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Heavenly Locks
September 4th, 2009, 03:32 AM
I forget what I was talking to DH about today when we were on our way somewhere in the car...but he said something like "Yeah, it's like how your hair can turn white or get a streak in it from a shock, stress or a horrible fright" (oh I was saying that hair loss can be stress related :doh: that's what it was...)

Is there any stress to this popular culture idea? Because, I personally, haven't met anyone or heard of this happening for real.

As far as I know, hair can turn white from age (of however many years) or a wound that damages the follicles, or if you are a person lacking pigment in one spot (or all over).

Heidi_234
September 4th, 2009, 03:48 AM
My parents told me I put a few strokes of white into their hair. I believe(d) them. :rolleyes:

Quixii
September 4th, 2009, 04:03 AM
I read an article (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29468796/ns/health-skin_and_beauty/) where they linked greying/white hair to your body creating hydrogen peroxide and not having it broken down by catalase. The article didn't mention stress or other non-age related factors having any sort of role with those chemical reactions.

Melisande
September 4th, 2009, 04:25 AM
The white-over-night stories must be a myth. How can hair on your head grow white over night?

hmmm
September 4th, 2009, 04:25 AM
I'm pretty sure it's because people who are stressed often don't eat properly and do all the things they should be doing to stay healthy. That does show on their hair, and it can turn white in places. Other than that, it would be genetics combined with old age.

Athanéis
September 4th, 2009, 04:31 AM
It’s very rare, but something like this can really happen to people who have a form of Alopecia Areata. In this case only the pigmented hairs fall out and the white hairs stay (I'm not sure if it can happen overnight though, but definitely within a couple of days). One of the causes for this can be emotional stress. But it's only possible if that person already has salt & pepper hair. There is no way a pigmented hair can turn into a non-pigmented hair.

So I think there is definitely some truth in this myth.:)

Medievalmaniac
September 4th, 2009, 05:00 AM
I know someone with dark hair who has a white streak up the front of it now...this happened about six months or so, gradually but quickly and noticeably, so it's not exactly overnight but it definitely seemed that way. She has MS...maybe that is a factor? But she is also one of the most stressed-out human beings on the planet...tends to over-analyze and get really paranoid about things. Maybe self-induced stress, like people prone to anxiety disorders, suffer from this sort of thing also?

melikai
September 4th, 2009, 05:24 AM
I very suddenly started getting premature greys, I'm pretty sure as a result of a period of about 6 months of severe stress. They only appeared in one area of my hair, which also (probably not coincidentally) seemed to have some problems with thinning, starting around the same time.

MerryKat
September 4th, 2009, 05:47 AM
When my father passed away very unexpectedly, my mum's new growth changed from medium brown with the odd grey to totally grey with white sides.

It looked as if the brown had been a dye job which was growing out, but it was all natural. Our family doctor told her that it sometimes happens with extreme shock and stress.

Her colour never returned and within a few months she had totally grey hair (she has always had a short style).

Madame J
September 4th, 2009, 06:46 AM
On a website about going gray, I read that while shock or stress won't accelerate the number of hairs that grow in white, it will cause hair loss, which will affect the oldest strands (i.e., the still-pigmented ones) and make the white/gray hairs look like a larger percentage of the whole. This seems to gain support from Melikai's anecdotal evidence. I bet a lot of the general population isn't as aware of major shedding events as we are and just notice that they wake up and see a lot more gray than they used to.

longhairedfairy
September 4th, 2009, 06:54 AM
On a website about going gray, I read that while shock or stress won't accelerate the number of hairs that grow in white, it will cause hair loss, which will affect the oldest strands (i.e., the still-pigmented ones) and make the white/gray hairs look like a larger percentage of the whole. This seems to gain support from Melikai's anecdotal evidence. I bet a lot of the general population isn't as aware of major shedding events as we are and just notice that they wake up and see a lot more gray than they used to.
I guess the stories are just an exaggeration of this. I read/see stories/movies in which even the hair that is already long quickly turns white, when it should really only be the new growth and/or what was already there.

halo_tightens
September 4th, 2009, 07:54 AM
Madame J--

I never really thought about it before, though I'd heard the tales... but that really sounds like an excellent explanation for the phenomenon.

