A recent study is confirming the common speculation that white hair is not just genetic, but stress-induced.
In a recent study published in Nature, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Sao Paulo were able to observe how mice’s fur started growing in white after they were put under duress.
The researchers reported that when the hormones associated with stress — adrenaline and cortisol — were released in mice, it damaged the stem cells which produce melanin, the body chemical that produces pigment in hair and skin, according to BBC.
The most concerning part of the finds was that the damage was irreversible, turning their previously black hair white.
After these findings, researchers conducted a second experiment. The scientists gave the mice a drug to treat high blood pressure, which helped the body produce less of the protein that damaged the pigment producing stem cells, BBC reports. It significantly delayed their hair from graying.
While the discovery is far from ready for the mass market, it could be the initial move step in finding treatments to halt or slow graying in humans, Yahoo! News reports.
“I expected stress was bad for the body,” Harvard Professor Ya-Cieh Hsu, and research co-author told BBC. “But the detrimental impact of stress that we discovered was beyond what I imagined.”
Going gray is a natural part of getting older, according to Yahoo! News. Most women will begin to see white hair when they reach 35, and men will begin to see it around the age of 30.