How Bad Is It Really To Pull Out Your Gray And White Hairs?

The rumors say it'll just grow back with more grays. Experts weigh in on what really happens.
Why wouldn't you want a gorgeous head of hair like this, anyway?
Andreas Kuehn via Getty Images
Why wouldn't you want a gorgeous head of hair like this, anyway?

Let’s challenge an assumption that needs to be debunked: the idea that plucking out one’s own gray (or white) hair will result in multiple ones growing in its stead.

“The color gray does not spread when you pull out hair,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hamdan Absdullah Hamed, also a co-founder of an online platform dedicated to natural hair care solutions. “However, every time you pull it out, you’re removing the follicle as well, so I suggest leaving the white hair as it is.”

Although you won’t promote the growth of gray hair by plucking strands out, you really should try to stay away from the practice because it might end up damaging your follicles.

We still had questions, so we talked to the experts about gray hair health, including why it shows up and whether or not you’re better off simply embracing the look.

Can we prevent white hair from showing up to begin with?

Experts agree that the appearance of white or gray strands depends on a variety of factors, including genetics, age and diet.

“As we age, there are hormonal changes causing white hair to show up at a certain age,” explained hair surgeon Dr. Patrick Davis.

According to the Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging, part of Colorado State University, “by age 50, half of men and women will have at least 50% gray hair.” Those statistics clearly leave room for other factors to be at play.

The easiest way to predict when you’ll go gray is to look at your parents and grandparents. “If they had gray hair at a relatively young age, then there is a good chance that will happen to you as well,” Hamed said.

In addition to these sorts of unchangeable, steady factors, what and how we eat can actually affect the arrival of gray hair.

Specifically, studies confirm that deficiencies in vitamins B12, D3 and calcium may be associated with premature hair graying.

“Vitamin B12 in specific is involved in the production of blood cells, so it is necessary when it comes to hair growth,” Hamed explained.

He also noted that vitamin D3 is thought to stimulate the formation of new hair follicles, which will result in a healthier and fuller head of hair while calcium aids with the secretion of certain hormones which, in turn, can stimulate growth as well.

However, although it follows that adding these elements to one’s daily vitamin intake may prevent hair discoloration, that’s not often the case.

“Taking supplements could push things off a bit,” Hamed said. “But it really depends on a lot of things.”

In fact, he noted that, usually, gray hair caused by a lack of nutrients looks different than age-related discoloration.

“Sometimes, you will look at hair and notice the top and bottom are a different color,” he noted. “That means that we’re dealing with a lack of nutrients, so adding vitamins to your diet may help.”

However, that will only prevent new hair from turning gray — “you’re not reversing the damage already incurred,” he said.

Why does hair turn gray to begin with?

To put it simply, every strand of hair grows out of a follicle found on the skin of the scalp. Each follicle also features pigment cells called melanocytes that produce melanin, a chemical that colors hair and skin.

As we age, these pigment cells die off, therefore cutting down the production of melanin and, as a result, the amount of color that’s basically drenching the hair, effectively turning it gray or white.

Melanin is a key determining factor in how much of and when your hair turns gray.
Christopher Robbins via Getty Images
Melanin is a key determining factor in how much of and when your hair turns gray.

“People of African American descent, for example, usually have more melanin so the hair doesn’t dry out as fast and the result skews to getting white hair later,” Hamed explained.

Sure, adding vitamins to your diet may help prevent the graying but if your pigment cells die off, so will the amount of melanin that colors your locks, making discoloration inevitable.

Is it worth it, then, to pull out the discolored hair out considering there is not too much we can do to push off the process?

Why is it bad to pull out our own hair?

Davis explained that, even if you pluck out strands that bother you, they will come back looking exactly the same as they were before you removed them.

“The hair follicle is basically the strand’s house, filled with the characteristics of the hair that you removed,” noted the surgeon. “So it will grow back with those characteristics.”

Board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green agreed with the notion. “Once a follicle’s melanocytes die, loss of pigmentation will occur and new gray-colored hairs will grow from that follicle,” she said. ”While plucking gray hairs may lead to hair loss over time, it will not cause more gray hairs to grow, as only one hair strand can grow from a given hair follicle.”

