Children and Gray Hair

Gray hair in children is called premature graying. The appearance of gray hairs may be the result of a child's genetically determined maturational schedule.

Question

My 4-year-old son has had scattered gray hairs for about two years. Does he have a vitamin deficiency? Does this mean he will be prematurely gray?
Debbie O’Leary – Indiana University – Bloomington, Indiana

Dr. Greene's Answer

Hair color is produced by tiny cells called melanocytes that live within the hair follicles. In the course of a lifetime, the activity of the melanocytes in each follicle begins to wane, resulting in gray hairs. Each individual’s melanocyte-clock is different, but in Caucasians this reduction of melanocyte activity usually occurs earlier than in other groups. If gray hairs appear in childhood, this is called premature graying, or canities (pronounced kah-nish’-eez).

The appearance of gray hairs may be the result of a child’s genetically determined maturational schedule. If so, it is likely (but not certain) that others in the family tree would have followed a similar schedule. If these others had scattered gray hairs in childhood, but did not progress to a full head of gray hair until later, then it is likely that your son would follow the same pattern. Gray hair can also accompany a number of uncommon familial syndromes, including neurofibromatosis and tuberous sclerosis.

Causes of Gray Hair in Children

Several conditions can alter a child’s preset melanocyte-clock. If these conditions are present for a short time, a few scattered gray hairs may be the result; if they persist, the graying is likely to progress.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

The most common of these is vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is present widely in foods from animal sources. Dietary deficiency is difficult to achieve, unless a person is eating a strict vegan diet. Breast-fed infants whose mothers have B12 deficiency can also develop a transient deficiency. A lack of vitamin B12 can occur even in the face of adequate B12 intake. The body’s ability to absorb and use B12 can be hampered by surgery involving the stomach or small bowel, diseases affecting the small bowel (e.g. regional enteritis, necrotizing enterocolitis, tuberculosis, diverticulosis, or fish tapeworms), or a congenital lack of the molecules needed to absorb B12 (intrinsic factor or Transcobalamin I, II, or III). A simple blood test can diagnose current vitamin B12 deficiency. If your son’s gray hair resulted from a prior deficiency that has resolved, it will probably not be detectable by a current blood test; however, the graying will not progress in this case.

Some Types of Anemia

Some anemias — the megaloblastic ones (including the anemia caused by B12 deficiency) — can produce gray hairs as an early sign. A simple blood test detects current anemia. As in the case of B12 deficiency, previous anemia is not easy to detect, but will not continue to affect your son’s melanocytes.

Some Thyroid Disorders

Several thyroid disorders, particularly hyperthyroidism, reduce melanocyte activity while they are present. Disorders of skin pigmentation, such as vitiligo (which follows the destruction of melanocytes in the skin), can also result in a loss of hair pigmentation. A rare entity called Vogt-Koyanagi syndrome occurs in some children following a viral illness. In an attempt to fight the virus, the body makes antibodies that, unfortunately, also attack the melanocytes.

So, Debbie, it is possible that your son has a vitamin deficiency. It is also possible that the gray hairs are a visible sign of an important internal process. Gray hair in a child should be investigated. When I see a child with gray hairs in the office, I look to three sources to try to determine the underlying cause. First, I find out what I can about the family history. Next, I perform a thorough physical examination looking for helpful clues. Finally, I obtain three laboratory tests: a vitamin B12 level, a complete blood count (CBC), and a thyroid function panel.

Even if we are unable to identify any cause other than his own internal melanocyte-clock, you can readily mask the graying if desired. Although a number of effective chemical rinses and dyes are available, there has been some evidence that their use in children may contribute to later skin cancers. This risk is avoided with vegetable dyes.

About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

Hi, my name is Cindy. My grey hairs had been growing when I was at the age of 8 and I had a lot but whenever I got to the age of 15 to 16 it kind of started going away but their now coming back with even more when I turned 17 and I kind have blonde hair but not a lot but I have a lot grey hairs and my hair color is black I don’t really care that I have grey hairs but I’m kind of worried if they is anything wrong with me having any disorders

my name is bwalya from zambia.i have gray white hair it was noticed during my early age maybe when i was 5 years old it matured into pure white grey hair my mom used to dye it using all sorts of dyes one of them was kiwi polish and other dark black solutions. i hate my white hair i have been looking for a way to stop it but i cant please kindly help

Dear Bwalya,

I understand your concern.

