Can Vitamins Reverse Gray Hair?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with gray hair, but can taking vitamins bring your gray hair back to its previous color? Some recent ads circulating social media have suggested that they can - but let's look at the evidence and settle this once and for all.
Reversing gray hair by taking vitamins is very unlikely and doesn’t have scientific support but in this article we'll talk about the deficiencies gray hair has been linked to and we'll reveal one way gray hair actually can be reversed.
What Causes Gray Hair
Nearly everyone goes gray eventually. As we get older, the pigment cells in our hair die, and fewer live pigment cells in a strand of hair mean less melanin. Less melanin causes the hair color to become a lighter shade, like gray or white.
Gray Hair and Genetics
The age at which your hair color fades is largely determined by your genetics. Some people's hair will change even as a child, but most people will experience their first grays in their 20s or 30s.
Premature hair graying is considered going gray before 20 years old in Caucasians, and before 30 years old in African Americans. You can expect to start going gray around the same time your parents did, but it usually takes about 10 years from the first gray hairs for your hair color to change completely.
Gray Hair from Nutrient Deficiencies
It's true: premature gray hair isn't always genetics. It can also be caused by certain conditions and as you can see in this list from Harvard Health, B12 deficiency can be a root cause:
A study of children found that those with prematurely graying hair had low serum ferritin, serum calcium, and vitamin D3 levels. (1) Also note that correcting a vitamin D deficiency typically improve serum calcium levels - 2 birds with one stone.
Always check your vitamin D levels when you can, as there are worse things than gray hair that are linked to low vitamin D! When you need a vitamin D supplement, you know where to go (here!).
Another study found that some trace elements, namely copper, iron, and calcium may be lower in those with premature hair graying but they acknowledged further studies are needed on the exact relationship. (2) It's a common internet rumor that gray hair comes from low copper, but there's not a lot of science to back it up.
Can you Reverse Gray Hair?
Now the million dollar question: can you reverse gray hair?
Until recently we thought gray hair was irreversible but a 2021 study out of Columbia showed that removing extreme stress actually often reversed gray hair with the caveat that this wasn’t the case for the participants over 40. (3)
One participant went on vacation, and the researchers noted hair re-pigmentation during that time. This is a fascinating study because it shows just how powerful stress management is on our health and the way we age.
At the time of this writing, we're on our way out of a very stressful few pandemic years. Could this be the reason we're suddenly hearing a lot of reports of people seeing the color coming back to their hair?
It absolutely could be, and we think that’s more likely than a supplement reversing gray hair.
But, if you correct deficiencies, you could delay the onset of gray hair or at least prevent it happening earlier than your DNA dictates that it's supposed to.