Scientists Figured Out Why Stress Turns Hair Gray

For too long, the creeping threat of going gray has lurked on the periphery of the human mind, invading our waking thoughts right around our 27th birthdays and ominously whispering "older" into our ear like an old fortune teller we just hit with our collective car. Figuratively speaking.

Now, according to a study recently published in Nature, scientists have discovered that graying hair, that long-dreaded (that's wordplay, and it's great) sign of inescapable mortality, may be caused by stress. So stop worrying about it and it won't happen. Are you still worried? It shows.

The study, which is titled "Hyperactivation of sympathetic nerves drives depletion of melanocyte stem cells" and is, scientifically speaking, totally slappin', states that the pigment-creating cells known as melanocytes are directly affected by the stress-related chemical released by the body when it goes into fight or flight mode. Specifically, noradrenaline seems to be the culprit.

Per Discovery, noradrenaline "causes melanocyte stem cells to differentiate and eventually move away from hair follicles. The result is a gradual depletion of melanocyte cells, and the loss of the color they provide."

'Salt-N-Pepa hair'

It's also worth noting that Ya-Chieh Hsu, a stem cell biologist working out of Harvard on the project, points out that other factors such as the body's natural loss of melanocytes with age, play a big part in the scalp's decision to try and make itself look more distinguished. Whatever causes your particular hair-coloring stem cells to disappear, however, she points out that the loss is permanent. Scientists hope to find ways of retaining or duplicating stem cells through this sort of research; in other words, ways to make people immortal.

More than anything, this discovery is a big win for the community of teenagers whose mothers claim that their receiving a C- in math is causing them to age horribly. It's not the grades, moms. It's your thrill-a-minute lifestyles.