Your gray hair may be caused by genetics. If so, there is nothing to do except either accept it or dye your hair. Using Kiwi polish and other dark black solutions not intended for hair dye can be toxic and is not recommended.

If your gray hair is caused by a current condition, you need to know which condition in order to be treated. Have you been tested for vitamin B12 deficiency, anemias and thyroid conditions (especially hyperthyroidism)? If not, this is the place to start.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi, my name is Daniel from Nigeria, i was born naturally with a gray hair at the left side of my back head. I disliked it a lot at my younger age and always dye it with battery powder in combination with a charcoal soot. When i got to my 18th Years, i saw in the Bible in the book of Proverb 16:31 that a ” gray hair is a crown of glory only when it is found in a righteous ways” with this insight, i began to live a life that would please God by departing from iniquity. Today am proud to tell you that a Gray hair is a gift from God because my life had become a massive testimony since i got this insight.

Im running out of time, I feel sicker every day, I don’t know how much longer I have left. My hair is rapidly turning white, it started 12 years ago in my own classroom. My friends discovered a grey hair on my head and I started dying.

Obleep,

I’m not sure I understand your comment. Do you have symptoms that indicate you are sick and going to die soon? Or are you upset about your hair turning white so you color it? I do not mean to diminish your angst, but these are two very different things.

@MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi am a girl of 16+1year and i don’t know how to get rid of grey hair without any side effect

Hi. I am 12 years old and I just found a grey hair! What does this mean?

im 12 and i have almost as many white hairs (white not gray) as my 42 year old mom. ive been growing them since about 7 years old. and btw im not white. answers please? most of my family on my dads side gets white hair early but, is there a way to stop it? what foods have B12?

My son 9 years white hair and grey hair .. Please solution and treatment sir

i’ve had 2 cases when i’ve had grey hairs and noticed it, first time when i was 10 and now when i’m 13, i have seen grey hairs with brown tips around my room for a while now and i’m not sure whats wrong! could it be that i’m not eating enough and not getting enough vitamins? because i’ve never really ate enough because i never have the appetite

Hi, I am Only 10 Years Old And I Have A Scattered Gray Hairs On My Head…Is That A Problem?…

Sir my girl baby now 2 and 1/2 years old.her hair is grey and thin.I saw a hair is white,what is the reason and how to treatment thus desease. Pl….

I am 14th years old but i have many white hairs on my head and how can i get my black hair again please give me feedback

YOU NEED MORE VITAMINS

Hi I am only 13 yrs old and I am starting to get some grey hairs and was wondering what could cause this

Hi im 12 and my friend pulled out 1 grey hair out of my head im worried and what should I do to treat it

I’m just an 11old but I have one white eyebrow,what does it mean?

You have overdosed off something. Check your bloodstream.

Hi im Rebecka and my age is 12. I know that’s a young age but I want to tell you this. I’ve been getting gray hairs all over my head. My mom said that its just from stress but, i just want to make sure.

Dear sir…

Pls sir help me from white hair problem i am 25 year old pls suggest treatment….

Hii doctor..I m Aman Kumar Studying in class-10 I m 15 years old my hair is becoming grey since 2years…30% of my hair become grey sir please help how to make them black….Sir my all friends are teasing me because of this grey hair…Doctor please help or name the medicine to make by hair black….please Doctor please….
I m waiting for your reply

don’t be friends with your so-called “friends” is they are mean to you. Or just ask them to stop. Anyway good luck.

My now 13 year old has alot of white/ grey hair. She was diagnosed at age 7 with CPP. & was diagnosed at age 10 with IGG & I GA immune system deficiencies. She also has sleep apnea and astma. And Amplified pain disorder. Why is her Brown /Auburn hair turning white? & why now? Their is no early greying in our families.
Thank u
Middle Ga

Sir my daughter 13 years old, 8 to 10 hairs became white of a specific area back of head.please tell me treatment.

hi doctor, I’m 16 years old and have found one grey hair. i am currently sitting my end of year 11 exams, i am not sure if it is from stress, genetics, or a deficiency??

Hi sir good evening my son is 14 years old now 50% of his hair is grey .started 3 years ago kindly pls sent the remedies for that sir .

