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Is it bad to pluck gray hairs?

Quick Answers

Plucking gray hairs can be fine in moderation, but should not become an obsessive habit. Here are some quick answers about plucking gray hairs:

– Plucking a few gray hairs here and there is not harmful, but can potentially damage hair follicles if done excessively over time.

– Plucking grays can cause more gray hairs to grow back in their place, leading to a cycle of constant plucking. It’s best to embrace the grays.

– The occasional plucking is okay, but obsessively plucking grays daily can lead to traction alopecia or permanent hair loss.

– Waxing and threading to remove grays also carries a risk of damaging hair follicles if done too frequently.

– Dyeing grays is safer than plucking if you want to cover them up. However, dyeing too frequently can dry out and break hair over time.

– Gray hair is natural, normal, and nothing to be ashamed of. Letting grays grow out avoids damage from excessive plucking.

– If you are experiencing significant hair loss or thinning from plucking grays, see a dermatologist to assess for permanent damage.

Is Plucking Gray Hairs Really That Bad?

Many people develop the habit of obsessively plucking out gray hairs as soon as they appear. This can become a vicious cycle, as plucking grays seems to cause more to grow back. But is casually plucking the occasional gray strand really damaging to your hair or appearance? Below we delve into the risks and realities around pulling out grays.

Potential Risks of Plucking Gray Hairs

While plucking a few stray grays now and then is no big deal, constantly plucking can potentially harm hair follicles and lead to permanent hair loss over time. Here are the main risks:

  • Damage to Hair Follicles – Repeated plucking can scar hair follicles, impeding their ability to regrow new healthy hairs.
  • Traction Alopecia – Constant pulling on hairs can gradually destroy follicles and cause permanent bald patches.
  • More Grays Regrowing – Plucked gray hairs seem to rapidly grow back even more gray, leading to a vicious cycle.
  • Hair Thinning – Overplucking may gradually thin out hair density if follicles become damaged.
  • Hair Breakage – Hairs may become brittle and prone to breakage as a result of repeated plucking.

These risks make a strong case to stop obsessively plucking gray hairs. But what about just occasionally plucking out a few grays here and there?

Is Occasionally Plucking Grays Okay?

Carefully plucking a few gray hairs from time to time poses minimal risk for most people. Just be aware of these factors:

  • Limit It – Pluck just a couple of the most bothersome gray hairs every so often, rather than trying to eliminate all grays.
  • Avoid Damaging Hairs – Tweeze properly to avoid tearing hairs, which can damage follicles.
  • Watch for Irritation – Plucking can irritate sensitive skin. Discontinue if you see signs of inflammation.
  • Embrace the Transition – Learn to fully accept and rock your graying hair.
  • See a Professional – Consider professional waxing or threading instead of DIY plucking if you must remove grays.

With a careful and minimal approach, occasional plucking of gray hairs is unlikely to do significant harm. But the risks go up if you frequently pluck multiples hairs per day.

Can Plucking Lead to Traction Alopecia?

Traction alopecia is a form of gradual hair loss caused by constant pulling or tension on hair roots. This can happen from tight hairstyles that pull on hair for prolonged periods. But can repeatedly plucking out gray hairs also lead to traction alopecia? Let’s look at the evidence.

How Traction Alopecia Occurs

Traction alopecia develops in three main stages:

  1. Perifollicular Erythema – The area around hair follicles becomes inflamed and reddened due to constant tugging on hairs.
  2. Progression of Thinning – Pulling causes hair loss in the area, often the temples or edges of the hairline. The loss gradually increases over time.
  3. Visible Bald Patches – Eventually the pulling destroys hair follicles entirely, leaving noticeable bald patches where density once existed.

This hair loss is permanent if friction destroys the follicles completely. The only treatment is hair transplantation to restore hairs in badly thinned areas.

Can Plucking Grays Cause It?

Yes, repeatedly plucking gray hairs out from the roots can potentially lead to traction alopecia. When plucked frequently in the same area over months or years, the constant tension can inflame follicles and gradually destroy them.

Plucking grays most commonly causes thinning along the part line. But traction alopecia could theoretically occur anywhere that is plucked often enough, including the temples, hairline, or back of the scalp.

