Will You Go Gray? Facts vs. Fiction About Your Future Head of Hair

When it comes to old wives’ tales, the folklore goes especially deep with the prevention and treatment of gray hair. We asked top New York City dermatologist, Howard Sobel, M.D., to explain what gray myths really do pan out (some are true), and which ones belong in the fiction aisle.

If you see a few grays pop up, you’re on the way to a full head of gray hair soon.
False. This isn’t necessarily true for everyone, says Sobel. By the time people are in their thirties, most have a few strands of gray hair naturally. While some may continue to gray with each passing year, others may just stall at those few strands of gray for years—or even decades—to come.

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If you pluck a gray hair, two will grow in its place.
False. “Plucking gray hair won’t increase the number of gray hairs that will grow in its place, but the ones that grow back will still be gray,” explains Sobel. Be warned, though: You should not pluck grays since you risk damaging the hair follicle, and then no strand will grow back—either gray or otherwise.

The age your mom got gray hair is a good estimate of when you will, too.
True. “Genetics will generally predict when your hair starts to go gray,” says Sobel. However, genetics are never a destiny guarantee; environmental factors can figure in prominently on how early or late someone may go gray (see next myth for more info).

Smoking and sun will make you go gray faster.
True. “Ultraviolet light and chemicals from smoke can damage free radicals in cells and cause depletion of melanocyte stem cells, which color hair,” says Sobel. So say no to cigarettes (and vaping) and be mindful of protecting strands from harsh sun exposure to stay in the red (or brown, black, or blonde).

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You can give yourself gray hair from stressing out too much.
Possibly true. “The supply of melanocyte stem cells that color hair deplete as we age, and stress may make someone who is predisposed to gray hair go gray sooner,” says Sobel. When you feel overwhelmed, breathing into your belly and out slowly can help lower those stress chemicals.

Dying your hair constantly can bring on gray hair.
False. This is just flat out untrue, as hair dye has no causation relationship with gray hair. However, the health of your hair can certainly take a beating from extreme hair-dying habits, so be sure to deep condition weekly and be kind to your tresses.

RELATED: What It’s Like to Start Going Gray as a Teen

If you get gray hair when you’re young, you’re aging faster than your peers.
False. If you’re one of many people who see gray before 30 (or even 20), you can rest easy—Sobel says it has nothing to do with how fast you’re aging and more to do with genetics. It’s never worth stressing over—because remember, that can just give you more grays.

The bottom line: It’s true that genetics and environmental factors can influence how fast and completely you go gray; virtually every other gray-related old wives’ tale is false. 

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