Perhaps more important is the fact that forcibly removing the hair will likely damage the aimed follicle and those around it, maybe even permanently stopping hair growth in the area.

Basically, plucking out the hair is equivalent to shocking the system — the follicle, in specific — damaging it to the point of no return: forget seeing gray hair, you will stop seeing strands grow from that follicle, period.

When you’re a bit older, things get even more complicated.

“People with gray hair are usually older, so the chances of a damaged follicle even growing back are even slimmer,” said Hamed, who also warned against other potential issues. “Whenever you pull out a follicle, it makes a little well inside the skin and, over time, it can fill with oil and dandruff,” he explained. “It can get clogged, and you’ll basically have to deal with an ingrown hair.”

For what it’s worth, Davis did contend that pulling out hair in a specific direction may incur less damage.

“The hair comes out of the scalp in a specific orientation that you have to pay attention to,” he said. “If you go in the opposite angle, it’s going to cause more trauma to the follicle and scar it.”

That being said, he is clear on one thing: “I prefer people not plucking hair.”

Do supplements work?

When asked about the various supplements currently on the market claiming to reverse or stop the arrival of gray hair, Green acknowledges that although they may make your hair healthier, they won’t do anything about grays in specific.

“Many anti-gray supplements and serums contain vitamins such as B12, peptides and natural herbs that can supposedly prevent or reverse gray hairs,” she said. “While these ingredients may be beneficial for hair health and growth, there is currently no clinical research supporting vitamins or supplements that claim to slow or stop gray hair growth.”

Basically, if you start noticing gray hair, you have two options: You can either embrace the look (or ignore it, depending on how you look at things) or start investing in some hair dye.

After all, according to a recent survey of 2,000 Americans, two out of every five people who have gray hair have chosen to let the hue shine through. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that nearly a tenth of the survey respondents said they have intentionally dyed their hair gray as a style choice.

Looking for highly effective hair products? Below are some reviewer favorites.

HuffPost and its publishing partners may receive a commission from some purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently curated by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

A travel-friendly mattifying powder shampoo you won't want to go anywhere without once you see how effective it is at mattifying oily roots
Just dab it on your roots to release an ultra-fine powder that absorbs oil and revives volume so you can stay fresh from morning to night. BTW, this is cruelty-free! Get a look at how it's used on TikTok.

Promising review: "I bought this in desperation after having elbow surgery, which left me unable to wash my own hair. I have tried countless dry shampoo sprays and have been disappointed every time. But this? Absolutely 100% game changer. It kept my hair feeling clean and oil free for several days at a time. It's easy to use, absorbs in quickly, no white residue on my dark hair, and you don't need much. I will never buy another brand again. This is my holy grail of dry shampoo." — Bad Girl
A bottle of Elizavecca hair treatment formulated to deeply repair and hydrate your hair thanks to restorative ingredients like collagen and ceramide 3
Reviewers with everything from thin, fine hair to 4c curls have reported positive results from this moisturizing formula, which is particularly recommended for folks whose hair is damaged from using hot tools, bleach, and the like. You just apply it after shampooing, wait as little as five minutes, then rinse it out for hair that looks and feels silky soft. Some reviewers say it's even BETTER than Olaplex, which is over three times the price!

Promising review: "I saw this on TikTok, and in between other compares products that were four times the price, I decided to bite the bullet and buy this — let me tell you, best decision ever! I shampooed my hair, then heavily massaged this in, from ends to scalp. The carton says 5–20 minutes... But I ended up leaving it in for two days! And after washing it out, my hair was so shiny, bouncy and CURLY! My curl recovery journey has been long, but this has helped restore so much vibrance and shape to my hair. My mom has been stealing it from my bathroom every couple of days, after having similar results on her hair. Going to need to buy a few more to ward her off." — curlyhead3
Crave Naturals' Glide Thru detangling brush that's capable of passing through annoying tangles with ease
Reviewers swear it works magic on all hair types, including 2c–4c. Plus, the brush works on both wet and dry hair! It makes the process fly by much faster so you can tame your mane and move on, minus any yanking, pulling, pain or tears.

