A study has revealed that stress and fear can turn your hair gray as it uses up the stem cells that give your hair its color.
Any kind of stress will trigger your sympathetic nervous system which is what gives you the flight or fight mechanism.
The nerves release the chemical known as norepinephrine, which is what drives the pigment regenerating stem cells, which is found at the bottom of each hair.
Biologists found that the stem cells go into overdrive when you are stressed or experiencing extreme fear and get used up, when they tested the theory on mice, they lost color and their fur turned gray.
Researcher Professor Ya-Chieh Hsu said: “When we started to study this, I expected that stress was bad for the body — but the detrimental impact of stress that we discovered was beyond what I imagined.
“After just a few days, all of the pigment- regenerating stem cells were lost. Once they’re gone, you can’t regenerate pigment anymore. The damage is permanent.”
It has been said by historians that Queen Marie Antoinette’s hair turned white the night before she was beheaded in the French Revolution.
Former US presidential candidate John McCain went white from severe injuries as a prisoner during the Vietnam War.
And British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron went gray early with the strain of the job.
The latest findings have been from research carried out at Harvard University.
It was believed that hair went gray due to a person’s immune system response or a reaction to the stress hormone known as cortisol.
They found that even in mice lacking an immune system or the gland that produces the cortisol they still turned gray, it was this that led the researchers to look into the sympathetic nervous system and there they found what was to blame for gray hair.
Lead study author Dr Bing Zhang said: “Acute stress, particularly the fight-or-flight response, has been traditionally viewed to be beneficial for an animal’s survival.
“But in this case, acute stress causes permanent depletion of stem cells.”
No wonder the market for hair colors is booming when life is one long flight or fight for many of us!