Is it okay to pull out grey hairs?

If you're someone who likes to pull out greys, you may wonder if you're doing harm to your hair. Here's what you should know

Is it okay to pull out grey hairs?

Source: Best Health Magazine, November 2012; Image: Thinkstock

Q: When I see grey hairs, I want to pull them out. Is it okay to do that?

‘OMG! I need to know about this!’ a colleague emailed me when she heard I was looking into this question. She has gorgeous long brown hair, which she colours. She pulls out greys between dye jobs, but had heard that those hairs won’t grow back, or that plucking one would cause more to take its place.

‘I see women all the time in my salon who have this habit,’ says Montreal-based hairdresser Alain Larivée, Canadian creative consultant for John Frieda. That includes women who have never coloured their hair and are starting to see grey, and those who see greys grow in between colouring jobs.

Relax; it’s mainly harmless. The hair will generally grow back, but it will still be grey, says Toronto dermatologist Dr. Martie Gidon. ‘Grey hair already has a coarser texture than naturally pigmented hair, and it will grow back as coarse as before it was pulled.’

Hairdresser Marc Anthony, whose eponymous line of hair care products is sold in drugstores worldwide, says if you see a white bulb at the plucked hair’s root, that’s normal. However, ‘if you pull a hair out and its root tip is red, you’ve probably pulled out a hair from the blood supply, in which case it will most likely not grow back.’ Gidon says it’s also possible a new ‘replacement’ hair can become ingrown before it grows out, which could lead to the possibility of infection, then scarring.

What about the fear that plucking one grey hair will result in many greys growing in its place? ‘That won’t happen, or I shudder to think what would happen to our eyebrows,’ says Anthony. ‘However, it is better to leave it be. There are so many options for grey hair these days­’including just leaving it grey.’

If you do that, focus on giving hair shine, and consider a clear gloss salon treatment, suggests Anthony. Also, a shampoo that’s blue-based (for grey hair) or violet-based (for blonde, white or grey) will help keep hair looking brilliant versus dull and yellowish, he says. ‘Tobacco smoke, sunlight and wax-based hair products can give grey hair a yellow tinge, so try to avoid them.’ If you want to cover the first signs of grey, he suggests a semi-permanent rinse, or highlights: ‘A few highlights that complement your natural colour can work to camouflage grey.’

What advice would Larivée give to someone who colours her hair and pulls out greys between dye jobs? ‘Book your colour service on a regular interval that you are able to live with,’ says Larivée, who owns the CAJH Maîtres Coiffeurs salon in Montreal. ‘I usually say every four to six weeks.’ For those who colour their hair at home, Larivée recommends permanent dye John Frieda Precision Foam Colour. ‘It’s easy to use and covers pesky grey hairs. The non-drip foam formula gives full coverage and helps avoid a mess.’

I asked Gidon when she, as a medical doctor, would be concerned about this hair-yanking habit. ‘You may be tempted to pull out your first few grey hairs, but then it’s best to either accept them, or colour them.’ However, she says, if an individual has trichotillo-mania (or hair-pulling disorder), this is an obsessive behaviour that does require medical

What are you curious about? Send me your beauty questions at or @RhondaRovan on Twitter.

This article was originally titled "Help me, Rhonda!" in the November 2012 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!

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