Shaving, waxing, plucking — we do all to get rid of body hair. But this week, singer Miley Cyrus decided to leave her underarms unshaved. Here, with the help of experts, we have explored why being hairy may be good for you – be it, man or woman. The hair on the body is important for maintaining anyone’s skin health, shares Des Tobin, a professor of cell biology at the University of Bradford.
‘Each hair follicle [the tiny structure that sprouts hairs] is not just producing a hair fibre, but also has masses of blood vessels, nerves and fat around it. If you compared a wound on the outside of a man’s arm, where the hair follicles are larger and more numerous, with a wound on the inside of the arm, the one on the outside would heal better, because of the increased stem cells and blood supply, among other factors,’ says Professor Tobin.
However, the good news is that removing hair by shaving or waxing won’t reduce these benefits because the hair follicles are still intact with your body.
‘We do know bald heads lose more heat, and that when we’re cold, our body hair stands on end to trap warm air closer to the surface of the skin,’ he says.
‘Unsightly as they may be, hairs in the nostrils do have a role – to prevent foreign material, such as dust, getting in to the nose and lungs,’ says George Murty, an ear, nose and throat consultant at University Hospitals of Leicester. ‘When you pluck, you’re pulling the root out, which leaves a hole in the skin – that’s a potential source of infection, so you may want to avoid plucking when there’s lots of infections around’.
‘Surprisingly, the tip of the nose technically has the most dense patch of hair on the body. We’re born with all our hair follicles – 5 million of them. As we grow into adults, the hair on our limbs becomes spaced out, but the tip of the nose stays a relatively similar size,’ expresses Professor Tobin. ‘Even the finest hair coverage on the body provides this glide buffer zone. So, some people who shave under their arms find it’s uncomfortable to move their arms against the side of their body – like a carpet burn.’
Repeated hair removal in this area, whatever the method, can sometimes cause a minor infection called folliculitis – disrupting the hair follicle may allow bacteria to get into the hair’s root.
‘Because there is a high concentration of follicles in this area, and increased sweat (on which bacteria feed), the chances of an infection are higher,’ says Mr Ugwumadu.