Promising review: "I have thick, down to my butt long curly hair, so brushing has always been hell. Usually, I have to deep condition my hair, brush it out before I wash it (about a half hour), then brush it in the shower, and after my shower, to try and keep it manageable. I never thought that it would matter what brush I used for my hair because its just always been the same no matter what I use. BUT THIS BRUSH. Oh my gosh! It has cut my hair brushing time down from 45 minutes to about five! And the best part, is that I can even brush it when it's dry! It doesn't rip or tug, my hair doesn't get poofy or frizzy, and it just takes away my knots and leaves my curls. It is built really well, tough enough to withstand even my nutty hair! Doesn't have those awful little beads that rip off in your hair. This is a life-changer for me!" — Ryan Turner
Or a Denman hair brush literally made for curly hair
It detangles, distributes product evenly, and shapes curls so you can dash out the door with perfectly sculpted spirals and time to spare. Also, its mini size makes it easy to hold and great for curly-haired kids to use as well.

Promising review: "I love this brush! I ordered because I saw a YouTube video of a girl with curly hair using it, and her curls came out amazing! I always do wash-and-gos, and I usually would only brush/comb my hair in the shower style it once I was out, but sometimes if I waited a little longer to style it, my hair would get dry and frizzy. It would be almost impossible to get my curls defined without getting back in the shower. With this brush, now all I have to do it spray my hair with water, put product in it, and comb it through with this brush, and my curls are poppin'! The brush is also very sturdy and you can take rows out if you want a looser curl!" — Bryant
Plus a hairbrush cleaning tool, which might just be the most brilliant product you never knew you needed
It'll pull out all of that stuck-in hair, dirt, and product buildup inside your brush. The reviewer above got such amazing results by using this tool along with soaking their brush in a Dawn-and-diluted-vinegar solution!

Promising review: "When I bought this I was really skeptical. I am grossed out by my hairbrush and clean it all the time. I've soaked it in vinegar and tea tree oil, used a toothbrush, scrubbed it with shampoo, picked it clean by hand — everything you can think of. Still, it's so hard to get the little lint that forms at the base of the brush — they don't dissolve off and you have to pick them off the bristles one by one because a toothbrush won't even break them up. This thing works amazingly. I don't know why, it just does — the particular texture of the bristles on this really grabs everything. It scraped the little lint rings right off and now my brush is cleaner, 10 times as fast." — HeartsofHavoc
A bottle of Fanola "No Yellow" purple shampoo to help your blonde or gray hair continue looking its best in between salon appointments
This'll neutralize yellow, brassy tones that start to peek through over time. Reviewers say they see a big difference in their hair after each use! Be sure to follow with a good conditioner afterward!

Promising review: "I LOVE THIS!! When I get my hair highlighted, I always use another purple shampoo and it never works for my hair at all. So I wanted to try this (thanks to TikTok). And I am not disappointed. My super yellow hair turned the blonde I wanted within one use, and I have used it more often and it just lightens it more and more. But beware it can stain hands so rinse your hands after!" — jillian lee
A spray bottle of SoCozy leave-in conditioner, a game-changer for both curly haired kiddos and adults
It helps reduce breakage, frizz, and tangles when applied before bedtime, but it can also help with styling in the morning by leaving curls defined and bouncy. Check out a TikTok of the spray in action. This is designed to work on all hair types, with reviewers with 2a–4c curls swearing by it!

Promising review: "Amazing!! I had NO idea that my frizzy-haired little girl had beautiful curls. I went down an Instagram rabbit hole and saw a similar girl show how her frizz was curls. I ordered this!! My mind has been blown!! This has changed our lives. It smells so good! It is easy to use and air dry. Before my daughter woke up with terrible bed head that looked like this! Now it is gorgeous soft curls. We will definitely buy again and tell everyone about this product!!" — Amazon Customer
A Revlon one-step hair dryer and volumizer so you can give yourself a gorgeous blowout without visiting the salon
The oval brush design smooths the hair and the round edges create volume, leaving you with a salon-worthy blowout at home. It also has two heat and speed settings and a cool option, and it's designed to work on all hair textures. Reviewers with 2b–4c hair mentioned it working for them.

