The body goes through many changes with age. Some people lose their hair, gain weight due to a slower metabolism, and develop chronic aches and pains. Along with these changes, white or gray hair is a common sign of aging.
Although you’re likely to start growing a salt-and-pepper mane as you become older, white hair may not appear only on your head. It can also grow in other parts of your body, including the pubic area.
Finding a white strand in your genital area can come as a surprise. Even when you anticipate your hair eventually turning gray or white, this may be the last place you expect to see white strands. But the hair here is no different from hair on other parts of your body, so graying is inevitable.
Hair follicles contain melanin, which is the pigment that gives hair its color. The older you become, the less melanin your body produces. And when your body produces less of the pigment, your hair begins to turn gray, silver, or white.
The onset of graying differs from person to person and has a lot to do with genetics. Some people develop their first strands of gray or white hair in their 30s or 40s, whereas others develop white strands in their 20s or teenage years. If your parents or grandparents began graying at a young age, you may too.
But while graying is a natural aging process, some people develop white or gray strands prematurely due to their lifestyle. For example, people who smoke cigarettes may develop white hair at a younger age because smoking tobacco can speed the aging process.
There’s also a belief that extreme stress can cause early graying, but more research is needed.
White pubic hair isn’t normally a cause for concern, especially if you’re getting older and also have white strands on your head. But there are times when you should bring white pubic hair to your doctor’s attention.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency
If you feel that you’re graying prematurely and you have other unusual symptoms, talk to your doctor. Sometimes white hair is a sign of vitamin B-12 deficiency due to pernicious anemia. If you don’t receive enough vitamin B-12, your body can’t produce enough healthy red blood cells (anemia). As well, a vitamin B-12 deficiency adversely affects the production of hair follicle cells, which may result in changes to hair color.
This deficiency causes other symptoms, related to or in addition to the anemia, which include:
- brain fog
- peripheral neuropathy
- rapid heartbeat
White pubic hair may also indicate vitiligo, an autoimmune disease that results in skin losing its pigmentation. In the case of vitiligo, you may also have white skin patches in your pubic area and over other parts of your body. Your doctor can draw blood to check for a vitamin deficiency and autoimmune conditions, as well as perform a skin biopsy to confirm or rule out vitiligo.
A fungal infection of the hair called white piedra can also give pubic hair a white appearance. An overgrowth of yeast causes the formation of white or cream-colored nodules along the hair shaft. This type of fungus is also found on the eyebrows, eyelashes, and head. Your doctor may be able to diagnose a fungal infection based on its appearance.
If you notice tiny eggs attached to or insects crawling on the hair of your genital area and experience itching there, these are symptoms of a pubic lice infestation. Pubic lice are tiny insects that live on the skin and hair in the pubic area. They attach to hair and are usually passed from person to person through sex. This sexually transmitted disease doesn’t turn pubic hair white. But the hair may appear white because the eggs are a yellow-white color, and the lice are tan to gray-white in color.
There’s no treatment for white pubic hair caused by natural aging. If you smoke tobacco products, giving this up may slow the growth of gray, white, or silver hair.
If you’re diagnosed with a low vitamin B-12 level, your doctor may recommend vitamin B-12 injections, oral supplements, or encourage adding foods rich in this vitamin to your diet. These foods include:
- milk products
In this case, white hair may reverse itself if you can maintain a healthy vitamin B-12 level.
Treatments for vitiligo include topical or oral medications, light therapy, and surgery.
Your doctor may suggest a prescription or over-the-counter topical antifungal to get rid of a fungal infection. Treating the infection may restore your hair’s natural color.
Pubic lice are treatable with over-the-counter medications that kill lice and their eggs, such as Rid or Nix.
There’s no way to prevent white pubic hair caused by genetics or natural aging. But in the presence of an underlying condition, treatment may reverse the condition, or at least slow the graying process.