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

So you're turning into a silver fox below the belt. Now what?

So you're in the bathroom getting ready to do some below-the-belt grooming 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 going gray down below is part of Mother Nature's plan, that doesn't mean you have no say in the process. Here are some factors that give you a salt and pepper look—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 Smoke

"Smoking is bad for everything in your body, and hair color is no exception," Dr. Moore said. She also said her patients have noticed that their cigarette habit speeds up the graying process. In addition, a study published in 2021 examined the relationship between smoking and hair health. This study 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. A 2013 study on mice in the journal Nature found that stress decreased the number of stem cells in the base of the mice's hair follicles. Fewer stem cells mean fewer cells that produce melanin, the pigment that causes your hair to be a particular color.

A study in 2021 explored this concept further and 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.

Just look at any before-and-after photograph of a United States president, and you can likely notice this effect.

What You Can Do

Though 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 (yep, it's a thing).

But dying your down-below 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.

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