Whitebeard: how does it work?

Many of you notice that, from time to time, a white hair appears in your beautiful yet vigorous beard. Do you want to know the reason? So here we go for a new article from the pharmacist. Let's find out together why your beard turns white !

White beard and the 6 causes

Man with white beard

To begin, let's look at the mechanisms involved. First of all, the beard works the same way as hair. You have white beard hair for the same reason you have white hair. This depigmentation is intrinsically linked to a problem with the melanocytes .

Melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin , a natural pigment , responsible for the color of your hair and skin. At the level of the hair follicle, the source of the hair, melanocytes are produced by stem cells . In the anagen phase (growth phase), these stem cells divide and generate a line of new melanocytes. These will produce the melanin necessary for the coloring of the new hair, then die. A new lineage will be created again by the same stem cells during the next growth phase. So, if your hair is white, there are three possible reasons :

  • You no longer have stem cells
  • Your stem cells are still present but are not producing a new line of melanocytes
  • Your stem cells are present and functional, but the new line of melanocytes does not make melanin .

The main factors identified as likely to lead to one or more of these dysfunctions are as follows:

Age and canities

Vanity painting by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)

Vanity of Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)

Over time, the mechanisms for synthesizing and integrating melanin into the hair tend to weaken, causing the appearance of white hair. This is called canity . It's not yet 100% clear how this works, but there is currently a lot of interest in aging of the hair pigmentation system. It seems that with age, the renewal of melanocyte progenitor stem cells has difficulty occurring, leading to a total depletion of the stock. On average, the first white hairs appear around age 35 for men .

Stress and white hair

The expression " getting white hair " comes from a physiological reality, and also concerns the beard. Indeed, for several months, we have had scientific proof that excess stress over-stimulates the melanocyte progenitor stem cells in the hair follicle, which ends up eliminating them completely. However, if there are no more stem cells, they cannot divide into melanocytes, which produce melanin. Which causes the appearance of white hairs and hairs, almost permanently.

Oxidation and white beard

Photo oxidation

Oxidation is a chemical reaction involving reactive oxygen species, called ROS. Very often, these reactions are responsible for degradation at the molecular level, altering the metabolism of cells. At the level of the hair follicle, oxidation would be responsible for a reduction in the activity of tyrosinase, a key enzyme in the synthesis of melanin. In other words, oxidation would prevent melanocytes from producing melanin, possibly leading to their destruction.

Inflammation, UV exposure, smoking and even obesity promote oxidation in the hair follicle.


The effects of diet on the beard

As we saw in the article “what foods for beautiful hair?” » , nutrition conditions the quality of hair and beard, as well as their color. Hair depigmentation may be associated with a deficiency of vitamin B, including vitamin B12, folic acid and biotin (vitamin B8). These vitamins play an important role in cell division, and therefore in the generation of the melanocyte lineage from stem cells. Iron and copper also seem to be involved, because they are involved in the synthesis of melanin.

Too much growth

Growing plant

It seems that intense hair growth generates oxidative stress on the follicle and the reserves of melanocyte stem cells, destroying the latter. The beard grows faster and the hair is thicker. The demand on stem cells is therefore more intense, and this is why, generally, we first have white beard hairs before having white hair.



Obviously, if your parents are prone to early depigmentation, you are more likely to quickly develop white hair and/or a white beard. This is not a generality, because as you will have understood, hair depigmentation is a multifactorial phenomenon , mediated by both genetic and environmental components , some of which can compensate for the others. Depending on lifestyle , two twin brothers will not have the same white hair at the same time.

Furthermore, canities manifests itself very differently depending on ethnic groups . It's a fact, Caucasians are more prone to gray hair, and earlier, than Africans. This is linked to the existence of different phototypes , in which the nature and quantity of melanin produced by the body play a preponderant role.

It's white hair and white hair

What you need to remember is that a white beard is an inevitability of age, but that depending on your lifestyle, it is possible to slow down its occurrence . Furthermore, it is a completely normal and natural phenomenon, which just needs to be accepted. Plus, it offers great prospects in terms of super stylish looks!

Now, if you want to find your missing color, discover the different options available to you in this article . Otherwise, we invite you to pamper your magnificent white hairs with our 2 in 1 natural care products for Beard & Hair!

And if you want to discover our range of Beard & Hair care products, it’s here!

Monsieur BARBIER’s beard & hair care range


Three avenues for how hair depigmentation works:

Aging of the hair pigmentation system:

The melanocyte and pigmentation:

Evaluation of the impact of physiological, psychological and lifestyle factors on the occurrence of premature hair depigmentation:

Association between hair depigmentation and family history, smoking, and obesity:

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.