Hair turning white with fright

Kondoru

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#1
Or stress

Any well documented cases

and why?

Why does hair change colour anyway?

My aunt died in her 80s and her hair was brown edged with grey!

My hair started out blonde, and is now dark brown.
 

rynner2

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#2
Oddly enough, I'm reading a crime book at present in which a US cop was once attacked with a knife to his head. His hair was partially shaved off so surgeons could repair the wound, but when it grew back he had a white streak in his dark hair.

Admittedly this is fiction, but maybe it was based on a real incident...
 

Xanatic_

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#3
Well, I could well imagine the knifing and the surgery could damage the hair follicles, more so than his fright could.
 

ginoide

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#4
a friend of my father's had a car accident in his late thirties and his hair turned white. i can't document it though...
 

Bloodbeard

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#5
Hair turning white

I remember watching the film version of Stephen King's `It` at my mates house and this happens to one of the characters. my mates mum was watching with us and claimed that this process is known as` dicdolleroo`, I am not sure of the spelling what a great name for any physical affliction!
 

Ravenstone

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#6
My great uncle drowned in the canal, aged 9 years, and was taken home in a wheelbarrow. Apparently, my great-grandmother went white overnight with grief.

Obviously, I can't prove it, but that's what she (she died when I was 22), my grandmother, and my mother have always maintained.

A cousin of mine suffered a severe car accident, well in her twenties. She suffered massive head injuries, as well as damage to other organs. There was little hope. The surgeon had to sew her liver back together, as was explained to the family. She used to have very blonde hair. Long blonde hair. Of course, with head injuries, her head was shaved. It grew back ginger - dark ginger.

I had black hair until a perm went drastically wrong. I basically ended up with an half inch buzz cut, after having hair half way down my back. Only the second time I've ever had my hair permed as well. When it grew back, it grew back a lighter shade. Sort of dark reddish brown more than black.
 

Zilch5

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#7
Apparently there is a condition called "alopecia areata" which causes your pigmented hairs to fall out, leaving the white ones (so far as you have them):

The hair can't actually turn white overnight, because all the hair is "dead", and the only way you can make its colour change is with dyes.

Hair gets its colour from a chemical called melanin, which is pumped in by cells at the base of the hair follicle. As your hair goes grey, these cells at the base stop making melanin. So some hairs will be their normal colour, but some (the ones without melanin) will be completely white. So here's a great truth - there's no such colour as grey hair. Grey hair is dark hairs, with the newer white hairs mixed in.

So how can somebody's hair turn white overnight? Easy, they first have grey hair (which is actually the mix of dark hair and white hair) - and then all the dark hair falls out over a few days.

This could be caused by a disease called alopecia areata , where your hair, for no apparent reason, simply falls out. Unlike common balding, alopecia areata is just as likely to happen in women as in men.

So if you've got grey hair, and those few remaining dark ones bail out, bingo - instant white hair! It can't happen overnight, but it can happen...
Source: http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/homework/s95605.htm
 

Polterdog

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#8
According to Gould and Pyle, there are a number of well-documented cases of hair "turning white with fright" -- or, at the very least, turning grey in states of heightened anxiety:

The well-accepted fact of the sudden changing of the color of the hair from violent emotions or other causes has always excited great interest, and many ingenious explanations have been devised to account for it. There is a record in the time of Charles V. of a young man who was committed in prison in 1546 for seducing his girl companion, and while there was in great fear and grief, expecting a death-sentence from the Emperor the next day. When brought before the judge, his face was wan and pale and his hair and beard grey, the change having taken place in the night. His beard was filthy with drivel, and the Emperor, moved by his pitiful condition, pardoned him. There was a clergyman of Nottingham whose daughter at the age of thirteen experienced a change from jet-blackness of the hair to white in a single night, but this was confined to a spot on the back of the head 1 1/2 inches in length. Her hair soon became striped, and in seven years was totally white.
Furthermore:

Voigtel mentions the occurrence of canities almost suddenly. Biehat had a personal acquaintance whose hair became almost entirely gray in consequence of some distressing news that reached him. Cassan records a similar case. According to Rayer, a woman by the name of Perat, summoned before the Chamber of Peers, to give evidence in the trial of the assassin Louvel, was so much affected that her hair became entirely white in a single night.
And so on. See George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle: Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine (Bell Publishing Company, New York, 1973?), pp235-9.
 

DougalLongfoot

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#9
A friend of mine's fiance died in his sleep (the adult form of "cot death") back in 2000. The stress made her lose a lot more hair than normal, though not to the extent of bald spots. When it grew back in, her hair became wavy for several years, whereas before it had been straight. no abnrmally rapid changes of colour though.
 

cranionaut

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#10
Kondoru said:
Or stress

Any well documented cases

and why?

Why does hair change colour anyway?

My aunt died in her 80s and her hair was brown edged with grey!

My hair started out blonde, and is now dark brown.

Are you talking little strands white , or Ash - evil dead / leland - twin peaks white ?
 

EnolaGaia

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#13
rynner2 said:
Oddly enough, I'm reading a crime book at present in which a US cop was once attacked with a knife to his head. His hair was partially shaved off so surgeons could repair the wound, but when it grew back he had a white streak in his dark hair.

Admittedly this is fiction, but maybe it was based on a real incident...
I can verify that injury can indeed result in white hair.