Tess2319
September 4th, 2009, 10:48 AM
I had a cousin that had this happen. Her husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and two months later he was gone. She had always been a stay-at-home-mom and they still had small children.

Possible it was hair loss of the dark hair, I couldn't say.

Something surprising that did happen, though, she tried to dye her hair for the funeral and it turned green. She was told that the same stress affected her chemistry and it made her hair take the dye differently.

Rohele
September 4th, 2009, 11:08 AM
I don't think anyone can turn gray overnight - as other people have said, it has to grow in that way.

In personal experience though, I will say that yes, stress can cause white hair to grow in.

I developed my first white hairs after an extremely stressful project at work. I also had a whole bunch grow in a few years ago while my father was undergoing treatment for cancer. My mother's hair went whiter during this time as well. The experience aged us in other ways too. Stress can have detrimental effects on our bodies, and I wouldn't be surprised if it can manifest itself by increasing the number of gray hairs that grow in.

Fractalsofhair
September 4th, 2009, 11:26 AM
Well, if you are stressed, you are much less likely to continue dying your hair(which well... Most women do when they start to go gray and in the past, many used rinses that washed out in one wash as it was considered improper to dye your hair(in particular, red.(Henna?)) as it was seen as something only the lowest of a hooker would do. (Of course wearing makeup was put in the same category...)). That's probably the source of the myth, as women would deny dying their hair(or men as well!). The shedding factor is also likely a cause, since most people don't notice anything but the most severe sheds.

Hiriel
September 4th, 2009, 12:04 PM
My first thought was "Oh, like Rogue in X-men!"

/nerd

Madame J
September 4th, 2009, 12:21 PM
Okay, there were a couple of responses to my comment, so I figure I should post a link to the website I read this, since I can't take the credit myself: Scared into being gray? (http://goinggraylookinggreat.com/index.php?/gray_today/article/scared_into_being_gray/)

Canarygirl
September 4th, 2009, 12:55 PM
The article about lack of catylase and build up of hydrogen peroxide leading to grey hair...there was a comment on the article that if you eat and apply polyphenols, it will increase the production of catylase (green tea, olive oil, dark chocolate, wine, etc.). Didn't Ktani also say in her honey lightening thread that using something with vitamin C in it like aloe vera, would increase the uptake of hydrogen peroxide in the honey mix until the Vit C was gone? Seems like an interesting experiment to start using polyphenols + Vit C containing products on our hair, to see if it slows down or reverses the greying of hair. Only if you don't want your grey hair, that is. :)

Honestwitness
September 4th, 2009, 01:27 PM
I know a brown-haired man who had a patch of hair on one side of his head turn white instantly. He was driving on a multi-lane highway and was passing a semi-truck on the left. Suddenly, the semi veered over into my friend's lane, forcing my friend to veer left toward the guard rail, in order to avoid the semi. Finally the semi driver saw him and veered back over. In the few quick moments when this happened, my friend instantly became extremely traumatized, believing he was about to die. But, he was ok, because the semi moved back in the other lane.

My friend finally calmed down and drove on to his destination. When he got home later, he passed by a mirror and was quite surprised to see the patch of white hair on the side opposite of where the semi was. His wife verified all these details to me.

I theorize that there must be some sort of electrical energy that suddenly passed out of his brain at the moment of the most extreme fear and as it passed out the side of his head, it caused a chemical reaction in his hair strands.

