We Ask a Derm: Will Pulling Out a Gray Hair Really Cause Two to Grow In Its Place?

Many of us have heard the ol’ adage that you shouldn’t pull out a gray hair because it will cause two more to grow in its place. In fact, based on the conviction your moms and aunties seem to have about this, you might be wondering if there’s any truth to it. (Spoiler: There isn’t, but pulling grays can cause other issues.) To help us get to the (ahem) root of things, we asked Dhaval Bhanusali, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Hudson Dermatology & Laser Surgery and Hairstim Labs to clear things up.

Give it to us straight, doc: Will pulling out a gray hair cause more to grow in its place?

Plucking out gray hair does not cause new gray hairs to grow—just like shaving doesn't make hair come in thicker,” says Bhanusali.

So, what does cause gray hair to come in?

OK, strap in for a quick science lesson. Your hair color is produced by cells called melanocytes, which produce melanin. Melanin is what gives your hair and skin its color. As you age, you produce less melanin, resulting in gradual graying. Genetics will affect when this starts, but generally speaking, most people start to see gray hairs in their 30s and early 40s.

Is it safe to pluck out my grays then?

The short answer: It’s not the best idea. “Plucking hair out over time can cause scarring and damage your hair follicles. While some mild trauma in the area tends to be fine, repeated trauma can permanently affect the ability you have to grow new hair in the area,” cautions Bhanusali.

Listen, we know firsthand how tempting it is to bust out the tweezers when you see a wiry strand poking through, and as Dr. B says, pulling out the occasional gray won’t be catastrophic, but repeated tweezing can cause damage to the follicles themselves, which will make your hair appear thinner over time.

If the grays really bother you, there are other ways to conceal them or care for them so they blend it better with the rest of your hair as they grow in. And if you’re curious about what that process can look like, here’s one woman’s 20-month photolog of going gray.

13 Women, From Their 20s to Their 70s, On How They Handled Going Gray

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...