Can hair turn white from shock?

I’m not suggesting that it would do so immediatly, but can a person, due to sudden stress or trauma, lose the colouration in their hair as a result, or is this just a myth?

I don’t know of it ever happening to anyone I know.
Thankyou if you can indulge my curiousity with an answer!

Can hair turn white overnight? No, not really.

I know what The Perfect Master has said of this topic, however I must, respectfully, humbly, reluctantly, and perhaps stupidly, disagree.

I have seen this happen myself. Very long story, short: In 2000, I learned of some serious legal issues concerning a guy who worked for me, and he was a friend to boot. After basically explaining to him that his career was effectively over, he was completely devasted. This, coupled with the said legal issues and some personal issues all came to a head on one fateful evening for this very hard working man. This guys stress meter was pegged. I watched a half-dollar size spot of hair near his forehead turn white over the next 3 days.

Take that story for what it’s worth, I saw it my my own eyes.

I will now shut down my computer, and commence to flogging myself, while begging for the forgiveness of the all-knowing…

I’m with Chandeleur: I know a bloke who was enduring serious business and relationship stress. A spot of hair on the back of his head turned white, and, over a period of several weeks, grew out as a white streak in his otherwise black hair.

(It actually looked kinda good!)

Then that patch fell out, leaving him a small (about an inch) round bald spot.

As time went by, the hair grew back in, and, eventually turned black again. (However, I don’t know him well enough to be sure that that isn’t due to dye.)


Sometimes. But you can fix it with Grecian Formula. (Do they still even make that anymore? :smiley: )

Chandeleur. I still don’t believe that it can, even though I believe your story. I just haven’t figured out quickly how to explain it.

ditto for Trinopus.

A previous thread about this is HERE

Einstein’s hair turned partially white in just a couple years from an illness. IIRC he was in his mid 30s.

I can believe that hair would start growing in white. I don’t see how the hair that is already there could suddenly turn white though (unless it’s bleached of course).

What would cause this to happen?
I’m sure enzyme is the wrong word for describing things like adrenalin, dopamine, seratonin, melanin, etc., but I can’t remember the right terminology! (Endorphins?)
Anyway - could a concentration of one of those "-in"s prompt the colouration part of hair production to be knocked out, for a bit/permanently?

Btw, I read in a google search that keratin makes up hair, nails, and is part of the outermost layer of skin on the body.
My nails have no colour, but my hair does.
So colour must be an “added thing” to hair production, controlled by something else. (Melanin? Melatonin?)

All I can guess is that a large concentration of one of the other “-ins” (adrenalin?) might affect this.

Is there anyone who might be able to enlighten me with regard to this?

I think the word you’re searching for is “hormone”. Beyond that, I have no answers.

samclem, I understand completely. When I first read the Cecil column a few months ago, I considered responding. However, given the references and expertise consulted on the matter, I decided it might be in vain.

If I hadn’t seen this for myself, I’d be skeptical if I heard someone else relay a story similiar to mine.

But I, and everyone else at the unit saw this happen right before our eyes. It’s undeniable to me what caused it (the stress), and yet I have not a clue how it could be possible.

This guys life as he knew it came to an end in an instance, and the look of overwhelming pain and duress on his face for days afterwards was something he couldn’t hide. I really felt bad for him, he did not deserve the troubles he brought upon himself.

The spot became noticable after 2 days, and by the third day, it was completely white, on an otherwise brown hair covered head. It eventually grew out, and the last time I saw him, it was completey back to normal.

Fortunately, his troubles are past, he now has a good job in civilian life, and from what I hear, is preparing to marry soon.

It’s possible, according to, but it’s really a visual trick.

Even before Cecil had spoken, Bergen Evans, the Proto-Cecil, addressed this in one of his books, back in the 1940s or 1950s (A Natural History of Nonsense or On the Spoor of Spooks). His verdict: No.

About ten years ago, I went through a rather nasty time, divorce/relationship-type. Space won’t permit me to go into all the sordid details, but by way of example, within a three-day span I discovered that my wife of seven years was a cocaine user, had a boyfriend fifteen years her junior and a girlfriend (lesbian) ten years her senior, and had run up HUGE credit bills, mostly in my name. Then, as now, I wore a full beard, which had always been multi-colored but mostly dark brown. Within a few weeks, the facial hair on my cheeks and jaw had turned mostly white.

Coincidence? Maybe. Perhaps some hormonal shift was about to happen anyway. Today my beard is practically all white. But sometimes it’s fun to blame it all on her…

Chandeleur, I think I might be able to explain it. Whether it is correct in his case or not, I can’t be sure.

I’ve known two people that have had a peculiar white patch of hair surrounded by their normal colored hair. The first person was an African-American that I knew in high school. He had a white patch of hair right in the front of his head. I knew him from the time he was around 12 to around 16. The other guy is a friend of my wife. He has a white patch of hair on the right side of his head. According to my wife, he has had this since grade school.

Neither of these two people felt the need to hide the white patch with hair coloring, nor indeed, spend that kind of money for a 1 to 2 inch circle of white hair. However, I can see how someone might become self conscious of that and color it, especially in a professional environment. If such a person were so depressed they could barely drag themselves out of bed, they may not care if the coloring in their little white spot faded. That might have been the very least of your friend’s problems.

Like I said. Not a definative answer, but a good possibility.