Hi sir good evening my daughter had 4 years old now she having gray hair growth a lot so kindly pls sent the remedies for that sir me also having gray hair growth early age

Hi, first I would check for b12 defcy and thyroid problems. For thyroid problems if it were my kid, I’d make sure they check foe antibodies, not justify regular tsh, t3 t4. They’ll argue it, but just have them check thyroid autoantibodies. If everything’s fine, then just pick them out. My story: I’m the 4th kid of 5 and I was the only one that ever had white hair as a kid. I had white silver hairs scattered starting at the age of 3-4yrs old, but who knows when it really started. My mom would pic them out every 3 months so that kids wouldn’t make fun of me, about 40-80 of solid white hairs every 3-6months. It got less with the years. But by the time I was 12-13 I was still picking out about 30 every 3 months or so. I had jet black hair, so silver solid white hairs were very obvious, so I started dying my hair at 12. I’m now 33 years old and have had zero white hairs since I was 26. They just stopped. The only reason I say thyroid, is bc 26 was when my thyroid problems were fixed, I struggled with issues for 10 years before I finally got diagnosed, they just needed to check my antibodies. Perfectly healthy now and no white hair and almost 33 :) and if u have to pick them out, it really isn’t so bad, just don’t make a big deal about it and kid won’t, my mom never made me feel weird about having it, she would just brush my hair and pick them out routinely, there are worse things in life than a couple white hairs as a toddler. Best of luck!

My daughter 3years old a patch of greyhair on the middle of head what is it’s treatment

Hi, I have had gray hairs since I was 10 years old. However, I have noticed that many of my gray hairs are not completely gray, sometimes the bottoms will be gray but near the root it is black again. Can you please tell me why I might have hairs that turn gray then turn back to my natural color, then sometimes gray again???

Exactly like mine

My son is 12 years old from past 3 years his head is full of grey hair we should to the doctors we also went to the homeopathy medicine and Ayurvedic oils but no improvement so please help me how to remove grey hair

Dear sir…
Pls sir help me from gray hair problem i am 19year old pls suggest treatment….

my son had a pimple like bump it popped and went away and in that same spot it became bald then weeks later his hair grew back white and i have took him to many doctors and they have no clue what it was or what cause that pimple to pop and make that area go bald and make the hair grow back white its been like this since he was 5yrs old and he is now 12yrs old

sir i am 17 yeqr old and i have lots of gray hairs from about 2 or3 years please help.me and suggest me your kind suggesions

Sir my daughter 8 years old, 8 to 10 hairs became white of a specific area back of head.please tell me treatment.

My daughter is 12 and also have a patch of grey hair in the lower back of her head. From your experience , please tell me what cause that patch of grey her and what should I do?

hi
I am Saif I have some gray hair
so plzz
you give me advice
to remove gray hair
thanks

hii doctor I am Saif my some
hair is suddenly gray I use every day shampoo
I disturb from this problem
so plzz doctor advice me and send some tips
too remove gray hair

Thanks for writing in.

It is important to find out the cause of the gray hair to know how to stop or reverse it. Dr. Greene says, “When I see a child with gray hairs in the office, I look to three sources to try to determine the underlying cause. First, I find out what I can about the family history. Next, I perform a thorough physical examination looking for helpful clues. Finally, I obtain three laboratory tests: a vitamin B12 level, a complete blood count (CBC), and a thyroid function panel.”

Based on Dr. Greene’s writings, it would be helpful for you to have a vitamin B12 level, a CBC and a thyroid function test done by a doctor to see if any of them are abnormal. If they are, treating the issue could be helpful. If they are not abnormal, this may be caused by genetics and the only way to change your gray hair to dark color is to do is dye your hair.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hello Dr,
I’ve got grey hair since I was 12 years old and I am 17 years old by now. I usually dyed my hair whenever I cut my hair. Any solution to prevent from this grey hair?

Dear Reaksa,

Thanks for writing in.

It is important to find out the cause of the gray hair to know how to prevent it — if it is preventable.

Dr. Greene says, “When I see a child with gray hairs in the office, I look to three sources to try to determine the underlying cause. First, I find out what I can about the family history. Next, I perform a thorough physical examination looking for helpful clues. Finally, I obtain three laboratory tests: a vitamin B12 level, a complete blood count (CBC), and a thyroid function panel.”

