not about a single gray strand of hair. Even small kids can grow a colourless strand from time to time, and it’s absolutely nothing to get worried about (it’s also more likely to be noticed if your child has dark hair versus platinum blond).
Premature graying is what we are talking about here. As per a 2018 review, this is the advent of several gray/ white hairs at a young age — before 20 in white people and 30 in Black people.
First thing first. Let’s first understand why hair turns gray.
Causes of Premature Grey and White Hair in Children
Hair follicles are made of cells called melanocytes that produce a pigment called melanin. With age, the melanocytes start dying and cease producing their pigment.
Your little one may experience premature graying, from infancy through the teenage years, for many probable reasons.
Here go some of the most common factors:
This is probably the biggest factor in deciding how soon one turns gray. In case you or someone else in your family started going gray at an exceptionally young age, chances are that your child will, too.
Vitamin B12. As per research, there’s a direct link between vitamin B12 deficiency in your body and premature greying. Present in animal products such as milk, protein, red meat, and eggs, this powerhouse vitamin helps keep your blood healthy and can prevent anemia, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)Trusted Source. Researchers in a recent study noticed lower levels of B12 in participants under the age of 25 who experienced premature graying.
Zinc & Copper:
A 2022 study indicates that premature graying may be linked to inadequate levels of zinc and copper, as well as selenium.
A 2017 study demonstrated that participants below the age of 20 with premature graying had a folic acid deficiency.
Another reason you should ensure for your kid get their daily dose of sunshine! A 2013 study established that vitamin D levels were significantly low in high school students with prematurely grey hair.
Although stress is not a primary cause of premature greying in children, it is widely acknowledged that high-stress levels can accelerate the process. In today’s times, children are often subjected to high levels of stress from school, exposure to media, and most importantly an overwhelming pressure to achieve certain things.
Exposure to air pollution, UV rays, and even harsh shampoos/ hair products too may contribute to premature hair graying. Many chemical hair dyes & hair products, even shampoos at times contain harmful ingredients that decrease melanin. Hydrogen peroxide, which is present in many hair dyes, is one such harmful chemical.
Smoking is another factor that often leaves an ageing effect on hair. As per a 2013 study people who smoked before age 30 experienced an earlier onset of grey hair.
Medical conditions like vitiligo and tuberous sclerosis may slow down the body’s ability to produce hair pigment. These hereditary disorders often cause severe hair loss and seizures & require serious medical intervention.
As per a 2008 study, both types of thyroid dysfunction — hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism may leave an unhealthy effect on the hair.
This autoimmune disease can result in a sudden loss of patches of hair. Later on, when the hair grows back it may be briefly or permanently gray.
The key to preventing premature greying of hair in your kid is limiting the amount of junk food, fries, ice creams, candies & chocolates and providing him/her proper nutrition through a healthy balanced diet.
Although the culprits are your genes and abnormal hormone production most of the time, our modern sedentary lifestyle also has a role to play here. It can sometimes be prevented to a great extent by adopting a healthier outlook in life, like regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet.
Home Remedies for Grey Hair
Grey hair in kids can undoubtedly be quite unsettling for parents. Fret not, here comes a few effective home remedies that you can try at home.
1. Curry Leaves
Boil curry leaves in oil until they turn black entirely. Apply the oil to your kid’s hair and repeat 2-3 times a week until you achieve good results.
2. Yogurt & Yeast
Drinking yogurt mixed with one tablespoon of yeast every day is a beneficial treatment for grey hair. You can also simply put yogurt on kids' hair which will naturally condition hair and make them shinier.
3. AMla or Gooseberry & Almond Oil
An ancient Ayurvedic remedy for most hair problems. Boil a few pieces of amla in coconut oil and massage it gently on your kid’s scalp. You can use amla water to wash your child's hair. Just soak it in water overnight and use it for hair wash the next day. Another way to use amla for premature greying of hair is by blending amla & almond oil. Leave the mixture overnight and massage your kid’s scalp with it. Leave this hair oil on your scalp overnight and apply 2-3 times a week till you get satisfactory results.
