Plucking grey hairs is a common practice for people looking to cover up signs of aging hair. But does plucking really cause more grey hairs to grow back? Or is this just a myth? Here is a look at the science behind grey hair and whether plucking contributes to more re-growth.
What causes grey hair?
Graying hair is a natural part of the aging process. Hair gets its color from a pigment called melanin, which is produced by melanocyte cells in the hair follicles. As we age, the melanocyte cells gradually reduce in number and stop producing melanin. This causes the hair to lose pigmentation and turn grey or white.
Grey hair usually starts appearing in our 30s and 40s. By age 50, about 50% of the population has at least some gray hair. The rate of greying varies widely and is influenced by genetics, stress levels, smoking, diet and other factors.
Does plucking promote more grey growth?
There is no scientific evidence to support the notion that plucking grey hairs causes more grey hair to grow back in its place. However, the perception that plucked greys grow back faster may originate from the fact that grey hairs tend to be coarser and drier than pigmented hair. This can make the follicles more noticeable when they grow back after plucking.
Here are some key reasons why plucking likely does not impact grey regrowth:
- Grey hair growth is based on melanocyte cell activity, not on whether existing hair is plucked.
- Plucking removes the hair above the skin, but does not impact the follicle below the surface where hair growth originates.
- Hair grows back at the same rate, whether it is plucked or falls out naturally.
- Each hair follicle controls the growth of an individual strand. Plucking one strand does not affect other follicles.
So in summary, plucking a grey hair should not hasten the production of more grey hairs. The new growth will depend on the natural melanin production of the hair follicle, rather than being manipulated by plucking.
Does frequent plucking damage hair follicles?
While plucking grey hairs does not increase new grey growth, repeated plucking in the same area could potentially damage hair follicles over time. Frequent plucking can put stress on the follicles and disrupt the growth cycle.
Some tips to avoid follicle damage from plucking include:
- Avoid over-plucking the same spot repeatedly
- Allow plucked hairs to grow out between plucking sessions
- Use tweezers with slanted edges, which grasp hairs more gently
- Disinfect tweezers before plucking to prevent infection
- Do not pluck hairs that feel like they are firmly rooted
Limiting how often you pluck hairs in a given area can help prevent long-term issues like scarred follicles and reduced hair growth.
What causes increased grey hair growth?
Rather than plucking, there are other factors that can genuinely influence the rate of new grey hair growth. These include:
- Genetics – People whose parents went grey early are likely to follow the same pattern.
- Stress – High stress levels raise cortisol, which can deplete melanocyte pigment cells faster.
- Smoking – Smoking causes oxidative stress, which impacts melanin production.
- Nutrient deficiencies – Low vitamin B12, folate, copper and iron are linked to premature greying.
- Medical conditions – Diseases like alopecia and vitiligo attack melanocytes and cause greying.
- Sun exposure – UV radiation can have a toxic effect on melanin-producing cells.
While we can’t always control intrinsic factors like genetics, focusing on healthy lifestyle habits can help slow the pace at which grey hairs accumulate.
Should you pluck grey hairs?
So given that plucking doesn’t increase new grey growth, is it a recommended strategy for covering up existing greys? There are pros and cons to consider.
Potential pros of plucking grey hairs:
- Provides immediate cosmetic improvement by removing visible grey strands
- No harsh chemicals compared to dyes
- Can target individual hairs for a discreet touch up
- Temporary solution between salon appointments
Potential cons of plucking grey hairs:
- Can be time consuming for large areas
- May cause discomfort depending on pain tolerance
- Risk of infection if tools aren’t cleaned properly
- Doesn’t prevent new grey growth
- Can cause follicle damage if overdone
The best approach depends on your individual preferences, tolerance, time commitment and budget. For some people, taking the time to tweeze away a few scattered greys is worthwhile for maintaining a youthful look between salon visits. For managing large areas, hair dye is usually a more practical solution.
Other ways to cover grey hairs
In addition to plucking and dyeing, there are some other techniques that can temporarily mask the appearance of grey hairs:
- Concealer sprays – Color-tint sprays temporarily coat the hair shaft to mask greys between washes.
- Root touch-up markers – These colored cosmetic pencils darken greys via a deposit of pigmented powder.
- Semi-permanent rinses – Rinses use vegetable dyes to stain grey hair until the color washes out.
- Temporary coloring gels – Clear gels containing pigments style into the hair and wash out quickly.
- Headbands and scarves – Stylish hair accessories can conceal greys around the hairline and temples.
The choice comes down to the specific hair situation and desired time commitment. Those with only a few stray greys may find plucking, touch-ups or concealers most convenient. Full grey coverage generally requires chemical dyes or bleaches.
Going gray gracefully
While covering greys is popular, there’s also a growing trend toward letting hair go gray gracefully. Reasons include:
- Saves time and money spent on dyes
- Allows hair condition to improve, without damage from chemicals
- Embraces a more distinguished, confident look
- Avoids grown-out roots and required upkeep
- Prevents skin irritation or allergic reactions to dyes
The choice depends on your style preferences and priorities. With the right cut and styling, natural gray hair can look as chic and stylish as color-treated locks.
Caring for gray hair
Gray hair has particular needs when it comes to optimal haircare:
- Gentle shampoos – Mild sulfate-free formulas help preserve shine and manageability.
- Hydrating conditioners – Look for moisturizing ingredients like oils, shea butter, marula oil to reduce brittle texture.
- Purple shampoo – Counteracts brassiness and yellow discoloration to keep grays bright.
- Anti-frizz serums – Oils and silicones help smooth and protect dry, wiry strands.
- Volumizing products – Thickeners like collagen and biotin compensate for limpness from reduced pigment.
Using a targeted gray hair care routine can help manage texture, prevent yellowing and boost volume for healthy, vibrant silver locks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does plucking cause hair to grow back thicker?
No, plucking does not affect the thickness or rate of regrowth. Hair shaft thickness is determined by the follicles’ biological makeup and growth cycle. Any perception of increased thickness after plucking is usually just due to blunter tip shape immediately after regrowth.
Is plucking grey hairs bad for hair health?
Occasionally plucking a few grey hairs causes no harm. But chronic, excessive plucking can potentially damage follicles over time. It’s best to limit how often you pluck hairs in one area to prevent long-term issues.
What lifestyle changes reduce grey hair?
Avoiding smoking, lowering stress, eating a balanced diet with sufficient vitamins and minerals, using sun protection, treating medical conditions, and getting quality sleep may help delay the greying process.
Does plucking cause ingrown hairs?
Ingrown hairs can happen when freshly plucked hair tips curve back and re-enter the skin before emerging. Proper technique and disinfecting tools reduces irritation and infection risk. Gently exfoliating and moisturizing after plucking can help as well.
What is the best way to pluck grey hairs?
Use sharp, slanted tweezers and grasp the hair close to the root. Pull quickly in the direction of hair growth to remove the entire strand. Avoid twisting or pulling hair out at an angle. Disinfect tweezers and wash skin after plucking to prevent infection.