Does One Grey Hair Mean You’re Turning Grey?

Finding your first grey hair can be a scary moment that makes you suddenly realise you aren’t going to live forever and that you are at some point going to ‘turn old’. The assumption is that one grey hair will lead to more, that one will eventually turn to two, and that you’re now at the official end of your youth – standing at the precipice of old age. Dark stuff…

I found a grey nose hair yesterday and in protest I refused to speak to anyone for the rest of the day…

So is it true we’re doomed? Does one grey hair really mean you’re going to get lots more? Or is it more likely to be just a one-off coincidence that you can ignore?

Why We Get Grey Hairs

When your hair grows normally it will do so by emerging from a hair follicle on your scalp. These follicles contain cells that produce melanin, which is a pigment that gives your hair its colour. Naturally your hair would be transparent, but these cells effectively ‘paint’ those white hairs as they come through.

When you get a white hair then, it means that the hair has passed through your scalp without receiving that colour-giving melanin which can happen for a whole variety of reasons. Once we get to a certain age, the pigment cells are entirely depleted and this is why our hair looks grey all over. Melanin is also responsible for giving hair some of its moisture, which is why grey hairs tend to be more brittle.

If you have just one grey hair though, then this suggests you haven’t yet depleted all your pigment cells. It could be that the pigment in just that one follicle has been used up, but it could equally just be a ‘blip’ that has caused a single hair to pass through without getting its normal melanin supply.

So Are You Going to Turn Grey?

Your first grey hair can indicate that you’re nearing a silver-look. Mostly we tend to cut all our hair at the same time, and generally our follicles will run out of melanin at roughly the same rate. If one starts to run low, then chances are that the others could be on the way out too (just as a single dead light bulb might tell you the others will need replacing soon if you changed them all at the same time).

But on the other hand, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I know plenty of people who found stray grey hairs ten years ago or more and are still sporting a vibrant hair colour. In these cases it’s more likely that they just had one or two anomalies out of their thousands of hairs. You’re actually much more likely to find several grey hairs when you start going grey as it’s probable that a few would run out at the same time once you got to that point.

And in case that hasn’t eased your concern at all, it’s worth just double checking to see whether you in fact do have a grey hair. Hold it over a sheet of white paper and you may find that it’s actually just a little lighter than usual and not grey at all…

Oh and one last thing? That rumour that pulling out a grey hair will cause a whole load more to sprout is nonsense…



4 Comments

  1. This was a very clear and informative article!

  2. I’m 12 years old, ever since I was 10 I’ve been getting random grey hairs; not a lot, just one once every two years. I suffer from anger issues and stress, is it because of that or is it other reasons? Is this something I should worry about?

    1. You might want to ask your doctor on your next visit as it can be an indication of certain ailments, but they’re very rare. It could just be your genetic makeup. There is no evidence for a link between stress and graying.

      At least it’s a unique look at that age!

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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

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