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It is normal for hair to lose color and turn gray as people age. However, today’s stressful lifestyle can accelerate this process resulting in grey hair appearing on people even in their 20s! Initially thought as a permanent change, new research reveals hair greying can be reversed - at least temporarily!

How Does Hair Get Its Color

Hair greying occurs when melanin, a natural skin pigment that is responsible for hair, skin, and eye color, is gradually lost due to aging. At first, hair grows unpigmented out of the hair follicles. 

Two pigments, melanin (produced by melanocytes) and keratin (produced by keratinocytes), together add color to the hair. Both melanocytes and keratinocytes are present near the follicles.

Melanin has two different versions - eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin gives rise to a red/yellow pigment (seen in blonde/ginger hair), and pheomelanin gives rise to a brown/black pigment (seen in brunette/black hair).

Types of melanin

The distribution of eumelanin and pheomelanin is influenced by genetics, especially the MC1R gene

What Causes Grey Hair?

McSCs and Hair Greying

As our body ages, so do stem cells - the parent cells of all functional cells of the body. Melanocytes are produced by melanocyte stem cells (McSCs). 

Aging causes a loss of McSCs - so melanocyte production also gradually decreases. In the absence of melanin pigment, the hair turns grey. 

Hair greying is influenced by genetic factors and the environment (including lifestyle). One of the major environmental contributors happens to be stress. 

A previous study done by Harvard University explored stress-induced hair greying in mice. They observed that stress triggered the release of a chemical, norepinephrine, which affected the McSCs. 

Norepinephrine accelerated the conversion of McScs to melanocytes, thereby depleting the population of McScs. This ultimately resulted in a complete halt in the hair coloration process. 

This process was also noted to be irreversible in mice.

IRF4 - The Hair Greying Gene

In 2016, researchers at UCL, UK, found the first-ever gene, IRF4 (interferon regulatory factor 4), associated with hair greying. IRF4 is actively involved in the regulation of the production and storage of melanin. 

This gene interacts with MITF (microphthalmia-associated transcription factor) to activate tyrosine, a critical factor in melanogenesis (the process of melanin production). MITF has been known to repress McSCs survival and affect hair greying. 

So, researchers hypothesize that IRF4 might influence the hair greying process. However, the exact mechanism behind this is still unclear.

The Study: Stress-induced Hair Greying May Be Reversible!

Researchers at the Columbia University Irving Medical center undertook a small-scale study to observe how stress affected hair greying. The study included 14 participants from varying age groups, ethnicities, and sexes - most people, however, were white. The researchers collected dark, white, and two-colored hair (hair with partial greying) from these people.

The researchers used a digital and mathematical model to map and measure small color changes in a single hair. They found that over a stress-filled period, the hair started greying. 

Surprisingly, the removal of the stress stimulus resulted in an apparent reversal of greying, and the hair became colored again.

To understand the mechanism behind this, the researchers studied thousands of other proteins in the hair. They observed changes in 300 out of the 1000 proteins as the hair greyed.

They also suspect the role of mitochondria in stress-induced hair greying. Mitochondria, other than being involved in energy production, also plays an important role in transmitting signals that respond to psychological stress. 

Hair Greying Is Reversible - But Only in Some!

A 70-year old with a head full of white hair cannot reverse hair greying by reducing stress. At the same time, 10-year-olds, no matter how much stress they experience, are not going to suddenly wake up to a head full of white hair. 

The study reports a "threshold" or a limiting situation at which a hair turns grey permanently. Somewhere in middle age, as we approach this threshold, stress can accelerate the transition. 

Reducing stress in life is most definitely a good thing. But once you cross this threshold, it's not going to reverse your hair greying.

Let's Delay Hair Greying

  1. Exercising, meditation, and a balanced, healthy diet are few of the most effective ways to keep your stress at bay.
  2. Reducing sugar intake can help prolong the life of adult stem cells.
  3. Alcohol intake negatively impacts stem cell function. So keep drinking to a minimum.
  4. A lack of good sleep persistently can be very detrimental to stem cell function in the body. It is important to ensure 7-8 hour sleep cycles.


  1. Stress-induced hair greying occurs as a result of loss in melanin-producing cells.
  2. A study has reported that in some cases, when stress is removed, the changes associated with hair greying are reversed.
  3. A healthy lifestyle with good dietary habits, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and minimum stress can help prolong hair greying.



Affecting more than 415 million people globally, rosacea is a common skin condition, although a poorly understood one. The face and eyes are primarily affected, and the condition is often mistaken for being an 'adult acne'. According to a National Rosacea Society survey, close to 95% of patients know next to nothing about the signs just before being diagnosed. So, what are the types of rosacea and how different are they from acne? And, what's the role of your DNA in all of this?

The basics of rosacea

Dating back to the 14th century, Rosacea was first called 'goutresse’, by a French doctor because of the facial redness it caused. The condition is now known to be chronic and inflammatory. There are different types of rosacea, most often accompanied by swollen red bumps and small visible blood vessels.

Since the condition mostly affects the face, they’re often mistaken for acne, eczema, or allergy. It predominantly known to affect females, especially when they are between 30 and 50 years of age. Those of European ancestry are also at a higher risk for the condition.

Types of rosacea: Just how many are there?

Rosacea is kind of an umbrella term that covers the four different subtypes:

Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR)
Symptoms:  Facial redness, flushing, and visible blood vessels.
Papulopustular (or acne) rosacea
Symptoms: Acne-like breakouts, swelling, and redness.
Phymatous/Rhinophyma rosacea
Symptoms: Thickening and redness, mostly on the nose. Often co-exists with other types.
Ocular rosacea
Symptoms: Redness in the eye, along with irritation and swollen eyelids.