Interestingly, once those hairs grew out naturally, the hair in that area was back to its normal brown color.

ladylibra
September 4th, 2009, 01:28 PM
I don't know about literally "overnight" but, I've had a similar event happen to me. It's a little TMI though... :o suffice it to say, I know this can happen after a physical injury... the hair can grow back in white from shock. Maybe it just seems sudden because for most, white hair grows in a strand a time, scattered around the head, and tends to take many years. :shrug:

Also, these white hairs aren't like my normal greys. They're a dingy white... like an animal with white fur. Whereas my greys are actually silver, and sparkle in the light...

ladylibra
September 4th, 2009, 01:30 PM
I know a brown-haired man who had a patch of hair on one side of his head turn white instantly. He was driving on a multi-lane highway and was passing a semi-truck on the left. Suddenly, the semi veered over into my friend's lane, forcing my friend to veer left toward the guard rail, in order to avoid the semi. Finally the semi driver saw him and veered back over. In the few quick moments when this happened, my friend instantly became extremely traumatized, believing he was about to die. But, he was ok, because the semi moved back in the other lane.

My friend finally calmed down and drove on to his destination. When he got home later, he passed by a mirror and was quite surprised to see the patch of white hair on the side opposite of where the semi was. His wife verified all these details to me.

I theorize that there must be some sort of electrical energy that suddenly passed out of his brain at the moment of the most extreme fear and as it passed out the side of his head, it caused a chemical reaction in his hair strands.

Interestingly, once those hairs grew out naturally, the hair in that area was back to its normal brown color.

WOW!

I've never had it happen to me like this... that's kinda cool, almost. For me, the white hairs always showed up like a month later.

Laurenji
September 4th, 2009, 01:40 PM
My uncle accidentally drank some poison when he was small, and my grandfather's hair grew in white in the months while they were waiting to see if my uncle would live or not. My grandfather has had white hair ever since then.

At least, that's what my grandmother said. I don't think she looked to see how exactly his hair turned from black to white, but she said it has been white since then.

aada
September 4th, 2009, 01:45 PM
My first thought was "Oh, like Rogue in X-men!"

/nerd
you're not alone: this was my thought too!

I am always interested in grey/white hair theory. The women in my family go grey pretty early.


Also, both my little brothers and some of my cousins always have a white patch on the back of their heads. usually 1"x1", in roughly the same spot on all of them. We've never really figured out what caused it. Sure is cute though! ;)

Amoretti
September 4th, 2009, 02:06 PM
I think the overnight story is just something dramatic that looks good in films/books.


The problem with sudden whitening, of course, is that hair is dead tissue. So you'd think it would be incapable of becoming entirely white until it grows out from the roots, a process that takes weeks.

Still, as you say, there does seem to be one way that hair can appear to turn gray in a very short period of time. What happens is that a condition called "diffuse alopecia areata" may occur in somebody with a mix of normal and gray hairs.

Alopecia can result in sudden, substantial hair loss. For unknown reasons it seems to affect mostly pigmented hairs, leaving white ones untouched. The impression one gets, therefore, is that the patient has become suddenly gray.

The sequence of biological events resulting in alopecia is not well understood, but it's thought emotional stress can contribute to it. Wherefore, chill. If you're male you're probably going to lose all that hair eventually, but no sense hurrying the process.

— Cecil Adams

From here: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/538/can-hair-turn-white-overnight-from-fright

Anje
September 4th, 2009, 03:00 PM
I know a brown-haired man who had a patch of hair on one side of his head turn white instantly. He was driving on a multi-lane highway and was passing a semi-truck on the left. Suddenly, the semi veered over into my friend's lane, forcing my friend to veer left toward the guard rail, in order to avoid the semi. Finally the semi driver saw him and veered back over. In the few quick moments when this happened, my friend instantly became extremely traumatized, believing he was about to die. But, he was ok, because the semi moved back in the other lane.

My friend finally calmed down and drove on to his destination. When he got home later, he passed by a mirror and was quite surprised to see the patch of white hair on the side opposite of where the semi was. His wife verified all these details to me.

I theorize that there must be some sort of electrical energy that suddenly passed out of his brain at the moment of the most extreme fear and as it passed out the side of his head, it caused a chemical reaction in his hair strands.

Interestingly, once those hairs grew out naturally, the hair in that area was back to its normal brown color.
Whoa, that's weird!

