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Freshly Baked Science

White With Fear

30th October 2018

Watch out this Halloween because a big fright or a lot of stress can turn your hair white overnight… or can it?

 

It’s commonly believed that being frightened can turn your hair white. In fact, this occurrence is dubbed the ‘Marie Antoinette Syndrome’. Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution but, later in her life, she was executed for high treason. It’s written in history books that her hair turned white the night before her execution! Some say that this could have been due to her not being able to access any hair dye or it could have just been an old wives tale! Either way, we wanted to find out whether it was possible for hair to suddenly turn white...so we did some research!

 

The short answer is that it is scientifically impossible for hair to turn white overnight. This is because your hair is dead. Hair which grows beyond the surface of the skin, i.e. visible hair, is made up of dead cells (which is why it doesn’t hurt when you get a haircut!). Due to this, our hair can’t be affected by any changes in our body, including stress and fear responses.

 

It’s still possible for hair to turn white through stress or shock, but the change would definitely not happen overnight! White hair is the result of a lack of pigment, which usually gives our hair colour. Stress or shock could cause pigment to stop being produced, resulting in white hair, however, this would start to appear as the hair grows out. Any hair which is already visible would remain pigmented and the lack of pigment would only affect the newly forming cells (at the roots).

 

So it may be possible for a Halloween fright to cause your hair to turn white… but you wouldn’t even notice until many weeks later! If you liked this article, be sure to subscribe to get email updates, as well as our first magazine issue sent straight to your inbox, as soon as it’s released, on 10th January 2019!

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