Symptoms: The giveaways of rosacea

  1. Facial redness: A persistent redness on the face, especially around the central part. Small blood vessels become visible. 
  2. Swollen, red bumps: Pimples are seen across the face, and the swollen bumps may also contain pus. 
  3. Eye problems: Mainly seen if a person has ocular rosacea. This results in swollen, often irritated and dry eyes.
  4. Swollen nose: Associated with rhinophyma rosacea, the skin under the nose thickens and starts to swell. This is more seen in men than in women.

Rosacea: What are the triggers?

Before taking up a certain course of treatment, dermatologists often look for common triggers that cause a rosacea flare-up. The common triggers are:

Out new: Magnesium Requirements: Understanding The Genetics Behind It and More

Genetics and rosacea

Genetic factors have been shown to play a role in increasing the risk of the condition. Since the most apparent symptoms are redness and inflammation of the skin, rosacea could be caused by genes associated with blood vessel abnormalities and immune reactions. Rosacea is caused by mutations in two gene families:

Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex:

The HLA genes, primarily involved in immune function, help the body in distinguishing foreign proteins from the body’s own. Variations in these genes have also been linked to rosacea symptoms - when the immune system misdirects the response, causing inflammation of the blood vessels.


The proteins encoded by the GSL gene family help in protecting cells from oxidative damage - for example, the ones caused by exposure to sunlight and UV rays. Mutations in this gene complex could affect its efficiency in protecting skin cells, leading to rosacea.

Effects of gene variants

A genome-wide study that analyzed over 20,000 individuals with European descent was able to set forth a genetic basis to Rosacea. In this preliminary study, volunteers who were in the ‘cases’ group having answered yes to rosacea symptoms, were tested for genetic variation. One variant was found to be associated with disease occurrence, and this is located between two genes - HLA-DRA and BTNL2. The variant was found to influence the inflammatory response associated with rosacea.

A coincidental finding of this study was that variations in the HLA gene were also related to symptoms of diabetes and celiac disease, giving a suggestive link that rosacea may act as a visual cue to another underlying disease.

Rosacea and acne: What’s their relation? 

It is easy to misdiagnose rosacea for acne, but there are several subtle differences:

TriggerOrgans affectedRisk groupTreatment
Rosacea- Stress
- Sunlight
- Exercise
- Spicy food
- Alcohol
- Eyes
- Eyelids
- Cheeks
- Nose
- Forehead
- 30+ years
- Women 
- Men (severe form)
- Topical solutions
- Retinoids
- Laser therapy
- Antibiotics
Ance- Hormonal imbalances
- Medications
- Stress
- Diet
- Face
- Chest
- Back
- Shoulders
- Teenagers
- Young adults
- Topical solution
- Retinoids
- Chemical peels
- Antibiotics

Getting the diagnosis right

There is no direct diagnosis for this condition. The main indicator of rosacea is that the redness is contained to the face or the presence of enlarged blood vessels on the face. 

I. Preliminary diagnosis:

The preliminary diagnosis occurs with a physical examination of the face. If there is scarring elsewhere (like on the scalp), or if the doctor suspects another medical condition, like lupus, blood tests would be ordered. 

II. Clinical tests:

Other clinical tests would also be performed to rule out other confounding conditions like psoriasis or eczema. If the symptoms include the eyes, consultation with an ophtlamologist may be required.

Fighting different types of rosacea with dietary changes 

What should you avoid?

Several foods could trigger flare-ups. It is preferred that these are limited or avoided:

  1. Alcohol - Even a tiny amount of alcohol (champagne, vodka, beer, gin, and bourbon) has resulted in flareups in a majority of patients.
  2. Hot beverages - Drinking hot beverages can cause the vessels on the face to dilate, causing a blushed appearance.
  3. Spicy foods - Most spicy foods contain the chemical ‘capsaicin’. Eating foods that contain this chemical, can worsen symptoms. Avoid jalapenos, chilies, or tabasco peppers.
  4. Dairy - Common culprits are milk, sour cream, yogurt, and cheese.
  5. It is also recommended to avoid foods that contain high amounts of histamine and cinnamaldehyde, like chocolate, nuts, cinnamon, and foods pickled with vinegar.

What should you add?

Foods that reduce inflammation, healthy fats, probiotics, and fiber-rich foods may be able to help or reduce the severity of some rosacea symptoms. These include:

  1. Whole foods like oatmeal and brown rice
  2. Nuts, fatty fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  3. Berries, rich in antioxidants
  4. Yogurt, sauerkraut, miso are probiotic foods
  5. Fiber-rich foods like bananas, onions, leeks, garlic, and whole grains

Skincare: When too much becomes too little 

People with rosacea may develop really sensitive skin, that could be easily irritated by the wrong choice of cleansers, creams, and makeup. Some common triggers:

Treatment: How effective are they? 

Rosacea could become severe if left untreated. However, most treatment practices help in managing symptoms. The course of treatment usually differ based on the types of rosacea.

  1. Medications: Azelaic acid clears up the bumps and swellings. Antibiotics help in clearing bacteria, reducing swelling too.
  2. Gels: Brimonidine is a gel that helps in tightening blood vessels on the face, reducing the redness.
  3. Alternate treatments: Lasers and light treatment help in tightening blood vessels in extreme cases. Dermabrasion can also be done if recommended by the physician

It is important to note that rosacea is a chronic condition and so these treatments only help in reducing the intensity of the symptoms.

The power of home remedies 

There are a lot of DIY/home remedies to manage rosacea:


In all, the many types of rosacea are chronic and inflammatory that requires intensive care and a strict diet and skincare regime. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, and maybe there could be a link between rosacea and other underlying diseases, but that can only be determined through more studies. Currently, there is no treatment, however, symptoms can be managed.



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