When you find a gray hair, you have two immediate options if you want to get rid of it: Ignore it, or pluck it. The commonly held belief is that it's smarter to leave it — because if you pluck it, many more grays will grow in its place.
We asked cosmetic scientist Randy Schueller, author of the new beauty-myth-busting book "It's OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick," to explain.
"There's no harm in plucking a gray hair, but it also doesn't do you much good," explained Schueller in an email.
Plucking the hair will indeed get rid of the gray — but only temporarily. "The follicle (the little tube beneath the skin that produces the hair) is still alive and will produce another hair to replace the one that was pulled out," says Schueller, who is editor-in-chief of the blog The Beauty Brains.
And you don't need to worry that pulling out the gray hair will somehow summon more grays to magically appear.
"That's a complete myth because what you do to one follicle doesn't affect its neighbors," Schueller said.
"There is some good news: If you're lucky, when the new hair grows back it may be a little less gray than its predecessor. That's because melanogenesis (the process by which hair follicles make the pigment that gives hair its color) is not totally consistent from hair to hair," he said.
"If you're a real serious plucker, you may damage the follicle to the point where it will no longer grow any hair at all," said Schueller. "In that case, you won't have a gray hair in that spot but you also won't have any hair at all there!"
And there's also a third option here, of course: Ignore the gray and keep right on ignoring, until you have a head full of gorgeous gray hair.
This updated story was originally published in 2013