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Going Gray Early: What Causes It and What to Do

Going Gray Early: What Causes It and What To Do

You wake up one morning, hop out of bed, go to the bathroom to brush your teeth and then you notice it—a gray hair. Maybe it’s sprouted above your sideburns or it’s creeping out your hairline. Regardless of how noticeable it actually is, going gray and worse, going gray early, is enough to send anyone to go into a tailspin of self-doubt and panic: Does this mean my body is starting to age? Am I sick?  Am I going gray because I am super stressed? Am I going bald? Can I do anything to stop this?

There are many myths and misconceptions about going gray early. Here’s a guide to what it actually means when you start getting gray hairs in your 20s and 30s.

Why Am I Going Gray Early?

There may be one simple reason why you’re going gray early: genetics. Hair color derives from melanin, a pigment that can be found in follicles and skin. As your hair follicles gradually lose melanin, it gets grayer until it eventually goes completely white. Getting gray hairs is a natural middle step to losing pigmentation in your follicles. Check to see when when your father or grandfather started going gray, because chances are that you will notice gray hairs around the same time they did. This information can be reassuring and ease your anxiety.

Though going gray is strongly associated with elderly people, it doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of your body is getting old or wearing down. A study found that going bald or getting gray hair doesn’t reflect men or women’s mortality at all. In most cases, it’s merely an aesthetic aspect to one’s body. On top of that, it could be determined by your ethnicity or hair color.

Am I Getting Sick?

Knowing a little bit about when your dad and grandfather started going gray can also help you determine whether or not you should be concerned for your health. If gray hairs are highly unusual in your family, something else may be up. 

Dr. Michael Eidelman, Medical Director of Chelsea Skin & Laser and Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai said in a 2015 Huffington Post article that in rare circumstances, early gray hairs could potentially indicate that you’re anemic, have a Vitamin B12 deficiency or have a problem with your thyroid glands.

If you’re a smoker, you may also have an increased chance of getting gray hairs. One study found that smokers are 2.5 times more likely to experience premature graying. Why? Chemicals found in cigarettes wreak havoc on follicles and could damage hair cells to the point that they start to lose color.

Am I Going Gray Because I’m Super Stressed?

The thought of going gray due to stress probably seems pretty realistic, given the fact that according to a 2017 gallup poll, nearly 80% of Americans say they're stressed. There are plenty of physical manifestations of stress and anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can lead to headaches, muscle tension, chest pain and stomach problems.

However, there’s no scientifically verified correlation between stress and going gray. Rather, if someone is already genetically predisposed to going gray early, stress can simply accelerate that process. You won’t start losing hair pigmentation because of debt, family tragedy or getting abruptly fired, if you weren’t supposed to go gray in the first place. 

Am I Going Bald?

It’s understandable to assume that going gray can be an early indicator that you’re going to start losing your hair. But this is a big misconception. Despite both stemming from genetics, hair loss and going gray are notably different. In most cases, men experience hair loss because the androgen DHT is gradually shrinking their hair follicles. Our guide to DHT and hair loss delves deep into the issue, if you're looking to learn more.

On the other hand, men start losing their hair color because of reduced levels of melanin. Yes, both conditions are genetically predetermined, and if you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle or sick, there could be an overlap. But it’s possible to have a full head of salt and pepper hair. If you are also experiencing hair loss, however, there are scientifically proven products that can help block DHT.

Can I Do Anything To Stop Going Gray?

There’s no cure to going gray. Unless you’re losing hair pigmentation because of smoking or a specific health problem, you will have to come to terms with this being your new reality. You could eat more vitamins and buy special shampoos but the cake has been baked. Though plenty of stars (George Clooney, Anderson Cooper, Alec Baldwin, to name a few) have embraced the “silverfox” look, it’s perfectly normal to want to go back to color. The one proven solution is dying your hair on a regular basis. Talk to your hair stylist or barber about shampoos or conditioners they'd recommend. Here are a few products that could potentially help:

If you’re looking for more health and lifestyle tips, check out our blog.

Important Safety Information


Finasteride is for use by MEN ONLY and should NOT be used by women or children.

Read this Patient Information before you start taking Finasteride and each time you get a refill. There may be new information. This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your medical condition or treatment.

What is Finasteride?

Finasteride is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia).

It is not known if Finasteride works for a receding hairline on either side of and above your forehead (temporal area).

Finasteride is not for use by women and children.

Who should not take Finasteride?

Do not take Finasteride if you:

  • are pregnant or may become pregnant. Finasteride may harm your unborn baby.
    • Finasteride tablets are coated and will prevent contact with the medicine during handling, as long as the tablets are not broken or crushed. Females who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not come in contact with broken or crushed Finasteride tablets.
    • If a pregnant woman comes in contact with crushed or broken Finasteride tablets, wash the contact area right away with soap and water. If a woman who is pregnant comes into contact with the active ingredient in Finasteride, a healthcare provider should be consulted. If a woman who is pregnant with a male baby swallows or comes in contact with the medicine in Finasteride, the male baby may be born with sex organs that are not normal.
  • are allergic to any of the ingredients in Finasteride. See the end of this leaflet for a complete list of ingredients in Finasteride.

    What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking Finasteride? Before taking Finasteride, tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • have any other medical conditions, including problems with your prostate or liver

    Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

    Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine.

    How should I take Finasteride?

  • Take Finasteride exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to take it.
  • You may take Finasteride with or without food.
  • If you forget to take Finasteride, do not take an extra tablet. Just take the next tablet as usual.

    Finasteride will not work faster or better if you take it more than once a day.

    What are the possible side effects of Finasteride?

  • decrease in your blood Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. Finasteride can affect a blood test called PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) for the screening of prostate cancer. If you have a PSA test done you should tell your healthcare provider that you are taking Finasteride because Finasteride decreases PSA levels. Changes in PSA levels will need to be evaluated by your healthcare provider. Any increase in follow-up PSA levels from their lowest point may signal the presence of prostate cancer and should be evaluated, even if the test results are still within the normal range for men not taking Finasteride. You should also tell your healthcare provider if you have not been taking Finasteride as prescribed because this may affect the PSA test results. For more information, talk to your healthcare provider.

  • There may be an increased risk of a more serious form of prostate cancer in men taking finasteride at 5 times the dose of Finasteride.

    The most common side effects of Finasteride include:

  • decrease in sex drive
  • trouble getting or keeping an erection
  • a decrease in the amount of semen

    The following have been reported in general use with Finasteride:

  • breast tenderness and enlargement. Tell your healthcare provider about any changes in your breasts such as lumps, pain or nipple discharge.
  • depression;
  • decrease in sex drive that continued after stopping the medication;
  • allergic reactions including rash, itching, hives and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, and face;
  • problems with ejaculation that continued after stopping medication;
  • testicular pain;
  • difficulty in achieving an erection that continued after stopping the medication;
  • male infertility and/or poor quality of semen.
  • in rare cases, male breast cancer.

    Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

    These are not all the possible side effects of Finasteride. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA1088.

    How should I store Finasteride?

  • Store Finasteride at room temperature between 59˚F to 86˚F (15˚C to 30˚C).
  • Keep Finasteride in a closed container and keep Finasteride tablets dry (protect from moisture).

    Keep Finasteride and all medicines out of the reach of children.

    General information about the safe and effective use of Finasteride.

    Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in this Patient Information. Do not use Finasteride for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give Finasteride to other people, even if they have the same symptoms you have. It may harm them.