To be safe, minimize how often you pluck to avoid damaging follicles. See a dermatologist if you notice increasing shedding or thin patches along your plucking sites.

Does Plucking Grays Really Cause More to Grow Back?

Many people report that plucked gray hairs seem to rapidly grow back even more gray. But is this just confirmation bias or belief, or does plucking really increase gray regrowth? Science suggests it’s more than just perception.

How Hair Grays Naturally

Hair turns gray when pigment cells called melanocytes stop producing color. This occurs naturally as we age and melanocyte stem cells become depleted. Typically hairs don’t turn pure white, but rather intermix gray and normal pigmented hairs.

During the aging process, about 30-40% of scalp hairs are in transition from pigmented to gray at any given time.

How Plucking Affects Regrowth

When a hair is plucked, the surrounding stem cells are stimulated to regenerate a new hair in its place.

Early evidence suggests that melanocyte stem cells in graying hair follicles may become even more rapidly depleted compared to normal hairs.

As these exhausted melanocyte stem cells regenerate new hairs, they can only produce more gray hairs. The plucking process seems to quicken the stem cell depletion, causing more grays to grow back.

So while plucking won’t directly turn non-gray hairs to gray, it does appear to accelerate the graying process in areas that are already transitioning.

The Takeaway

Science shows that plucking transitional gray hairs may hasten their full transition to gray. So you end up with more gray hairs than if they were left alone.

Rather than fighting the graying process through plucking, it’s healthiest to gracefully embrace your natural hair color as it changes with age. Gray hair is beautiful in its own right.

Can Plucking Lead to Thinning or Balding?

What about claims that plucking gray hairs can lead to overall hair thinning or balding? Is this a real concern or just an old wives’ tale? Research suggests that excessive plucking could in fact thin out hair over time.

How Plucking Damages Follicles

Repeated plucking of hairs can damage the delicate follicles in several ways:

  • Trauma – Forcibly pulling hairs can tear follicles or rupture blood supply.
  • Infection – Plucking tools can introduce bacteria, causing folliculitis.
  • Inflammation – Constant irritation leads to redness, swelling, and sensitivity.
  • Scarring – Damage leads to collagen deposits impeding hair regrowth.

Over time, these effects can impede follicles from regenerating new hairs.

Evidence for Thinning

Studies looking at excessive eyebrow plucking found that it can cause thinning and loss of brow hairs if done repetitively:

  • A 2016 study found chronic eyebrow plucking was a causative factor in eyebrow thinning and loss seen in some women.
  • A 2017 case study reported significant eyebrow thinning after 20 years of chronic plucking.

While less research exists on scalp hair plucking, the same principles likely apply.

Risk Depends on Degree of Plucking

Not all plucking leads to baldness. But excessive, repetitive plucking potentially causes thinning over months or years if follicles cannot recover properly.

Occasional conservative plucking of stray gray hairs is unlikely to cause significant loss. But obsessive overplucking day after day can create problems.

See a dermatologist if you notice thinning hair along plucking sites for a professional evaluation.

What About Waxing or Threading Grays?

Rather than plucking gray hairs, some opt to have them waxed or threaded away. But are these hair removal methods any safer compared to plucking? They still carry risks if done excessively.

Waxing Gray Hairs

Soft wax is sometimes used to remove gray hairs, usually in salons but also as home kits. With waxing:

  • Warm wax adheres to hairs and removes a small patch when stripped off.
  • The entire hair comes out, including the root, rather than breaking at the skin like plucking.
  • Waxing lasts longer than plucking since hairs regrow from scratch.
  • Skin can become irritated from frequent waxing, causing damage if repeated often.

So while waxing grays isn’t as selectively damaging as plucking, irritation and traction alopecia can still occur if done too aggressively.

Threading for Gray Removal

Threading uses a twisted cotton thread to pull out hairs directly from the follicle. It offers some advantages over plucking:

  • Hairs slide out more easily, with less breakage than tweezing.
  • No chemicals irritate the skin as with waxes or depilatories.
  • A technician can shape brows by selectively removing grays.
  • But follicles still remain vulnerable to damage if threaded too frequently.

Used judiciously, threading can neatly remove unwanted facial gray hairs. But frequent repeated threading carries risks similar to plucking.