Promising reviews: "I've had my eye on a Dyson Airwrap, but given the cost, I figured I'd try this while I save up. This thing is fantastic. I have waist length hair that's naturally straight, but gets frizzy when damp. I've had salon blowouts that have left my hair looking great, but I simply can't manage a round brush without it getting tangled in my hair. This device has been a game changer. It works best if you air dry for a while before you use it, then use it to finish your style. My hair miraculously doesn't get snarled in it, and it leaves my hair looking like I've had it professionally styled. I love it, and I'm no longer interested in blowing $500 on a Dyson. Highly recommend!" — Ilsa
A L’Oreal Paris rinse-out lamellar water treatment that'll transform your hair in just eight seconds (!)
Promising reviews: "Wow! I have waist-length 3c curly color-treated hair that’s usually a nightmare to deal with in the summer and this stuff is a game-changer. My hair is silky, my curls are defined, it dried in like half the usual time…seriously impressed!" —Stavana Jubinsky

"I'm a professional hairstylist and Matrix, Redken, and L’Oreal are all owned by L’Oreal, and each line has a lamellar water in it at different prices. I am here to tell you that they are all the exact same ingredients in different bottles. So buy the cheapest and save yourself some cash. Your hair will love you for it. I love this stuff." — anonymous87
A 42-pack of foam curling rods to make curling your hair so easy
All you have to do is wrap your hair around the rods into your desired shape and size, then lay down for your nightly snooze. You'll wake up with gorgeous curls, no expensive curlers or gadgets needed. Reviewers with everything from stick-straight to type 4c curls swear by these!

Promising review: "I haven’t put curlers in my hair in YEARS. Saw this on TikTok. Thought it would be great, especially because I’m so lazy when it comes to styling my hair. Dried my hair about 60%–70%, put curlers in, slept on them (not uncomfortable to sleep in), and voilà — hair is curled and ready to go in the a.m." — lapiper21
Or a RobeCurls heatless hair curler covered in satin to help lock in moisture and reduce frizz and split ends
Emikeni is a woman-founded small business that specializes in heatless hair curling tools. This rod is designed to work with all hair types, with tutorials included on their site! Rather than using different individual rods, your hair gets wrapped around this single long rod, kind of like a headband. The next morning you'll wake up to gorgeous ringlets, letting you fly through your morning routine faster.

Promising review: "WOW!!!!! I can’t believe how well this works!!! I’ve seen this all over Instagram and TikTok, and wanted to try it. It’s so easy to put in, takes about a minute or two. Comfortable to sleep in. Then, you take it out, and it looks like you put all this effort into doing your hair. The curls turned out gorgeous, I’m so impressed!!" — Katie Oswalt
Quick-acting Nizoral dandruff shampoo so you can find relief from those annoyingly itchy and embarrassingly visible white flakes hanging out on your scalp
Reviewers across all hair types, from thin, straight hair to coarse 4c hair, report a positive experience with this dandruff shampoo, i.e. that it's kept their hair itch- and flake-free. It's made with 1% ketoconazole, which binds to your hair's natural proteins to kill dandruff.

HuffPost Shopping writer Haley Zovickian says, "I get dandruff from time to time, and when I do the flakes are stubborn and hard to get rid of. Nizoral is a godsend and the only thing I will use for getting rid of it. Because it's antifungal, it actually gets at the root of the problem so you get fast relief. I make sure I never run out — it's the only thing that'll take care of my dandruff effectively and quickly."

Promising review: "I’ve had dandruff for my entire life and I didn’t know what caused it. I came across a dermatologist on TikTok saying this may be due to some fungus infection and recommended this product. I literally just used it two times a week for couple of weeks and I can see almost no dandruff anymore. Also the smell is good, it doesn’t smell like medicine and I kinda like it!" — Amazon Customer
A heated beard brush for taming your wild, unruly beard
It heats up in just 30 seconds, letting you groom and perfect your beard with just a few strokes. It's so effective, it has bearded folks wondering how they ever lived without it! The base kit comes with the beard straightener, a premium wooden comb, and a convenient travel pouch or case. There's an original and premium version — the original straightener has three heat levels and one-touch heat adjustment, while the premium version has 12 heat levels and a digital screen for precise temperature control.

