Does Stress Really Cause Gray Hair?

The last thing you need when you feel stressed is more stress, and for plenty of people around the world, when they're stressed, they start to worry even more that all that angst will cause gray hair. But is there any truth to it? And is it worth stressing about?

"Graying typically happens with age but it's highly variable," Dr. Doris Day, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University told SHAPE. The reason for gray hair usually comes down to genetics and aging, but many believe there is a link between stress and gray hair related to cortisol, otherwise knows as the stress hormone. "When cortisol levels are high, it can affect and accelerate aging of the follicle," Dr. Day explains. In other words, stress can actually speed up the graying of hair.

Should you pluck gray hairs?

"The way people are built, our hair is designed to have color for 45 or 50 years," says Dr. Tyler Cymet, chief of clinical education at the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine told TIME. Basically, hair works in cycles, which last from a few years to a decade. Your hair grows, stays in place then falls out, and a new cycle begins. As you would know, every single hair grows at its own pace, meaning once your first gray hair appears, you can expect more to slowly start to show up. "Typically, if you're 50 percent gray you're going to be almost all gray by the end of the next cycle," Cymet says.

The best thing to do when you first spot a gray hair is to embrace it. "I wouldn't pluck them out because there's a chance they might not grow back," says Dr. Day. "And since you're only going to get more, there's only so much you can pluck." In other words, there's no need to stress.