Why You Should Avoid Plucking Gray Hairs, According to Hairstylists

Those tweezers aren’t doing you any good.

For most people, gray hair is inevitable. But while this change in your appearance is completely natural, just the sight of a gray hair can trigger an instinct to immediately pull it out.

There's a commonly held belief that if you pluck it, many more grays will follow in its wake. This is actually a myth—what you do to a single strand can't spread like contagion. "The surrounding hairs will not turn white until their own follicles' pigment cells die," says Trey Gillen, hairstylist and creative director of education at SACHAJUAN.

Reasons Not to Pluck Gray Hair

There are almost zero benefits to the temporary departure of a gray strand, and you might actually cause some damage.

Only one hair grows per follicle. When your strand turns gray or white, the pigment cells in that follicle have already died. "In other words, plucking a gray hair will only get you a new gray hair in its place," says Gillen, so any plucking is pretty much pointless. You're simply delaying the inevitable.

In the long run, you're actually doing more harm than good. "Plucking can traumatize the hair follicle, and you can damage it to the point where it will no longer grow any hair," says Gillen. Forget about having gray hair—you won't have any hair there at all. "If you're a serial plucker, repeated 'plucking trauma' can even cause infection, scar formation, and bald patches," adds Gillen. Ultimately, this will create the appearance of hair loss and thinner hair.

Plucking Consequences

Even if you consider yourself an expert plucker, tread with caution. The reason people think more grays are summoned when they pluck is because it looks and feels more noticeable on your scalp. When the follicle produces less melanin, it tends to produce less sebum as well, so gray hair has a different texture from the rest of your pigmented strands. In the best-case scenario, the gray hair that grows back in its place will be wiry—think coarser, thicker, and more noticeable than the hair you had before, says Gillen.

The Bottom Line

The best thing to do if you notice gray hair? Ignore it—it happens to the best of us eventually—or dye it back to its original color. If there is a gray strand you absolutely must get rid of, very carefully cut it off instead of plucking it. And of course, you can always embrace it—and consider those distinguished strands a crown of wisdom.

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  2. Grant JE, Chamberlain SR. Trichotilomania and skin picking disorder: different kinds of OCD. Focus, 2015;13(2):184-189. doi:10.1176/appi.focus.130212

  3. Jain G. Chapter 11: Aging hair. In: Chandrashekar BS, ed. IADVL Textbook of Trichology. JP Medical Ltd; 2018. Accessed December 20, 2022.

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