The 43-year-old entrepreneur, model, and mother of four couldn’t hide her shock — something many of us can relate to — captioning it: “OMG …..just found my first grey,” along with an embarrassed face emoji.
Several people commented on Klum’s Instagram that they found their first grey hair much younger — in their early 20s — with some even saying they spotted their first pigment-free strand in their late teens. Although early 20s seems young for going grey, dermatologists say that’s not uncommon. “Most people notice at least a few grey hairs in their early 30s — with some identifying single grey hairs as early as their mid-twenties,” Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group, tells Yahoo Beauty. “If Heidi Klum didn’t notice her first grey hair until her 40s, it’s more proof of her being genetically blessed. But we already knew that.”
Even though nearly everyone turns grey eventually, scientists only recently discovered what causes grey hair. A 2005 study found that the number of melanocyte stem cells, which are responsible for hair color, decreases as we age, leading to grey hair. But when exactly that kicks in depends on your genes, as well as lifestyle factors. “We now know there is a genetic link that predetermines when you will start going grey,” explains Nazarian. “There’s also evidence that shows environmental factors such as vitamin deficiencies, stress, smoking, and sunlight may cause early greying of hair. So you can only partly blame your parents.”
If you spot some silver strands, don’t panic thinking you’ll turn grey overnight. You’ve got more time than you think. “It typically takes over a decade to go completely grey,” notes Nazarian. “Most people will notice a gradual shift in the ratio of grey hairs to colored hairs over the span of 10 to 30 years.”
While it may seem as though grey hair has a faster growth cycle than colored hair, with one popping up right after another, Nazarian says that’s a myth. “Grey hair grows no slower or faster than colored hair, but the general growth phase of the hair cycle starts to shorten as we age,” she explains. “So you may notice your hair is unable to grow to the same length it used to as you get older, which is when we tend to accumulate more grey hairs anyway. So it’s usually shorter and grayer the older we get.”
If you struggle with embracing your grey locks — even though dyeing hair grey has been a popular trend with celebrities, from Rihanna to Kylie Jenner — the good news is that science may one day find a “cure” for it. Scientists recently found the gene (IRF4) that’s responsible for hair losing its pigment, according to a 2016 study in the journal Nature Communications, which could one day lead to a treatment that prevents grey hair from ever cropping up.