The Netdoctor news reports that women who go grey at an early age probably have genes that predispose them to the loss of hair colour, a study in the Public Library of Science One has found.

Researchers at Unilever studied more than 200 twins between the ages of 59 and 81 and compared rates of greying between identical and non-identical siblings. They discovered that identical twin sisters tended to have similar rates of greyness, indicating that the trait is largely caused by genes rather than environmental factors such as stress, diet or smoking.

Senior scientist Dr David Gunn commented: ‘This study offers us a fascinating insight into the reason why women go grey and it certainly suggests that environmental factors are not as important as we once thought.’ The expert revealed that genes also appear to play a role in thinning hair from the top of the forehead in women, whereas thinning on the top of the head is more likely to be caused by environmental factors.

Nina Goad, from the British Association of Dermatologists, told the BBC that in most cases, ‘greying hair is not down to something you have done, but to genetic factors beyond your control’.