Until the area became bald (and all the other hair had grayed to match it), I'd sported a single patch of solid white hair on the crown of my head from childhood.

My mother explained that I'd fallen as a toddler and cut my scalp at exactly that location. After it healed, the hair growing at the wound site (an area maybe 1 inch square) was pure white thereafter.
 

Polterdog

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#14
Apparently, the phenomenon isn't limited to humans (or even mammals). Again, from Gould and Pyle:

Crocker cites the case of a Spanish cock which was nearly killed by some pigs. The morning after the adventure the feathers of the head had become completely white, and about half of those on the back of the neck were also changed[1].
I believe that I have other similar animal "blanchings" on record somewhere (I'll see if I can dig them up) so the melanin-based theory (or theories involving human hormones or disease) seem equally invalid.

Polterdog.

[1]George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle: Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine (Bell Publishing Company, New York, 1973?), pp237.
 

dweezil1

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#15
Annie Oakley:

Meanwhile the show went on, and it became more of a road show than ever. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West played in more than 130 towns in both 1895 and 1896. In 1897, the Wild West played in Canada for the first time since Sitting Bull was a headliner in 1885. Annie admitted in 1899 that she had begun to at least think about retirement. The railroad travel was endless, and it had its dangers. Train accidents were not uncommon.

One notable wreck occurred at 3 a.m. on October 29, 1901, near Lindwood, N.C., while the company was headed to Danville, Va., for its last performance of the season. When the first section passed the switching station, the switcher thought that it was the whole outfit, so he threw the switch. The second section ran into an oncoming train. The wooden cars became so many piles of kindling as people and animals cried out in pain and steam hissed. Legend says that Annie Oakley, now 41, was found pinned beneath the rubble and it took several hours before she could be extracted. As Li’l Missie was carried by stretcher past some wounded horses that had to be shot, she supposedly remarked that she felt sorry for them. Just 17 hours after the wreck, according to legend, her brown hair turned totally white because of the horror of the accident.

Biographer Shirl Kasper, however, argues that Annie was not badly hurt in the wreck (the Charlotte Observer reported that nobody from the Wild West was injured) and that while Annie’s hair did turn white rather fast, it wasn’t because of the train wreck. Two newspaper articles in Annie’s scrapbooks at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center say that her hair turned white after she sat too long in a hot bath at a health resort later that year. In any case, says Kasper, it was her white hair, not any bodily injuries, that convinced Annie Oakley to immediately leave Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.
http://www.historynet.com/annie-oakley.htm
 

MsQkxyz

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#16
Ive come across several accounts in books and articles of this happening over the years too and often wondered about it.
When I was a kid a close family friend had a nervous breakdown. She was only about 28 and I recall being surprised that one day when I saw her as her hair had turned completely grey. It had been a healthy brown the previous time I saw her, but I dont remember what length of time had passed - obviously more than one night. I do remember wondering however how it can be that hair which youve already grown can change colour. Its possible of course that she had started to go grey early for some reason and been dying her hair. She was a hairdresser lol.
 

Ringo

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#17
When my parents split up I was 10 years old. They divorced when I was 13 and I started going grey during the divorce months. By the time I was 18 I had about 50/50 and now aged 31, I have about 90% grey or white hair.

I think it looks quite distinguished but I certainly put it down to stress and worry. Sometimes, when I'm really stressed I can convince myself that my hair looks whiter than usual.

Both of my parents have dark hair (although my father is now about 50%50 aged 63).
 

LordRsmacker

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#18
How come no-one has mentioned, um, that famous actor.


The one who likes gerbils.



Which, as any "bloke in the pub" will tell you, is why his hair went grey when he was so young. So it must be true, it's on the internet and everything.
 

Xanatic_

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#21
There is also Steve Martin. I think he claims his hair went white after smoking some extra strong weed.
 

Zilch5

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#22
But according to the sources, Steve Martin's hair went white slowly:

Martin graduated to opening for rock performers, where his long hair, scraggly beard, and hippie wardrobe aligned him firmly with the counterculture movement of the era. However, while in his twenties his hair began to go white; gradually, Martin began adapting his on-stage persona to fit the change, re-emerging as a clean-cut, immaculately dressed conservative.
Source: http://www.answers.com/topic/steve-martin
 

milk23

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#24
I knew a fellow who had a streak of white through one eyebrow which continued, in a curved line, up through his fringe before petering out towards his crown. i asked everyone (but him) at the time what had happened and was surprised that none of his much closer pals had
ever asked about it. It looked cool as could be
 

thealien2000uk

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#25
Hair turning white over night

When I was at school a friend of mine who's hair turned white after he found his mother hanging from thier living room light.

We used to walk home together from school but my house was a little further away from school than his, so I left him at his house and carried on to my own home, but after the funeral he returned to school sporting a Mallen streak (reference of a TV period drama) of pure white hair from slightly to the left of centre of his forehead to his crown and quite thick/wide say about 1-2 inches in width.

We tried to dye his hair several times with natural (dark brown) and un-natural (red, blue, green, and jet black) to no avail it refused to colour.

Since when coming across stories of this sort many doctors say that it is medically imposible for hair to turn white as quickly as his did or to a person so young (he was only 14 years old).

He said he woke the following morning with the streak and after a while accepted his Mallen Streak and even said it suited him.
 
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