Promising review: "Have you ever had an epiphany and thought to yourself why didn’t you think up this years ago? I was getting tired of my wild beard and was secretly jealous of guys with nice straight beards. Until I had an epiphany: What if there was such a thing as a beard straightener? A quick search of Amazon and they had them! It makes a big difference in my beard! This beard straightener works great!" —Steven Carroll
JVN Hair
JVN Air Dry Cream, which eliminates the arduous step of blow drying your hair
You can just apply this to wet hair, and it'll leave you with minimal frizz and enhance your natural waves or curls if you have them. It's designed for all hair types and reviewers across the board mostly report a good experience with it, from users with fine, thin hair to coarse, curly strands. That said, JVN says it's especially good for people with frizzy, wavy, curly, or coily hair.

Promising review: "Smells amazing. This stuff is a nice-one step process for when you are feeling lazy or don’t wanna blow dry. Keeps my waves and tames the frizz." — mmkile
A bottle of sulfate-free biotin shampoo if your hair is thinning and you're eager to do something about it
In addition to volumizing biotin, this shampoo contains other natural ingredients like keratin, rosemary oil, and tea tree oil that moisturize the scalp to help your mane grow in thicker and healthier than ever. Read more about how biotin shampoo could help with the fullness of hair at Cleveland Clinic.

Promising review: "I love this shampoo! I had gastric sleeve surgery and my hair was very, very thin. I started taking biotin and switched to biotin shampoo as recommended by my doctor. It doesn’t make your hair grow by washing it but it makes your hair and roots stronger. And it worked. After using the whole bottle, my hair was stronger. I had a lot of new growth that was sticking around (the previous new growth fell out early on) and my hair was getting thicker. Eight months later, my hair is back to normal. It's longer and thicker than ever. I still use it twice a week and love it! I [don't love] the way it smells but others love it when they smell my hair." — Diane J. Huff
Ebin New York 24-hour edge tamer that helps you lay down your edges and adds shine without flaking
You don't have to lay your edges, but this is great if you do!

Promising review: "Girl! This edge control is bomb. I have 4b/4c hair and this lays my edges no problem! It even survives the Caribbean heat. It didn’t turn white on me unless I packed too much on, but I just sprayed with some water before I applied and it worked out. It smells GREAT and it’ll last me ages. I bought it like, months ago and I still have about half left and I use it every day. GREAT bang for your buck." — Chelsea R.
Or a hair finishing stick letting you take control of all those flyaways
Promising review: "I saw this on TikTok and didn’t believe it was as good as they said, but it is! Looks like a tube of mascara, and I thought it would make my hair hard or greasy looking, nope! Just makes the flyaways stay down." — Sam Ingle
Some Lime Crime Unicorn hair dye so you can achieve your dream of sporting a colorful mane, minus the expense (and time) of a salon trip
This semi-permanent dye is vegan and cruelty-free and doesn't cause any damage — it even works well on dark hair!

Promising review:
"I’m so in love with my unicorn hair! I went from a dull silver/rose to a gorgeous vibrant magenta! Never going back to the other semi permanent brands I've used in the past. Lime Crime Unicorn Hair is my new bestie! I bought the Chocolate Covered Cherry and left it on for two hours but it washed out beautifully and my hair was silky smooth! It smells amazing too which makes coloring much more pleasant. So far I've only washed it once in warm water since coloring and the color is still just as vibrant!" — Mysti Moon
An elongating curling gel helping you achieve spirals that are soft and defined without losing any length
Promising review: "Holy grail curl definer. I have been using it to define my curls for about 5 years. I spent so much money on other definers before I found this gel. It is VERY moisturizing and does not give you that dry hard curl that feels like it will break off if touched wrong. It dries clear, does not leave any residue and curls will last until your next wash — which is usually about 4–7 days for me. You can use a little or a lot depending on how defined you want your curls to be. I use about a handful but that's my preference. I simply slather it on, root to ends, and then whip my head back and forth a few times and I'm done with my hair!! I am definitely a lifetime customer!!" — Starr
Curlinator Designs/ Etsy
A 2-in-1 hair bun maker if you've ever wished you could pull off one of those effortlessly perfect buns you see on others
Curlinator Designs is a North Carolina-based small family biz that specializes in hair accessories.