From the above, we can assume that it would be helpful for you to have a vitamin B12 level, a CBC and a thyroid function test done by a doctor to see if any of them are abnormal. If they are, treating the issue could be helpful. If they are not abnormal, this may be caused by genetics and the only way to change your gray hair to continue to dye your hair.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

hi. I am sufyan. I am 12 years old and i have gray hairs. I sometimes used hair wax when i was younger. I used shampoo almost daily but now i have changed my habit.
Is there a solution to this problem and is this normal or not?
can this be cured and how?

regard: malik sufyan. from pakistan.

Emmanuel

I’m 16 years old and I’ve grey hair all over my head. I live in Ethiopia. I had taken some creams prescribed by a doctor for two weeks, but my grey hair still does not seem to be reducing and some people say I think too much, use a honey on head, but there has to be an explanation for all these. Please give some advice.

Hi Doctor,

My grand daughter 2 years old has two small patches of white hair on back side of head (near to neck).Rest of the hair are jet black.
Looking forward to your advise.
Regards,
RATTAN

I’m 16 years old and I’ve grey hair. I got my first grey hair at the age of 10. I had taken a blood test and found out it’s due to deficiency of vitamin B12. I took medicines/injections and ate food rich with vitamin B12, all in accordance to the doctor. My grey hair still does not seem to be reducing. Please advice.

Sir,I have some white hairs in an early age what can I do to remove it.

Mohammed,

Thank you for writing DrGreene.com.

It is important to find out the cause of white hair to know how to stop or reverse it. Dr. Greene says, “In my office, when I see a child with gray hairs [or white hairs], I look to three sources to try to determine the underlying cause. First, I find out what I can about the family history. Next, I perform a thorough physical examination looking for helpful clues. Finally, I obtain three laboratory tests: a vitamin B12 level, a complete blood count (CBC), and a thyroid function panel.”

It would be helpful for you to have a vitamin B12 level, a CBC and a thyroid function test done by a doctor to see if any of them are abnormal. If they are, treating the issue could be helpful. If they are not abnormal, this may be caused by genetics and the only way to remove your white hair may be to dye your hair.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Dr Greene
My son is now 21 yrs old. I have been watching him as the years gone by….he was born with scattered grey hair. He is always tired..seems like an 80yr old but I think an 80 yr old has more energy then my son . Can you help us?

Estella,

Thanks for writing in.

Dr. Greene says, “In the office, when I see a child with gray hairs, I look to three sources to try to determine the underlying cause. First, I find out what I can about the family history. Next, I perform a thorough physical examination looking for helpful clues. Finally, I obtain three laboratory tests: a vitamin B12 level, a complete blood count (CBC), and a thyroid function panel.”

If one of these was the root cause of your son’s gray hair, it could also impact his energy level. Has he had these tests run?

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi my name is chantell I’m from Nambia Walvis Bay my son was born 13 May 2016 with gray hair on his left side of his head…I’m looking for a reason that what may have cause this and can it cause him problems in the future??

Hi Chantell,

Thanks for writing in.

There are a few reasons for gray hair in children. Dr. Greene says, “When I see a child with gray hairs in the office, I look to three sources to try to determine the underlying cause. First, I find out what I can about the family history. Next, I perform a thorough physical examination looking for helpful clues. Finally, I obtain three laboratory tests: a vitamin B12 level, a complete blood count (CBC), and a thyroid function panel.”

It would be helpful for you to have a vitamin B12 level, a CBC and a thyroid function test done by a doctor to see if any of them are abnormal. If they are, treating the issue could be helpful. If they are not abnormal, this may be caused by genetics.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

i am 19 year old i have white hair in my beard give me tips

Hello sir, I am ritvik currently giving my 12 boards.I have found a white hair ,so what should I do to turn it black again and stop hair fall…..
Please reply …

Ritvim,

Thanks for writing in.

It is not uncommon for young people to have a few isolated white hairs, particularly if it runs in the family. Do others in your family have early gray or white hair?

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi my name is Cathy. I have 12 1/2 years old.

I have a few white hairs but I don’t know why. I don’t think this happened to my parents or grandparents. It may be the reflection of light, but I’m not sure. It may be stress.

Do you know what is happening?

Thanks!! :)

I’m only 14 years old and got most of my hair grey,I even told my parents about it but they say that its natural for our family as my mom also got it from her teenage.so can u please tell me a solution for it if there is any

why do my hair turn gray but i’m only 13 years old but it started at age 10 or 11 years old

Dear Kiara,

Thanks for writing in.

