Stress really can make your hair go grey, scientists have found.
As the pressure builds, the stem cells that replenish your hair colour become damaged, leaving the tell-tale silver crown, a study has shown. But the very visible sign of ageing appears to also have a beneficial effect - reducing the risk of cancer, a leading expert has claimed.
When scientists from Kanazawa University in Japan studied the effects of radiation and other chemicals on the fur of mice, they found that their coats greyed early. This is because stem cells in their hair follicles were forced to mature, slashing the production of melanin - the chemical that gives colour to the hair and skin, the team explains in the journal Cell.
But Dr David Fisher, chief of the department of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, said that blocking these stem cells, which have damaged DNA, from dividing is also beneficial. It could stop you developing a tumour, which is a ball of damaged cells that grow out of control.
‘Greying may actually be a safety mechanism,’ said Dr Fisher. ‘They’ve shown that this mechanism is actually removing damaged stem cells. The good news is if you do find yourself greying, you’re probably better off not having those cells persist.’