Promising review: "Love it!!! I was concerned I wouldn't be able to figure out how to use it, but videos make understanding simple. So much easier to use in the mornings than fixing your hair in a bun!!!" — bld9
INH Hair
And INH Hair's curled Molly Pony to help you achieve the tall, Ariana Grande-esque ponytail of your dreams
if you prefer a straight pony, the Miya Pony is the noncurly version! The ponytails are made out of vegan synthetic fiber from Japan. Molly is 22 inches long and Miya is 26 inches. Make sure to read their tips on detangling and care in the Care section!

INH Hair is a woman-owned small biz based in Los Angeles. They aim to get you the best quality and trendiest styles and boost your confidence.

Promising review (for Molly): "Love it. I wore this out and felt like a complete baddie. The hairs are so soft and pleasing to touch. The color is absolutely beautiful too." — Natasha I.
A 2-in-1 dual-voltage hair tool so you can stop making room for both your curling iron and straightener in your suitcase
Promising review: "Theinternational traveler's BFF. Don't be fooled by the tiny price or size, this little baby is serious. If you are looking for a small travel option rather than lugging your big straightener and giant curling iron around the world, then I think you'll love this. It performs really well, turning my frizzy, wavy hair into a smooth and sleek style. The curling iron option also creates shiny, silky lasting curls! It's easy to transition between both. I also like the grippy handle and the fact that the curling iron clip is a different color than the straightening bars because that helps me see how I should be maneuvering it around. The voltage goes up to 240 so you are good using it internationally without a converter (but you will need an adapter just to fit it into various foreign outlets). At this price, definitely give it a try and flaunt your tresses abroad." — Christine
Or Bedhead's Deep Waver tool that'll show your hair (that can't hold a curl to save its life) who's boss
Promising reviews: "This tool is very easy to use and fairly quick. We have thick hair at my house and it only takes 5–10 minutes each. It looks super cute on short hair or long hair." — PT

"Where has this been all my life! I’m in love! I have long, fine hair that doesn’t hold curl very well. It tends to be very straight and I always have it back in a pony or up in a messy bun because it has no volume. This wave iron gives it tons of body and volume. It’s like magic!" — Tonya Fleming
Briogeo's Heat Protectant Crème, because it doesn't just protect your strands against high temperatures when styling; it also smooths frizz
BTW, Briogeo is a Black woman-owned business.

Promising reviews: "Wonderful smell. Gets the job done. I use it daily when straightening my hair (medium length, wavy, thick)." — arodd

"This product worked very well on my low porosity, medium textured, 4a hair. The product itself was lightweight, not sticky, and absorbed into the hair well. It added lightweight moisture, reduced blow dry time, and overall made the process a bit easier." — Curly Kat

"This cream really works on my frizzy hair. My hair is fine and medium thickness. I live in Alabama where we frequently have very high humidity, and when using this cream, the frizz is kept at bay." — neagtive
An easy-to-use L'Oreal root-concealing spray if you're tired of booking expensive salon appointments just to have your roots touched up
That said, gray hair is gorgeous, so let those silvery strands shine! At the end of the day, it's whatever makes YOU feel best.

Promising review: "This product is terrific for hiding the pesky gray hairs that start to emerge 1–2 weeks after coloring my hair. I have dark hair, and a lot of gray around my forehead and temple areas, so any gray hairs are beyond obvious. Once they start to peek out, I use this product and I can last another couple of weeks before coloring." — Carissa K
A satin-lined Hairbrella that's got you (and your hair) covered when rain, snow or humidity are in the forecast without giving you that awful "hat hair"
Hairbrella is a Black-owned small business established in 2016 that specializes in hats combining fashion and function to protect against all types of weather.

Promising review: "Finally a rain hat that won't ruin a hair style. Perfect to keep in my purse when I go to the hair salon and it unexpectedly rains. The satin lining is a stroke of genius so it won't dry out my hair. Looking forward to buying several more to match my purses. Destined to become the must have fashion accessory!" — Kindle Customer

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