A friend, who knows I run this blog, asked me, why does body hair grow when we get older? I realized I didn’t really know so thought it was a good topic to investigate and blog about.
If you are a man, it seems that once you get to a certain age, hair stops growing where you want it to grow – on your head. But very perversely it then generally starts growing everywhere you don’t want it to – your ears, nose, toes, stomach, back and even shoulders.
Looking into why does body hair increases as we get older was a bit of an eye-opener for me. Some of it was quite surprising.
Read the results of my research below ……
Depending on how far you go back, our ancestors were very hairy (or should that be furry). Most mammals, apart from us, and those that live in the sea, are still almost completely covered in hair. Our ancestors were hairy in order to keep them warm of course.
Over time, through natural selection, we became less hairy and also gained the ability to sweat through our skin. This allowed us to hunt during the heat of the day which other hunting species couldn’t as it was too hot.
Our findings when we looked into the question of why does body hair grow when we get older were not quite what we expected. You see, according to a leading US Dermatologist, it seems that the hairs are actually there all the time! It is just that they are so fine and light in color that they are not really noticeable.
Vellus and Terminal Hairs
Our bodies are covered in fine hairs from birth, well actually while we are developing in the womb. These are known as vellus hairs and they are found everywhere, generally, except on the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet. It isn’t until puberty that some of this hair starts to grow thicker and darker and is then known as terminal hair.
The older we get the more the terminal hairs begin to get out of sync with the normal growing cycles of hair which is growth, rest and then falling out. This means that hairs can grow much longer and thicker than normal before they finally fall out. As we get older still, more vellus hair becomes terminal hair. This is why it becomes noticeable on other parts of our bodies.
Testosterone and Androgen
Obviously, the development of terminal hair tends to happen much more in men than in women. It is believed that this is due to the hair’s long exposure to the testosterone hormone over time in men.
Testosterone isn’t the only hormone to affect hair growth though. Hormones called Androgens also have an effect. Androgens are responsible for the development of masculine features. During puberty, this generally manifests itself in sensitive areas of the body, for example, in the growth of pubic hair and underarm hair. It does also continue to have an influence in later years, the development of back hair for one.
The Frequency of Mens Body Hair
According to a survey, the frequency of the existence of terminal hair on various parts of the body in men is:
Beard – 100%
Abdominal – 84%
Chest – 79%
Lower arm and leg – 97%
Upper arm and leg – 85%
Back – 28%
Fingers and toes – 67%
Of these findings, perhaps the most surprising, at least to us, is that back hair is found on only 28% of men. How lucky are the other 72% is what we say?
Of course, there are some medical conditions that can lead to abnormal amounts of body hair. Two of these are Hypertrichosis and Hirsutism.
Hypertrichosis is where there is an abnormal quantity and distribution of body hair. This is due to genetics, so blame your parents if you suffer from this. It can occur anywhere on the body particularly the back. This condition generally does cause any other medical problems, it is purely an annoying one.
Hirsutism is a more serious condition caused by high levels of the hormone Androgen. It causes larger than normal amount of body hair growth but more worryingly these increased hormone levels can lead to significant weight gain. It may also be an indicator of a much more serious underlying condition. So it is worth speaking to your doctor if you are concerned about abnormal hair growth,
Benefits of “unwanted” body hair
Having hair sprout out in places you may not want it is not necessarily all bad though. When research why does body hair grow we found the following potential benefits:
Nose and ear hair – this may look a bit unsightly but at least it can protect those orifices from the intrusion of potential invaders such as germs, viruses, and therefore prevent infection. We aren’t saying that the ups outweigh the downs though. Nose hair, in particular, is particularly gross when you have a cold.
Arm and Leg Hair – like most of our body hair, hair on our arms and legs has the benefit of helping to keep us warm in winter- But in addition it may also protect us against damage from the sun to some extent during the summer
Chest hair – sometimes seen as a sign of “manliness” by some women. They appear to find it very attractive. So perhaps you should consider keeping it rather than shaving it off.
Back hair – as awful as many may consider it, back hair can assist in keeping you warm in winter by helping to trap warm air between your skin and your clothes.
Toe hair – try as hard as we might, we could not actually find any real benefits to having hairy toes except to say that you must have good circulation in order for the hair to grow.
Hairs around the anus – believe it or not, as annoying and unpleasant as this may be, there may actually be a benefit. That being that hair may stop you from becoming chafed when your cheeks rub together when you walk! Who would have though it? You see, perhaps every cloud does have a silver lining after all.
Hairy moles – many people have moles on their body, particularly on the back and abdomen. But having hairy moles rather than non-hairy moles can actually be a good thing. Hairs growing from moles is often a sign that the mole is healthy, rather than cancerous. So be thankful if you have hairs in yours.
I hope this has helped answer your question “why does body hair grow when we get older”. I found it interesting researching the answers and certainly learnt some things I didn’t know before.
If you have body hair you don’t want and are looking for ways to remove it then please check out my advice on how to remove unwanted body hair for men.
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