Marie Antoinette syndrome

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Marie Antoinette syndrome is an alleged condition of hair suddenly turning white.[1] The name comes from folklore about the hair of Queen Marie Antoinette of France turning stark white after her capture following the ill-fated flight to Varennes during the French Revolution. According to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), witnesses claimed that Antoinette's hair rapidly turned white on three separate occasions.[2][clarification needed][unreliable source?]


The syndrome has been hypothesized to be a variant of alopecia areata diffusa or autoimmune non-scarring hair loss that selectively affects all pigmented hairs, leaving only the white hair behind.[citation needed]

Triggers activating such hair loss were postulated in the 19th century, including sorrow and fear, fits of rage, extreme stress, and unexpected bad news.[3][full citation needed] These form the basis of most uses of the idea in fictional works.


The earliest surviving recorded claim of sudden whitening of the hair is represented in the Talmud, by a story of a Jewish scholar who, at the age of 17 years, developed white hair locks due to overwork.[citation needed]

Now and again, contemporary cases of accelerated (though not sudden) hair-whitening have been documented, as with bombing victims in the Second World War,[citation needed] and in a case covered in the medical journal Archives of Dermatology in 2009.[4]


  1. ^ Trüeb, Ralph M. (2013). Female Alopecia: Guide to Successful Management. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 132. ISBN 9783642355035.
  2. ^ Weissmann, G. (30 September 2009). "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Obama, Palin and Marie-Antoinette". The FASEB Journal. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. 23 (10): 3253–3256. doi:10.1096/fj.09-1001. PMID 19797298.
  3. ^ Landois. 1866: Bubbles in the Hair Shaft
  4. ^ Navarini, A. A.; Nobbe, S.; Trüeb, R. M. (June 2009). "Marie-Antoinette Syndrome". Archives of Dermatology. 145 (6): 656. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2009.51.