My inclination is that I would have to grow in that way, though. I'm not aware that there's a mechanism where you can suck the color out of your hair.

melikai
September 4th, 2009, 05:23 PM
The article about lack of catylase and build up of hydrogen peroxide leading to grey hair...there was a comment on the article that if you eat and apply polyphenols, it will increase the production of catylase (green tea, olive oil, dark chocolate, wine, etc.). Didn't Ktani also say in her honey lightening thread that using something with vitamin C in it like aloe vera, would increase the uptake of hydrogen peroxide in the honey mix until the Vit C was gone? Seems like an interesting experiment to start using polyphenols + Vit C containing products on our hair, to see if it slows down or reverses the greying of hair. Only if you don't want your grey hair, that is. :)

I'd be extremely interested in looking into this more and perhaps attempting it. Plus all those sorts of foods sound pretty tasty. :p

Themyst
September 4th, 2009, 05:26 PM
My first thought was "Oh, like Rogue in X-men!"

/nerd

Ha ha, that's what I was thinking. Sure it can happen! :D

magicatt
September 4th, 2009, 10:21 PM
My hair didn't go white overnight but it did lose most of its color in a very short amount of time. I was very sick with a heart condition that nearly killed me. I was in the hospital for a week. I went in with very pretty light brown hair and came out with weird dirty dishwater colored hair. Not pure white, which I probably would have enjoyed, but dingy and lacking color. I will say that I had a huge, massive, scary as crap shed that lasted for a really long time, so it's entirely possible that I lost most of the hair with color or even, because my hair is so micro fine, that what was left was virtually transparent. It took me about two years to get the color to start coming back and it's not quite the same now as it was then. I suppose that's not really surprising either.

Flynn
September 5th, 2009, 05:48 AM
Stress can accelerate visible signs of aging. That means wrinkles and greys. You won't go grey overnight, but you'll go grey sooner!

Medievalmaniac
September 5th, 2009, 06:19 AM
Well, if you are stressed, you are much less likely to continue dying your hair

Alternately, if you are like me, if you are really stressed out and feeling out of control, you reach immediately for the dye because it's one thing you can control...! At my lowest points, every time, I seem to get a different hair color...but for the past two years it has been red, and I LOVE red.

I have noticed that I started going grey a lot faster after the birth of my second daughter, and really gained a lot of grey when my daddy died last spring...BUT, lately even if I go for long periods without dye, I don't see as much grey as before, and there's a lot of new growth that is coming in regulation-colored...can the process reverse itself a bit, I wonder, if the stress is diminished? Can the greying process be slowed by lifestyle changes?

This is an interesting topic!!

Medievalmaniac
September 5th, 2009, 06:20 AM
My hair didn't go white overnight but it did lose most of its color in a very short amount of time. I was very sick with a heart condition that nearly killed me. I was in the hospital for a week.

:O Oh no! I'm glad things turned out well! And it appears you have grown back all your beautiful hair since - it looks fantastic!!

magicatt
September 5th, 2009, 12:08 PM
:O Oh no! I'm glad things turned out well! And it appears you have grown back all your beautiful hair since - it looks fantastic!!

Thanks--although I really do need to take a picture as that one is over a year old now. :D

SurprisingWoman
September 5th, 2009, 01:27 PM
I was coloring my hair from the time I was 33'ish years old and had several gray hairs. People always commented on how shiny my hair was. ;) When I decided to grow it out and quit coloring I was quite gray and that was ten years later. I am much, much grayer than anyone in my family, including my mom. I have hair my dad's color but I have gone gray much earlier than he did.

I started going gray more quickly after I married the love of my life so evidently extreme happiness can also make you go gray. :)

Hey, it makes as much sense as some of the other theories.

magicatt
September 5th, 2009, 03:17 PM
I started going gray more quickly after I married the love of my life so evidently extreme happiness can also make you go gray. :)

Awwwww :)

GlennaGirl
September 5th, 2009, 03:57 PM
My brother-in-law's uncle had a heart attack and died on the table. He was brought back and immediately, his hair began to grow in white. All of it.