Sunday SciKu | Evaporative Stress

Photo by Cristina Anne Costello via Unsplash

Another old axiom proves true: Stress really does turn your hair gray—and a relaxation can reverse it.

In this study out of Columbia University, researchers used a new technique to make ultra-fine slices through strands of hair, looking back in time the same way climatologists study ice cores. Each slice, 1/20th of a millimeter thick, represents about an hour of hair growth. They then compared changes in pigmentation to psychological stress recorded in the subjects’ diaries.

Grayness increased on stressful days. Moreover, one of the subjects went on vacation during the study, and the gray growth completely reversed over that period.

The researchers investigated more closely and found that these differences corresponded to changes in proteins related to mitochondrial function—our cellular energy factories. Evidence that mitochondria respond to psychological stress has important implications for the study of aging, which we do a lot of this time of year in the western woods.


dry summer
all the fuel in the foothills
going gray


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