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Marie Antoinette Syndrome: Did you know about it?


Article by: Subhayu Bhadury, The North-Eastern Chronicle

Visual by: Subham Kr Dey

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Marie Antoinette‘s last few months in the world would have been frightening. As her country slid into turmoil and bloodshed, she witnessed the French monarchy dissolved, her husband (King Louis XVI) being executed, and her son being taken from her. She was finally brought from her prison cell and sentenced to the guillotine with only one day’s warning. Only a few hours later, she was executed alone in front of a multitude applauding her death.

Doesn’t that sound like enough to make your hair white? And legend has it that this is precisely what happened.

Marie Antoinette, the French queen, discovered that her hair was going white just before her execution in 1793. Although this is only a legend, the Marie Antoinette Syndrome, a condition in which one’s hair turns white suddenly, may have some reality to it.

The Legend Of Marie Antoinette and the Syndrome

French queen Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette syndrome is a condition in which a person’s hair turns white suddenly (canities). This illness comes from a legend about the French queen Marie Antoinette, whose hair mysteriously became white before her execution in 1793.

Hair greying is a natural part of growing older. As you become older, your melanin pigments, responsible for your hair colour, may fade. This condition, however, has nothing to do with ageing. It’s linked to a type of alopecia areata, which causes abrupt hair loss. (It’s also worth noting that Marie Antoinette was just 38 years old when she died, regardless of whether the claims are factual.)

Causes related to Marie Antoinette Syndrome

Marie Antoinette Syndrome 1

The theory of sudden hair whitening is not supported by research. Nonetheless, legends about such historical events continue to circulate. Aside from the famed Marie Antoinette, several historical personalities have supposedly had their hair colour shift dramatically. Thomas More, for example, is claimed to have had a dramatic whitening of his hair just before his execution in 1535.

An autoimmune condition is frequently blamed for cases of so-called Marie Antoinette syndrome. Such circumstances alter the way your body reacts to healthy cells in the body, causing them to be attacked mistakenly.

Your body would discontinue natural hair pigmentation if you had Marie Antoinette syndrome-like symptoms. As a result, even if your hair grows back, it will be grey or white.

Alopecia areata is a kind of alopecia. One of the most well-known reasons for pattern baldness is this. Underlying inflammation is assumed to be the source of alopecia areata symptoms.

The hair follicles stop producing new hair as a result of this. As a result, existing hair may fall out. New hair growth can help cover grey hairs with treatment, but it won’t stop hair from greying over time.

If an individual has a family history of premature greying of the hair, one may be at risk. A gene known as IRF4 could potentially play a role. Hair colour changes can be difficult to reverse if one has a genetic predisposition to greying hair.

Vitiligo is an autoimmune illness that causes pigment loss in the skin, resulting in visible white spots. Such impacts may also affect one’s hair pigment, causing it to grey.

Vitiligo is a challenging condition to manage, particularly in youngsters. Corticosteroids, surgery, and light therapy are some of the alternatives. One may also notice fewer grey hairs over time once treatment stops the depigmentation process.

Is Stress a Reason for the Marie Antoinette Syndrome?

marie antoinette syndrome 2 1

Marie Antoinette syndrome has been historically depicted as a stress-related illness. Their hair colour was altered in prison during the final days of Marie Antoinette and Thomas More’s lives.

The underlying reason for white hair, on the other hand, is far more complicated than a single event. The changes in your hair colour are most likely due to another underlying cause.

Sudden hair whitening is not caused by stress. Chronic stress, on the other hand, can cause premature grey hairs over time. Hair loss is also a possibility if you are under a lot of stress.

Marie Antoinette syndrome’s main takeaway

Premature grey or white hair is a red flag that needs to be investigated. Even though hair does not turn white overnight, legends about Marie Antoinette’s hair whitening before her death and other similar stories persist.

Instead of focusing on these historical accounts, it’s more vital to concentrate on what medical specialists presently know about greying hair and what you can do about it.

Also Read: “Impact of Covid-19 and lockdown on our Mental health”


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