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Plucking your first gray hairs: harmless action or consequential gesture?

The discovery of one's first gray hairs in the mirror can sometimes be a shock. While some people accept them with philosophy, others have a more radical reflex: to pluck them out. This action may seem harmless at first glance, but is it truly without consequences? Let's discover this together.

The onset of the first gray hairs: a milestone to overcome.

The appearance of white hair is a phenomenon that affects everyone at some point in their life. Some accept it more reluctantly than others, but it's important to remember that it's a natural process. From a biological perspective, it is explained by the gradual loss of activity and number of melanocytes in the hair bulb, cells that synthesize melanin. Without melanin, the hair fibers lose their pigment and turn white.

Furthermore, the amount of catalase, the enzyme capable of breaking down hydrogen peroxide, decreases over time. However, hydrogen peroxide is a byproduct of the hair growth reaction and triggers a chain reaction leading to the degradation of melanin. These various mechanisms explain why we one day notice a white hair on our head.

Does plucking your first gray hairs have consequences?

It is sometimes said that if you pluck a white hair, several will grow back in its place, but this is not the case. Indeed, hair pigmentation is determined by the proportions of eumelanin, a dark pigment, and pheomelanin, a lighter pigment, in the hair fibers. These are two types of melanin synthesized by melanocytes.

Pulling out a white hair does not affect the ability of melanocytes to produce melanin in other follicles. Moreover, hair grows according to an independent growth cycle for each follicle, with phases of growth (anagen phase), rest (catagen phase), and shedding (telogen phase). When a hair is plucked, the cycle of other hair follicles is not disrupted.

However, it is still advised against plucking out your first gray hairs. Besides being only a temporary solution to hair whitening, this action is harsh on the scalp and goes against the hair renewal cycle. To defend itself and fill the void left by the hair in the hair follicle, the scalp reacts by stimulating the activity of the sebaceous glands, which are responsible for sebum production. As a result, hair may appear greasier. It is also possible that some people experience scalp itching after plucking a large number of hairs.

First white hairs: what to do?

Several options are available to you if you wake up one morning to discover the appearance of your first gray hairs. The first and simplest is to ignore them. After all, if there are only a few, there's a good chance that no one will notice them, and even if they do, remember that it's a natural process.

If your white hair bothers you, you also have the option to conceal it, through a change in hairstyle, strategically placing your strands, or even resorting to hair dye or highlights. If you choose the latter option, we advise you to seek a professional hairdresser, as coloring hair is quite technical and it's not easy to do it yourself.

Source

  • RAWNSLEY J. & al. Hair biology: Growth and pigmentation. Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America (2018).

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