I Keep Finding Grey Hairs and I’m Only 25 — What Does It Mean?
I swear to God, I am finding a new grey hair on a weekly basis. And it’s making me stressed. I’m only 25, which feels way too young to have grey hairs sprouting at the rate of knots… right?!
I’ve been conditioned to be afraid of ageing since childhood, so every time I see a grey hair, my heart skips a beat. It’s as if I can go through life feeling young, acting young and being told “you’re still so young”, and then I see a grey hair and BAM — the reality of my ageing sets in and I freak out.
But what’s so wrong with ageing? It’s a natural process that every human goes through. And visual signs of ageing happen at different rates for each individual person. Although there’s science to back up why these ageing signs occur and what they mean, there isn’t much literature on why it happens at different stages for different people. I think we just have to accept that we’ll all age differently and be okay with it, but it’s a hard reality to accept when you’re still in your twenties.
I know I’m not alone, so in the pursuit to find out why my head is sprouting greys in my mid-20s, I reached out to Revlon Professional’s blonde ambassador and educator Rhiannon Dimaria. She says that most of her clients think that their greys are due to stress, which actually isn’t the case.
Why do we get grey hairs?
Dimaria says: “Each hair follicle contains a certain number of pigment cells, these pigment cells produce melanin — the same chemical that gives your skin its unique colour. It is the same with your hair.
“As we get older the pigment cells in our hair follicles gradually die and in turn, reduces the amount of melanin each strand has, causing it to lose its colour and turn grey or white. How fast this happens will depend on your genetics.”
Okay, so genetics determines the rate at which your grey hair grows. This makes sense, as I rang my mum the other day in a moment of panic to ask her if going grey at 25 is as tragic as it feels.
She said, “Laura, you had a grey hair when you were four years old. It’s nothing to worry about!”, which kind of made me torn between worrying if I’m destined to go grey young and just relaxing because these greys haven’t come out of nowhere.
Does stress play a role?
Aside from genetics, what else would cause greys? “Other factors such as alopecia areata, hormones, birthmarks, vitiligo, thyroid problems, and b12 deficiencies/pernicious anaemia have been proven to affect the production of melanin, which can ultimately cause grey hair,” Dimaria says.
“There are many benefits to our body, hair and overall health from reducing and managing stress, so it’s always good to consider your health as a whole. I often recommend my clients visit their doctor if they notice any major changes in their hair — it’s a telling sign of problems that can be occurring within.”
This natural process explained makes it sound way less daunting. Grey hairs pop up for heaps of reasons that are all natural and to be expected throughout life, at any age.
Should we pluck out greys?
The old wives tale haunts me each time I go to pluck, that says if you pluck one grey hair, many others will grow in its place. It hasn’t stopped me so far.
Dimaria says: “Contrary to the myth that two greys will grow back in the place of one (this isn’t the case), you risk distorting the follicle. This makes it harder for the hair to grow back out, leading to a crinkly texture which can give the impression of coarseness.
“You can also damage it to the extent that the hair will stop growing out of that follicle altogether.”
Why are we so afraid of greys anyway?
I’ve always found the lengths that people go to fight ageing pretty extreme. If you’ve ever watched an infomercial channel (God forbid), then you’d know that there’s literally a product, appliance or treatment for every element of anti-ageing.
There are devices to whiten your teeth, anti-ageing creams for your eye wrinkles, ‘skin-tightening’ cream to give you that supple youthful look, surgeries to remove wrinkles, lift your eyes and eyebrows, remove ageing fat, smooth out your jawline… I mean, you could spend an entire fortune trying to stay looking youthful.
I wonder if ageing just stresses us out because it’s a clear sign that we won’t be here forever, that we aren’t immune to growing old. Sometimes, on days where I feel invincible, I think that this whole life-cycle ending in dying one day just isn’t going to happen to me. But of course, it will, and ageing reminds us of that.
Is it time to embrace the greys?
Getting greys shouldn’t be something to stress about, although understandably, it can be. “I think the negative stigma comes from how it makes people feel when they begin to go grey,” Dimaria says.
“It’s a sign of getting older, which in the age of filters and social media our expectations of beauty are at an all-time high — much higher than when we used to look at glossy magazines. Almost every image we see these days has been manipulated in some way. This can wreak havoc on our internal dialogue and how we feel we are ‘supposed’ to look, which in reality is highly edited and unattainable.”
We’re back to the age-old body image conversation, faced with the truth that we’ve been bombarded with images of “ideal beauty” for our entire lives, so much so, that we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and our bodies.
Going grey feels unsuccessful, just like not being able to fit into a pair of jeans you used to love. It goes against this vision of ideal beauty that we’ve seen portrayed for centuries and continues to overshadow real bodies, real people and a representation of beauty that feels relatable.
“Post-lockdown last year, there was an influx of clients wanting to embrace their natural colour and texture which I loved seeing. On the other hand, I’m 32 and have begun sprouting greys everywhere, but am still in denial,” Dimaria says.
“Your first grey hair doesn’t do a lot for your confidence. Our hair is our crown, and unexpected greys can affect our self-esteem.”
Given that the media and mainstream fashion are slowly heading towards an industry that accepts and celebrates diversity, we can have some hope that the stress of ageing will become less apparent as we evolve and accept the reality of being human.
Why I’m okay with greys…or trying to be
For me, I think it will take a while to stop fretting over my greys. Some days, I feel unphased about them, and others I do my utmost to hide them and feel embarrassed that my body is showing signs of ageing so young.
Both of these emotions are okay. I’m certain that as I do get older, the thought of ageing will become a more comfortable one for me. Even just by talking about it, I already feel less stressed.
I occasionally see women sporting their natural grey locks, and truthfully, I think they’re brave and beautiful. I’d like to be that woman one day, but I think it’s okay for the acceptance of ageing to be a journey.