Canities Gray Hair




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Premature Graying Hair (Canities)

Premature graying hair, also known as canities, is mainly a genetic condition.  Hair follicles contain pigment cells that produce melanin, which gives your hair their colour.  When your body stops generating melanin, your hair turns to gray, silver, or white in colour. Canities is a pigment deficiency often seen in middle-aged men and women.  The “graying” of hair is an illusion caused by white hairs next to pigmented hairs. Canities may precede the development of all white hair. It is usually associated with ageing, but other conditions may cause pre-mature graying in people in their teens, 20’s or 30’s.   Canities due to ageing is known as canities senilis. Canities in young and middle-aged adults is known as canities premature.

There are two types of canities; Acquired canities and Congenital canities.

Acquired canities: natural graying of hair due to the ageing process.   Usually genetically pre-determined.

Congenital canities: occurs before birth where there is an absence of melanin in the hair resulting in white hair on the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes (eg. Albinos).

Can Gray Hair Turn Back to its Original Colour Again?

Gray hair caused by the natural ageing process cannot go back to it’s original colour.  White hair due to stress, bleaching, certain foods, pollution, and vitamin deficiency can turn back to it’s original colour again if the underlying issue stops.

Stress and Premature Graying

It was said that Queen Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) of France’s hair turned stark white overnight after her capture following the ill-fated flight to Varennes during the French Revolution.  Her capture and death sentence to the guillotine probably caused extreme levels of emotional stress to her, which, in turn, caused her hair to lose pigmentation overnight.  This condition of sudden hair turning white is often called Marie Antoinette Syndrome. History also records that the hair of the English martyr Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) turned white overnight in the Tower of London before his execution.  Today, the syndrome is interpreted as an acute episode of diffuse alopecia areata in which the very sudden “overnight” graying is caused by the preferential loss of pigmented hair in this supposedly immune-mediated disorder.  This observation has led some experts to hypothesize that the autoimmune target in alopecia areata may be related to the melanin pigment system.  Whether hair can turn white overnight may be an exaggeration. The hair whitening process due to extreme stress can takes many days or weeks to occur.

Disease and Premature Graying

Sometimes premature graying can be a sign of disease. These diseases include:

  • Hormonal imbalances, including Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism.
  • Malnutrition (poor diet or gastro-intestinal problems).

Pernicious anemia (symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath and possibly chest pains).

Does Pulling Gray Hairs Cause More graying?

It is a myth that pulling out one gray hair results in two gray hairs growing.  What happens is when you pull a gray hair out, it is possible that the neighboring gray hair is in the process of growing, so both gray hairs in proximity can appear at the same time.

What is the Best Treatment for Premature Gray Hair?

If your hair is turning gray prematurely, besides genetics, it could be other factors causing the graying.  Your hair is made of protein and keeping your hair healthy has a lot to do with nutrition and your diet. Vitamin deficiency, a poor diet, yoyo dieting, can cause hair loss and premature graying.

Micronutrients for Canities

The role of diet and nutrition to help treat canities is growing. New evidenced-based recommendations that micronutrients including certain vitamins and minerals have shown positive results. Although you can’t prevent graying due to the natural process of ageing, there may be things you can do to prevent premature graying.  Micronutrients can reduce oxidative stress, an increasingly suspected contributor to canities. Vitamin D have shown to help modify the immune response by inhibiting Th1 cell proliferation.

Vitamin D – Vitamin D boosts immunity, keeps bones strong and skin healthy, stimulates cell growth, and helps create new hair follicles. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to canities.

Biotin – Biotin is an important coenzyme for carboxylation reactions. Biotin deficiency has been shown to be a contributor to canities.

Zinc – Zinc is an essential mineral upon which hundreds of enzymes depend for their catalytic activity.

Iron or ferritin – Iron deficiency remains the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, a sign of which includes canities.

Vitamin A or retinoid or retinol – Vitamin A is an essential vitamin for hair follicles. It also helps skin glands make sebum. Sebum moisturizes the scalp and helps keep hair healthy.

Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. It also helps your body absorb iron, a mineral necessary for healthy hair.

Vitamin E – Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that can prevent oxidative stress. In one documented study, people with hair loss experienced a 34.5% increase in hair growth after supplementing with vitamin E for 8 months.

Magnesium – Magnesium acts as a cofactor for over 300 enzyme systems, and plays an important role in nucleotide synthesis, a frequent process in the rapidly dividing hair follicle.

Selenium – Selenium also contributes to antioxidant defense mechanisms via its interaction with the enzyme glutathione peroxidase.

Vitamin B12 or cobalamin – B12 contribute to nucleic acid production and thus possess an important role in the health of the hair follicles.

Folic acid or folate – Folic acid is primarily responsible for healthy cell growth including the cells in hair follicles.

Copper – copper acts with zinc in the antioxidant enzyme copper/zinc superoxide dismutase.

Adding certain vitamins and minerals can help promote healthy hair and nurture the hair follicles and scalp.  Speak with a certified Trichologist on the best dietary, vitamins and minerals to help you with canities.

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With the numerous available treatments for for pre-mature graying hair our Trichologist can recommend the best treatment that can help with this hair condition. At Trichology Centre, we have helped patients with pre-mature graying, advising them the best treatments available and helping them regain their confidence and self-esteem. Early assessment and treatment from the onset of hair loss is important and can help prevent the condition to worsen.

We have two clinics in the Toronto GTA,


225 Wellesley St E, Toronto
9140 Leslie St, Richmond Hill.
Please give us a call at 647-492-9093


Toronto, 225 Wellesley St East #5

Richmond Hill, 9140 Leslie St #301


(647) 492-9093



Mon-Sat 10:30 am - 8:00 pm

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