Why you shouldn’t pluck gray hairs - according to experts

Experts reveal why you shouldn’t pluck gray hairs, and it’s not for the reason you think

woman looking in the mirror, used to illustrate a woman&home article on why you shouldn't pluck gray hair
(Image credit: Getty)

It's often claimed that one of the reasons you shouldn't pluck gray hairs is because more will grow back in their place. But according to experts, this isn't actually the primary reason you shouldn't reach for the tweezers.

Going gray is very much a natural part of the aging process. And while some people choose to embrace the change and transition to gray hair, others decide not to (there's no right or wrong here). “We go gray when the hair follicle stops producing melanocytes – pigment cells that give hair its color,” explains Anabel Kingsley, brand president and consultant trichologist at Philip Kingsley. 

To note, “gray hair isn’t actually gray – it’s white,” adds Kingsley. “It just appears gray as it is interspersed with pigmented hairs.” Not keen on going gray? Scroll on down to find out why you shouldn’t pluck gray hairs – and what the experts recommend instead. 

Why you shouldn’t pluck gray hairs, according to experts

“Plucking can damage the hair follicle, potentially leading to infection or scarring,” warns Kingsley. What’s more, “repeatedly plucking out gray hairs may disrupt the natural hair growth cycle and can cause issues with regrowth and eventually (in the worst case scenario) ead to permanent hair loss.” 

There's a long-held myth that for every gray hair you pluck, ten more will spring back. While this isn't true, there's genuinely no benefit to plucking your grays as you'll only cause damage and it sadly won't stimulate the regrowth of your original (pigmented) hair. More on that below. 

So, what should you do with gray hairs?

If you do want to get rid of gray hairs, there are a few options to consider (that won’t damage the hair follicle). “Temporary solutions include hair mascaras, the best root touch-up powders or sprays, which can provide quick coverage,” says Kingsley. For a more permanent solution, there are also semi-permanent or permanent hair dyes. 

But unless you’re 90% gray, Limoz Logli, creative director of Limoz Logli salon, recommends steering clear of permanent color. “The more you cover gray hair in a permanent color, the more obvious the regrowth,” says Logli. At his salon, “we blend them with baby lights and then do a root blend to create natural regrowth and a softer finish.” This approach works best on lighter bases. 

“For darker clients, we still believe in semi-permanent color to avoid that badger stripe regrowth,” he adds. And if the color fades fast, Logli recommends using touch-up sprays of brushes in-between appointments. 

Silver tweezers

(Image credit: Getty)

Do gray hairs always grow back gray?

“Yes, grey hairs typically grow back grey,” says Victoria Panting, Paul Mitchell technical educator and color and technical consultant. Kingsley agrees, adding that “once the pigment cells in the hair follicles reduce their activity, the new hair that grows from those follicles usually lacks color and appears gray or white.” The rate and extent of graying can of course vary among individuals.

Can gray hairs naturally regain their color?

This may be disappointing news for some but “once hair turns gray or white, it is unlikely to regain its natural colour without external intervention such as at-home hair dye or in-salon color treatments,” says Kingsley. And while there’s some anecdotal claims about natural remedies or lifestyle changes reversing gray hair, “scientific evidence supporting these claims is currently limited,” she adds. 

Best products for embracing or covering gray hair

“Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, more and more people are choosing to embrace their natural gray hair,” Panting tells us. “If this is something you’re considering too, I would recommend keeping the yellow tinge at bay with your best purple shampoo. Paul Mitchell Platinum Blonde Shampoo, £20.49, softens strands and boosts shine. Philip Kingsley's Pure Blonde Booster Shampoo, £27, contains violet micro-pigments to neutralize warmth and keep silver tones cool."

For anyone after a temporary solution to cover gray hairs, consider one of our go-to quick fixes below…

Oribe Airbrush Root Touch-Up Spray | RRP: $34 / £30

Oribe Airbrush Root Touch-Up Spray | RRP: $34 / £30

Available in three shades (light brown, black and blonde), this touch-up spray immediately cover grays and disguises roots with microfine pigments that blend in seamlessly. 

Color Wow Root Cover Up | RRP: $22.80 / £29.50

Color Wow Root Cover Up | RRP: $22.80 / £29.50

This lightweight powder (available in 8 shades) clings to hair, covering gray hairs and dark roots for an even finish. Simply load up the brush (included) with powder and press onto roots. The formula will stay put until your next shampoo. 

Bumble and bumble Colour Stick | RRP: $28 / £25

Bumble and bumble Colour Stick | RRP: $28 / £25

For precise application, swipe this creamy and convenient Colour Stick onto grey hairs. Mess-free and water resistant, the color stays put for hours on end. 

Emma Stoddart

Emma Stoddart is a freelance beauty journalist and self-confessed skincare aficionado with over five years’ industry experience. Emma has worked for some of the UK’s top women’s titles including Net-A-Porter, Stylist and Grazia. Her experience spans online and print as well as producing editorial shoots with some of the industry’s biggest artists, including Val Garland. Asides from working with them behind the scenes, she’s also had the chance to interview the likes of Patrick Ta, Pat McGrath, and Sam McKnight for all their insider tips and tricks.