4. Cow Milk Butter / Pure Desi Ghee
The enzymes present in cow's milk & ghee are believed to prevent and reverse the process of graying hair. Take two tablespoons of pure ghee or clarified butter and massage into the roots of your kid’s hair gently. Leave on for 30 minutes and wash.
Essential Nutrients that Help to Prevent Premature Greying of Hair
Protein is the building block of hair, and needless to say, a lack of it can cause a variety of problems, including hair greying. Kids from vegetarian households, in particular, must consume enough protein to meet their amino acid requirements.
Protein Rich Foods:
Vegetarians: Lentils, peas, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, & edamame, soy, oatmeal
Non-Vegetarians: Eggs, fish, chicken
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids, are essential to the body, hair & scalp functioning but sadly these are not produced by the body and that’s why you need to receive them from food items. A minimum of 250 mg is required by our bodies, either as part of our diet or as a supplement.
Best Foods that Provide Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Non-Vegetarians: Cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines
Vegetarians: Flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybean
Apart from keeping your bones healthy and strong, another role the sunshine vitamin plays is stimulating new and old hair follicles.
Best Foods that Provide Vitamin D:
Non-Vegetarians: Eggs, fatty fish, tuna
Vegetarians: Cheese, fortified milk & cereals, certain mushrooms
Iron and Copper
Hair loss and hair greying are some of the symptoms of iron deficiency because lack of iron in the body disrupts the blood supply to hair follicles.
Foods that Provide Iron and Copper:
Non-Vegetarians: Eggs, shellfish
Vegetarians: Dark leafy greens, dark chocolate
B Complex Vitamins
One of the best-known vitamins for hair, B complex vitamins such as B12, Biotin, and B6 is vital for the strength and colour of hair. Deficiencies of any of these nutrients are known to promote hair greying. Our bodies require about 500 to 600 mcg per day.
Foods that provide B Complex:
Non-Vegetarians: Eggs, liver, meat
Vegetarians: Nuts, leafy vegetables, nutritional yeast
Precautionary Tips: How to Best Handle the Situation?
- Handling queries from your little one who is suffering from premature greying is tremendously hard for any parent. Always make sure to be supportive of your child as he/she may possibly experience a certain level of rejection or scorn from friends about the situation. If the environment at school seems to get beyond your control or your kid stays distressed all the time, don’t procrastinate and seek a solution immediately from the school authority.
- Try and avoid washing your child’s hair with hot water. Hot water can destroy melanocytes, which assist in the production of melanin.
- Overexposure to UV Rays leads to premature greying. So make sure your child doesn’t spend too long out in the sun.
- Never ever pluck out the grey hair. Although plucking will not cause more grey hair growth, it will dampen your child’s self-esteem issues. Before opting for a hair dye on your child’s hair do gain sound knowledge regarding all safety aspects. Most importantly, let your child realize that it’s absolutely alright to stand out in a crowd!
- Make sure your child’s iodine intake is appropriate. He should consume it in moderation – too much or too less of it can affect the thyroid gland and result in premature greying of hair.
- Premature greying can be reversed to some extent with proper diet & lifestyle changes. Important nutrients related to premature hair greying include serum iron, copper, and calcium levels. Incorporating the following food items into your child’s diet can help overcome the nutritional deficiencies:
- Copper-infused water
- Dark chocolate
- Green veggies(especially spinach and broccoli) &
- Greying is unalterable. Nevertheless, measures can be taken to prevent new grey hair from developing. To begin with, recognise the cause of premature greying in your kid. Besides your routine clinic visits, make sure your child eats a diet rich in iron, protein, & vitamin B12 which includes leafy vegetables, iron-fortified cereals, beans, raisins, walnuts, eggs, and poultry, fish & dairy products.
In case your child grows one or two gray hairs, it’s probably nothing to be bothered about. However, most often true premature graying in children and young adults might point to an underlying cause, like an autoimmune condition or chronic vitamin deficiency.
As premature graying is also often genetic, there isn’t much you can do to prevent or reverse it. Always speak to an expert if you see signs of gray hairs and don’t have a known family history of premature graying.
*** Author Name: Deepashree Banerjee (7+ years of diverse experience in content creation & journalism.)