By age 50 about 50 % of the population has a good amount of grey hair. But what about those who develop grey hair in the 20s and 30s?
The term "premature greying" refers to greying of hair that happens before the age of 25 in Caucasians and before age 30 in black men and women. From time to time, I evaluate patients in my hair loss clinic who start greying in the teens or twenties.
What are the causes?
Many, many factors influence hair greying - especially genetics. Some individuals simply have the genetic predisposition to develop grey hair. Other causes also need to be considered including thyroid abnormalities, pituitary problems, and deficiency of vitamin B 12.
Smoking too can cause early greying of hair. In fact, 20 years ago, a study in the British Medical Journal showed that smokers are about two to four times more likely to have grey hair. A recent study supports a possible link between low iron, calcium and vitamin D but that needs to be further investigated.
Autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata, vitiligo as well as premature aging syndromes (like a condition called Werner's) can cause affected individuals to develop early greying.
Overall, early greying of hair is fairly common and not usually associated with any underlying problem. That said, a full workup is needed for greying that fits the definition of premature greying.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887