With "Marie Antoinette Syndrome" hair supposedly turns gray overnight - is there truth behind this claim or is it just a myth?
More and more women are accepting their age and the resulting gray hair: positivity for naturally gray hair isn't just a hit online, we're also excited that women are proud and confident in wearing their hair gray instead of dying it. While it's the most normal thing in the world to get more and more gray hair over time, going to bed with brunette, black or blonde hair and waking up with a mane of gray hair would probably shock any of us. Apparently, that's exactly what happened to Queen Marie Antoinette of France.
The supposed condition of hair that goes gray overnight is called Canities Subita, or more simply, “Marie Antoinette Syndrome.” That's because the disgraced Queen of France woke up on the day of her execution with gray hair instead of her usual strawberry blonde. We know all too well similar myths about hair turning white overnight when we are exposed to too much stress. But how much truth is behind this story?
Zoe Passam, trichologist at Philip Kingsley, enlightens us: “It is not possible for pigmented hair to suddenly turn gray overnight. When melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) in the hair follicle stop producing melanin (the pigment responsible for hair color), the hair gradually turns gray. The average growth is 1 to 1.5 cm per month.” This means that hair cannot completely change color from one day to the next. The time it takes for a strand to go fully gray is the time it takes for the strand to reach its full length from the scalp level.
According to Passam, there is an unusual condition where the hair appears to turn gray very quickly. But this is a variant of patchy hair loss, alopecia areata. "Usually, this condition causes circular, bald patches on the scalp, but more rarely, the condition can also occur in a diffuse form, where hairs are lost from follicles." This can give the impression that they turn gray "overnight." However, this situation is often temporary until the lost pigmented hair grows back.
Passam explains that graying is genetic. This means that if one or both of the parents turned gray relatively early, the same could happen to you. Rapid or young graying can also indicate a vitamin B12 deficiency or gluten intolerance. Here are more surprising reasons for gray hair.