Marie Antoinette syndrome

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Marie Antoinette syndrome is an alleged condition of hair suddenly turning white. 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. Witnesses claimed that Antoinette's hair suddenly turned white on three separate occasions.[1]


The syndrome – if it exists – 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.[2][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. Recent cases have also been noted in Fleetwood Mount Vernon, where Chris has white spots in his hair, and marks on his skin notifying the disease.[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.[3]


In the novel One Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith, after the titular dogs destroy Cruella de Vil's stock of furs, the shock renders her black hair white (and her white hair green). In Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables, Jean Valjean's hair also goes pure white after the trauma of appearing in court in Arras. Other examples can be found in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, where the character Theon Greyjoy's hair turns white and brittle from extended brutal torture, in the manga Tokyo Ghoul, in which Ken Kaneki's hair turns white after brutal torture, and in the manga (as well as the 2011 anime) Hunter × Hunter, where Knov, after being exposed to Pouf's exceedingly evil En, breaks down and loses his will to fight. Also on the anime and manga Kakegurui, Kaede Manyuda’s dark hair turns white after collapsing in shock due to being fired from his position as student council treasurer after losing a gamble against protagonist Yumeko Jabami. In the Manga Berserk the main character, Guts gains an extraordinary amount of stress when he first dawns the Berserker Armour, which heals his broken bones and prevents him from being able to feel pain which then causes him to basically rip apart his own body during battle without any stop to it. Guts was already terribly injured at the time and he pushed his body so far that his hair began to white out on certain areas, his skin ageing and scarring up even further.


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ Landois. 1866: Bubbles in the Hair Shaft
  3. ^ 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.