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Senior Living – August 2021

Picture this, Paris 1791 and you’re expecting to see Marie Antoinette in her beautiful blonde hair when overnight her famous hair turned gray. Well, that’s how the story goes at least. However, hair that has already grown out does not change colors, a new study from researchers at Columbia University offered actual data linking psychological stress to graying hair in people.

While stress can speed up the graying process, they were shocked to see that it can be reversed, that your color can be restored when stress is eliminated (although more on that in a bit).

The study’s senior author Dr. Martin Picard stated, “just as the rings in a tree trunk hold information about past decades in the life of a tree, our hair contains information about our biological history.” Scientists reviewed the calendars from individuals and monitored the graying of their hair. They found that one person who went on vacation had five gray hairs that reverted back to dark during that vacation.

Unfortunately, this hair re-pigmentation is only possible for some. While reducing stress in your life is a great goal, it isn’t the key to everyone. There is a threshold to stress when it turns gray. “In middle age, when the hair is near that threshold because of biological age and other factors, stress will push it over the threshold and it transitions to gray,” Picard says. Obviously, reducing stress in someone that’s over 70 and has been gray for years, their hair may darken just a bit but not much. “But we don’t think that reducing stress in a 70-year-old who’s been gray for years will darken their hair or increasing stress in a 10-year-old will be enough to tip their hair over the gray threshold.”

Let’s just keep on trying to take breaks and remember to breathe a bit more.

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