Curiosities

Why Do We Have Armpit Hair? and Is it useful?

Photo of handsome man shaving his armpit. the young man in bedroom sitting in front of the mirror at home

Everyone at some point has wondered Why Do We Have Armpit Hair. While it seems that this feature is useless at first glance, it actually plays an important role in the body. 

At puberty, hormonal changes bring about the hair growth in the armpits and elsewhere on the body. For what reason does it grow? What is your function? In this space, we tell you more about its characteristics.

And it is that, as we approach adulthood, we notice that those little hairs – which were almost imperceptible to our eyes – begin to change. The reason is that they become terminal hair and are involved in some functions. Let’s see what this is about.

Terminal hair characteristics

The human being has three types of hair on the body, and these undergo changes during the different stages of their development; each has its own characteristics.

The lanugo, which spreads throughout the body, is present from the last trimester of gestation and disappears in the infant’s first months. The androgenic hair (nonterminal) is less fine lanugo that is still colorless and superficial. And the hair or terminal hair, which replaces the prepubertal with the following characteristics:

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  • It has a lot of pigment and marrow.
  • It is thick and visible.
  • It is found mainly in the armpits, the pubis, the eyebrows, and the eyelashes. Those that grow on the scalp (hair) are also part of terminal hair.
  • It is distinguished from non-terminal hair because it is longer, with the exception of the one that comes out on the scalp; the axillary hair exceeds 2 cm and does not usually exceed 3-5 cm.

Terminal hair that grows in the armpits, like pubic hair, is called in specialized settings “ambisexual hair. ” It means that it grows in both sexes; also, its density will depend on the number of androgens in the person. What is its specific role?

Why is armpit hair coming out?

The hair in the armpits comes out due to androgens’ action in the human body. These are a group of hormones, among which testosterone stands out. Regarding this, it is believed that it is an exclusive hormone of the male gender; however, this is not the case. It also occurs in the female reproductive system, although to a lesser degree.

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In both cases, these hormonal changes are responsible for terminal hair growth during adolescence. The pubic appears first and, approximately two years later, the armpit hair appears. The time of appearance is variable according to the development of each person.

Benefits of underarm hair

One of the main functions of underarm hair is maintaining an optimal body temperature. Hair can protect against cold air or excessive heat that comes into contact with that sensitive region.

It also serves to retain or slow down sweat when it is produced in large quantities. In this way, it prevents the liquid from dripping, as is often the case on the back.

It should be remembered that hair alone is not responsible for the bad smell that can occur in the area. It is attributed, yes, to inadequate hygiene that allows bacteria to accumulate in the armpits.

1. Reduce friction

Underarm hair prevents skin-to-skin contact, therefore reducing the irritation that friction can cause, for example, when we exercise. Not plucking this hair considerably reduces the possibility of ingrown hairs, which can cause painful discomfort and infections.

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2. Pheromones

An odor that is characteristic of each person originates in the armpits, and the presence of hair helps to trap it. Those smells are known as pheromonesIn particular, they are chemicals produced by the body naturally, which are released to act as signals, especially in the opposite sex.

The word pheromone is a neologism that comes from Greek and means to carry or transport something that causes a reaction or excitement. The definition became popular in the mid-twentieth century, and since then, fragrances began to be manufactured, seeking to reproduce the essence of these scents.

Hence the ancient belief that the intensity of the smell in the armpits was associated with an exaltation of masculine virtues. As in scientific studies on animals, they served to increase attractiveness and find a mate.

3. Prevents other discomforts or diseases

Wearing underarm hair naturally, without shaving or plucking, reduces rashes’ appearance. Similarly, it prevents abscesses that are formed by the obstruction of a clogged pore when exposed to chemicals or dirt. Given this reality, some doctors suggest that it is preferable to cut the hair with scissors if we want the area as clear as possible.

Waxing Armpit Hair is a personal decision.

While it is true that the tendency to wear shaved skin prevails at this time, it is good to know the benefits of growing hair in the armpits. The criteria to eliminate them do not respond to a medical guideline but rather to an aesthetic one. They are embedded in a cultural pattern typical of this century.

Wearing hairless skin and undergoing treatments to keep the skin free of underarm hair is a personal decision. It will depend on the tastes and customs of each one. In any case, in both cases, it is not a problem if good hygiene habits are maintained.

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Notes

    • InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. What is the structure of hair, and how does it grow? 2019 Aug 29. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546248/
    • Randall VA. Androgens and hair growth. Dermatol Ther. 2008 Sep-Oct; 21 (5): 314-28. DOI: 10.1111 / j.1529-8019.2008.00214.x. PMID: 18844710.
    • Lanzalaco A, Vanoosthuyze K, Stark C, Swaile D, Rocchetta H, Spruell R. A comparative clinical study of different hair removal procedures and their impact on axillary odor reduction in men. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2016; 15 (1): 58-65. DOI: 10.1111 / jocd.12197
    • Verhaeghe J, Gheysen R, Enzlin P. Pheromones and their effect on women’s mood and sexuality. Facts Views Vis Obgyn. 2013; 5 (3): 189-195.
    • Suro Reyes, José Ángel, Gutiérrez Fernández, Luisa, Ruíz Ávila, Javier and Bouhanna, Pierre. (2007) “The hair, generalities and functions.” Cosmetic, Medical and Surgical Dermatology Magazine. Volume 5. N ° 4. October-December.
    • Luo DQ, Liang YH, Li XQ, Zhao YK, Wang F, Sarkar R. Ingrowing Hair: A Case Report. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016; 95 (19): e3660. DOI: 10.1097 / MD.0000000000003660

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