Key Takeaways

While waxing and threading are gentler than tweezing, removing grays too aggressively by any method can potentially damage follicles over time. Your safest bet is to only occasionally get grays waxed or threaded by a technician, avoiding overdoing it.

Is Dyeing Hair a Safer Option?

Rather than plucking or waxing away gray hairs, many choose to disguise grays by dyeing their hair. Is coloring hair a safer option compared to plucking grays? Generally yes, when done correctly.

How Hair Dye Works

Hair dye works by artificially depositing color pigments within the hair shaft. Common options include:

  • Permanent dyes – Use ammonia and developer to penetrate and permanently alter the inner hair shaft.
  • Demi-permanent dyes – Coat the outside of hairs with pigments that gradually wash out.
  • Bleaches – Remove underlying pigment so dye can better adhere.
  • Highlighting – Dye only select sections of hair lighter.

Used properly, dyes alter hair’s appearance without damaging living follicles.

Risks Depend on Dyeing Habits

Dyeing too frequently or aggressively can damage hair over time by:

  • Drying out hair shafts leading to brittle, broken hairs.
  • Chemical irritation causing red, itchy scalp.
  • Allergic reactions to dye chemicals in sensitive individuals.

But when used moderately and correctly, most hair types tolerate dyeing without significant problems. Always do allergy test patches first.

Key Takeaways

While no method is risk-free, carefully dyeing hair poses less risk of permanent damage than aggressively plucking or waxing out gray hairs repeatedly. If you must conceal grays, stick to occasional gentle dyeing practices rather than overplucking.

What’s the Outlook for Overplucked Hair?

If you’ve developed thinning spots or bald patches from obsessively plucking grays, is the damage reversible or permanent? With proper treatment, moderate regrowth is possible in many cases.

Stopping Further Plucking

The first priority is to immediately cease plucking hairs in the area of concern. This gives follicles their best shot at recovering undisturbed.

Medical Treatment

See a dermatologist to assess your degree of hair loss. Treatment options may include:

  • Steroid injections – Reduce inflammation around follicles.
  • Minoxidil – Stimulate growth by increasing blood flow.
  • Platelet rich plasma – Injected PRP contains growth factors to revitalize follicles.
  • Red light therapy – Photobiomodulation light also boosts hair growth.

consistent, patient treatment may help partially reverse thinning and stimulate regrowth.

Hair Transplants

In cases of severe balding from plucking, hair transplantation may be needed to restore coverage. This surgically transplants active follicles from the back of the scalp into thinning areas.

Multiple transplants are usually required to achieve desired fullness. when combined with medical treatments, transplants can significantly improve plucking-related bald spots. But preventing further damage is key.


Don’t lose hope if you’ve developed traction alopecia from plucking grays. Seek treatment to spur regrowth, and learn to embrace your beautiful natural grays.

When to Seek Professional Help

While plucking the occasional stray gray generally causes no harm, obsessively plucking on a daily basis can create issues. See your dermatologist or doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Gradual thinning of hair density in plucked areas
  • Development of visible bald patches
  • Redness, irritation, or pimples around plucked hairs
  • Itchiness, pain, or discomfort in plucked areas
  • Inability to stop obsessively plucking each day

A trichologist specializing in hair and scalp conditions can also properly evaluate your degree of plucking-related damage.

Depending on examination findings, your healthcare provider may suggest medication, light treatments, steroid injections, or hair transplants to attempt reversing any hair loss.

But the most important step is to modify your plucking habits to prevent permanent follicular damage before it’s too late. Overplucking grays is one habit it pays to break.


While plucking the occasional bothersome gray hair here and there does no major harm in most people, obsessively yanking out grays day after day can create problems. Research shows that excessive plucking can damage follicles, accelerate graying, and potentially cause thinning hair or bald patches over time in prone individuals. No method of gray hair removal – whether plucking, waxing, threading, or bleaching – is completely risk-free. Of hair removal methods, gently coloring hair poses the least risks as long as dyes are used properly. Given the risks, it’s healthiest to just embrace your natural graying process and the beauty that comes with aging gracefully. But if you simply must pluck or wax, stick to only minimally grooming stray grays rather than attempting to eliminate all silver hairs. With a conservative approach, you can safely manage grays without doing long-term damage to your hair health and fullness.