It is important to find out the cause of the gray hair to know how to stop or reverse it. Dr. Greene says, “When I see a child with gray hairs in my medical office, I look to three sources to try to determine the underlying cause. First, I find out what I can about the family history. Next, I perform a thorough physical examination looking for helpful clues. Finally, I obtain three laboratory tests: a vitamin B12 level, a complete blood count (CBC), and a thyroid function panel.”

It would be helpful for you to have a vitamin B12 level, a CBC and a thyroid function test done by a doctor to see if any of them are abnormal. If they are abnormal, treating the issue could be helpful. If they are all normal, the gray hair may be caused by genetics and the only way to change your gray hair it’s natural color is to dye your hair.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My sister of 14 months has 2 white hairs. If more white hairs appear, I will tell my mother to follow the procedure of tests suggested by the doctor. Just to clarify, this applies to both white and gray hair in children, correct?

Ricardo,

Thanks for writing in.

Yes, both white and gray hairs follow the same procedure.

Thanks for being such a great big brother!

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I have a 18mon old native boy who has gray patch at the back of the right side of his hair. It has been there since he was brought to us at 3 was old, so probably since birth. None of his other sibs have this that I know of.

My daughter is age 3 years and I have noticed strands of gray in her hair

Hi Kayley,
Thanks so much for writing in!
It is important to find out the cause of the gray hair to know how to stop or reverse it. Dr. Greene says, “When I see a child with gray hairs in the office, I look to three sources to try to determine the underlying cause. First, I find out what I can about the family history. Next, I perform a thorough physical examination looking for helpful clues. Finally, I obtain three laboratory tests: a vitamin B12 level, a complete blood count (CBC), and a thyroid function panel.”

It would be helpful for your daughter to have a vitamin B12 level, a CBC and a thyroid function test done by a doctor to see if any of them are abnormal. If they are, treating the issue could be helpful. If they are not abnormal, this may be caused by genetics and the only way to change the gray hair color may be vegetable-based hair dye.
Hope that helps!
Alexandra (caring helper at drgreene.com, not a doctor)

Doctor I have been having white hair since I was 12. My parents say it’s because of genetics. My dad had his when he was 4 yrs old.My white hairs are growing more and more and becoming more obvious ,that the second someone’s sits behind me they ask “do you have white hair?” So how do I stop it?

Hi Adrina,
Thanks for writing in! I’m sorry to hear that your white hair is causing you distress. It can also be beautiful!

Sounds like you’re pretty sure it’s genetic. Generally, it is important to find out the cause of the gray hair to know how to stop or reverse it. Dr. Greene says, “When I see a child with gray hairs in the office, I look to three sources to try to determine the underlying cause. First, I find out what I can about the family history. Next, I perform a thorough physical examination looking for helpful clues. Finally, I obtain three laboratory tests: a vitamin B12 level, a complete blood count (CBC), and a thyroid function panel.”

It would be helpful for you to have a vitamin B12 level, a CBC and a thyroid function test done by a doctor to see if any of them are abnormal. If they are, treating the issue could be helpful. If they are not abnormal, this may be caused by genetics and the only way to change your gray hair color may be hair dye. This is not permanent and will need to be repeated as your hair grows.
Hope that helps, hang in there!
Alexandra (caring helper at drgreene.com, not a doctor)

Doctor I have many white hair which is uncountable and I am 14 year old my friends and neighbours teases me a lot so is their any way to help me get my hair black

Raman,

It is important to find out the cause of the gray hair to know how to stop or reverse it. Dr. Greene says, “When I see a child with gray hairs in the office, I look to three sources to try to determine the underlying cause. First, I find out what I can about the family history. Next, I perform a thorough physical examination looking for helpful clues. Finally, I obtain three laboratory tests: a vitamin B12 level, a complete blood count (CBC), and a thyroid function panel.”

It would be helpful for you to have a vitamin B12 level, a CBC and a thyroid function test done by a doctor to see if any of them are abnormal. If they are, treating the issue could be helpful. If they are not abnormal, this may be caused by genetics and the only way to change your gray hair to black is to do is dye your hair.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi, I have a son who is almost 12 years old and he has a few gray hairs here and there. But I am a little concerned that this is happening as this similarly happened to me when I was younger. Do you think it is genetic or will cause him any bad side effects health wise?

At such a young age stress sgouldnt exactly be a concern as long as he has a healthy lifestyle, seeing as how you said you had this when you were younger it could most likely be genetic, check with your family and ask them if yhey had gray hairs when they were younger.