Armpit hair is perfectly natural, yet many people consider it embarrassing or unattractive. While removing underarm hair is a personal choice, frequently influenced by cultural customs, to do so can be painful and cause skin irritation and other problems. Knowing the best techniques for removing this hair can help create smooth, easy results with minimal hassle.
Biology of Armpit Hair
The first appearance of underarm hair is a sign of puberty, often occurring during the middle or late stages of that biological change. For some individuals, the hair may be widespread on the armpit area, while others may have a smaller patch of hair concentrated in the armpit hollow. Underarm hair is generally longer and coarser than other bodily hair, and depending on an individual's body chemistry, it may gradually darken over time.
While armpit hair does not appear to serve any physiological purpose today, biologists theorize that its initial evolutionary advantage was to reduce friction between the upper arm and the body during vigorous labor or motion. Today the only active use for this hair is to collect pheromones, suggestive chemicals that discreetly transmit messages of sexual readiness or prowess to other members of the species.
Contrary to popular belief, underarm hair does not grow back thicker after it has been removed, since shaving does nothing to change the number of hair follicles in the underarm area. This myth may have begun because new hair creates stubble and can lead to redness, irritation, and ingrown hairs that may make an underarm area seem more inflamed and darker than prior to hair removal.Another myth about armpit hair is that shaving was initially a sign of loose virtue or prostitution. There is no historical basis for this assumption, and in fact, many cultures have historically encouraged the removal of excess body hair - including armpit, chest, and pubic hair - to promote cleanliness. If hair is removed, it cannot help retain sweat, dirt, or odor-causing bacteria.
Removing Armpit Hair
Different people have different reasons for removing underarm hair, whether it's a personal preference or a fashion necessity. Regardless of the reason, shaving or other removal techniques must be used cautiously to avoid painful nicks, cuts, and irritation.
The most frequently cited group of people who shave underarm hair is women, typically for fashion or style concerns, particularly if sleeveless, strapless, or cap-sleeved garments are worn that might show the hair. In some cultures, women may not entirely shave, but they do keep their armpit hair trimmed and neat.
Other people who may shave include individuals with sweat gland problems, because removing the hair helps deodorants and antiperspirants work more effectively directly on the skin. Some men shave under their arms for a feeling of cleanliness or style preferences, and professional athletes, particularly swimmers, may also remove underarm hair to help reduce friction and streamline their performance.
Tips for Success
Shaving is the most common method for removing underarm hair. Consider these tips for a clean, smooth shave:
- Soak hair in warm water (either a bath or shower) for several minutes prior to shaving to soften it for easier removal.
- Use shaving cream or gel to help hair stand up and moisturize skin to prevent excess irritation.
- If using a regular razor, use short, controlled strokes from several directions for the most effective shave.
- If using an electric shaver, choose a model that can be used with lotions or that has its own moisturizer.
- Keep skin pulled tight while shaving to raise hairs for a closer shave.
- Rinse blades frequently to avoid clogging pores with dirt and debris that can cause painful ingrown hairs.
- Do not apply deodorant immediately after shaving; the harsh perfumes and chemicals can sting and irritate skin. Use baby powder or formulas meant for sensitive skin instead.
If shaving is too difficult or painful, there are alternative hair removal methods that can eliminate underarm hair. Waxing is one alternative, albeit a painful one. Many people choose depilatory creams that dissolve hair, though the chemicals may be too harsh for sensitive skin. Laser treatments can also remove unwanted armpit hair, often permanently.
The Natural Look
As society slowly shifts away from unachievable ideals of beauty, the natural look is becoming more popular and many people are refraining from removing armpit hair at all. To keep underarm hair attractive, consider using conditioner to soften it, and trimming can help keep it neat and manageable. Some people even try coloring their underarm hair, though dyes and other harsh products should be used carefully.
Whether you choose to remove or simply maintain armpit hair, there are several ways to keep both hair and skin healthy. By properly dealing with this body hair, it is possible to be stylish and fashionable with minimal effort.