If You Notice White Pubic Hair (Or Gray)—Here's Why and How To Slow It Down

White pubic hair is normal as you age. If it concerns you, here are some ways you can stop or slow the process.

So you're in the bathroom getting ready to clean, shave, or trim your pubic hair when you suddenly spot it—your first gray pubic hair. It's often unexpected, and it is normal if it upsets you. After all, you know that the hair on your head will eventually go gray; perhaps you've even spotted gray strands already.

But gray or white pubic hair? It can feel like a major surprise, though it's completely natural and normal, affecting "just about everyone who lives long enough," Donnica Moore, MD, a Chester, New Jersey-based gynecologist and president of Sapphire Women's Health Group, told Health. Typically hair starts to lose pigment on your head first, but sometimes the order seems reversed if you're used to dyeing the hair on your head and don't notice gray strands.

Even though gray or white pubic hairs are part of normal aging, that doesn't mean you have no say in the process. Here are some factors that contribute to hair graying—some you have no control over, others you do.

Normal Aging

Just as wrinkles and saggy skin are influenced by age, the same goes for gray hair. What happens is that as you get older, your hair follicles decrease their production of melanin. Melanin is the pigment responsible for creating the hair and skin color determined by your genes. So when your hair turns gray, it has less melanin. When it turns white, hair has no melanin, so it lacks any coloring.

Family History

When and how quickly you start getting gray hairs "is very hereditary. If your family members got gray hair sooner than average, then there's a higher chance you will as well," Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist, told Health. To give you a sense of what's average, almost a quarter of the population will see 50% of head hair turn gray by age 50, Dr. Moore said.

What You Eat

Not consuming enough protein or skimping on your intake of foods with vitamin B12 can accelerate the graying process, including the hair on your private parts, Dr. Moore said. While there are many ways to meet the recommended requirement of daily protein, getting the right amount of vitamin B12 can be tricky for vegetarians and vegans because this nutrient is typically found in meat and poultry. However, taking a supplement can ensure that you meet your needs—and slow down those gray hairs.

If you are concerned you are deficient in vitamin B12, check in with your healthcare provider. They can run any necessary tests and help you find appropriate ways to meet your body's needs.

If You Smoke

"Smoking is bad for everything in your body, and hair color is no exception," Dr. Moore said. Dr. Moore also said her patients have noticed that their cigarette habit speeds up the graying process.

In addition, a systematic review published in the journal Skin Appendage Disorders in July 2021 examined the relationship between smoking and hair health. They included thirty-two studies about this topic in their review. They found that not only does smoking contribute to hair turning gray early, but it also contributes to hair loss, called alopecia.

Your Stress Level

Previous studies have linked increased stress with gray hair. An article published in the journal Developmental Cell in March of 2020 discussed a study that involved mice. The researchers explored how stress may decrease the number of stem cells in hair follicles. Fewer stem cells mean fewer cells that produce melanin, the pigment that causes your hair to be a particular color.

Further, an additional study published in The Journal of Cosmetic Cosmetology in April 2020 looked at the effect of stress on hair turning gray early. The researchers found that there may be an association between people with higher anxiety and stress levels and early graying hair.

People often joke about how stressful situations can impact hair turning gray early. However, these two articles mentioned above shed some light on the science behind the process.

Medical Conditions May Cause White Pubic Hair

It is important to recognize there may be a few medical reasons why your pubic hair appears white. If you suspect one of these issues is causing your white pubic hair, it can be a good idea to call or visit your healthcare provider.

Pubic Lice

According to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, pubic lice are tiny insects that inhabit your pubic hair. They lay eggs in your pubic hair area, called nits. These nits attach to the hair shaft. They can appear gray or white, giving your pubic hair a gray or white appearance.

If you have pubic lice, you will likely have other symptoms, especially itching where you have pubic hair. This itching may be worse at night. While you may develop itching immediately after exposure to pubic lice, it can take two to four weeks to develop symptoms.

Fortunately, pubic lice are treatable by a healthcare professional. While there are over-the-counter treatments for pubic lice, it is a good idea to visit your healthcare professional, as pubic lice can be a sexually transmitted infection. You may want to be tested for other sexually transmitted infections. If you have a partner, they will likely need to be treated too. Again, your healthcare provider can provide guidance.

White Piedra

White piedra is an uncommon reason you may notice your pubic hair appearing white. According to a study on the disease by the journal of Skin Appendage Disorders, published in April 2019, it is caused by mycosis, which means a type of fungal infection. The most common infection is through the genus Trichosporon, although research has identified other mycoses that can cause the infection.

The infection is rare and occurs when whiteish-colored nodules attach themselves to the hair base. When white piedra does occur, it is most commonly found on the head. However, it can be found on other body hair, including pubic hair.

It is most common in humid and tropical climates. In the study referenced above, those with the disease almost all had long hair with exposure to excessive moisture.

While this is an unlikely cause of white pubic hair, it is possible, especially if you have spent time in warm, humid conditions. Fortunately, the condition is treatable with anti-fungal shampoos and medication. However, if you are concerned you may have white piedra, reach out to your healthcare provider, and they can help determine a diagnosis and proper treatment.

Vitiligo

Remember that melanin is what gives your hair its pigmentation or color. Vitiligo causes the skin to lose pigmentation. This is called depigmentation.

Vitiligo is considered an autoimmune condition and is chronic. This means that while the condition may improve with treatment, individuals with vitiligo typically have the condition for life.

According to Medline Plus, an online health resource that is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitiligo can happen anywhere on the body, including the genitals. It causes patches of skin to lose their pigmentation, turning a whitish color. However, because it affects the cells that give pigment, melanocytes, it can cause pubic hair to lose its color, too, turning white.

It is important to note that while it can cause white patches on the genital region, it is not a sexually transmitted infection, nor is it contagious. While there is no cure, there are treatments to help reduce any depigmentation and slow the spread.

If you are concerned you have vitiligo, reach out to your healthcare provider. They can help assess your symptoms and determine a treatment plan to meet your needs.

What You Can Do

Aging is the most common reason your pubic hair turns gray or white. And while you can't change your genes and the normal aging process, you can slow down pigment loss and those white pubic hairs by eating properly, quitting smoking, and decreasing stress in your life. But, of course, you could also embrace those gray and white curlies—or look into pubic hair dye (yes, it's a thing).

But dying your pubic hair comes with risks. "I personally would discourage women from doing it because we're weighing the cost-benefit ratio," Dr. Moore said. In the worst case, you might develop an allergic reaction from the dye since the skin of your genital area is hypersensitive—especially for people in their fifties or older who are post-menopausal.

Still not ready to deal with white or gray pubic hair? "Limit exposure of the dye over the pubic bone area and near the labia and vulva," Dr. Moore said.

Another option is to own your graying or white pubic hair and recognize it is likely a part of normal aging.

And if you are concerned your white or gray pubic hairs are caused by a medical condition, such as pubic lice, white piedra, vitiligo, or any other health concerns you may have, reach out to your healthcare provider for advice.

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