Underarm hair

Underarm hair

Underarm Hair (also called axillary hair or armpit hair) is the composition of hair in the underarm area. This hair, as most of the other body hair, normally starts to appear at puberty and growth is usually complete by the end of teen age. The release of pheromones from the axilla at this stage of human development suggests association of armpit hair with sexuality. The positive response to olfactory stimulus in mammals and the consequent intensification of the sex drive caused by release of pheromones offers useful clues as to the purpose and importance of axillary hair in humans. It has been suggested that the hair itself acts with a natural "anti-friction" quality between the upper arm and the thorax. More importantly, armpit hair naturally wicks moisture away from the skin, which aids in keeping the skin dry enough to prevent colonization by odor producing bacteria.

Cultural attitudes

Today, in many countries, especially in much of the Western world, it is more common for women than men to shave off their underarm hair regularly for aesthetic reasons, a practice that may be connected to the overall body hair distribution of sexes. Prevalence of this practice varies widely, though.

Religious reasons are sometimes cited; in Islamic culture, both men and women practice the removal of underarm hair for reasons of cleanliness.

Competitive swimmers remove all body hair, including underarms, to make their bodies more streamlined before taking part in races. It is also common amongst bodybuilders and in erotica for aesthetic reasons.

History of underarm hair removal

depilatory powder in "Harper's Bazar" from 1915.
In the West, the practice began around 1915 in the US and UK, when one or more magazines showed a woman in a dress with shaved underarms. Regular shaving became feasible with the introduction of the safety razor at the beginning of the 20th century. While underarm shaving was quickly adopted in English speaking countries, especially in the US and Canada, it did not become widespread on the Continent of Europe until well after WWII. [ [http://www.quikshave.com/timeline.htm The Shaving Historical Timeline ] ]

Effects of shaving

It is a commonly believed myth that shaving hair will cause it to grow thicker over time. [ [http://www.snopes.com/oldwives/hairgrow.asp Urban Legends Reference Pages: Shaved Hair Grows Darker ] ] There is nothing about the practice of shaving that produces new follicles for hair to grow out of; this myth most likely persists because stubble does not taper like hair that is allowed to grow long and because short hairs feel coarser than longer hairs of the same thickness. However, shaving does increase the likelihood of developing ingrown hairs. [ [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingrown_hair] ] Armpit hair removal must be performed more frequently than leg shaving, as underarm hair grows faster than leg hair. The armpit area can darken over a period of time and even with a close shave, an "evening shadow" may be visible. Because hair under the skin can contribute to a dark appearance of the underarm, waxing, by removing the hair from the root, can effectively reduce this darkness. [ [http://www.indiaparenting.com/faqs/beauty/dark_underarm.shtml Dark Underarm ] ] However, removing armpit hair, whether by shaving or any other method, increases the amount of moisture allowed to cling to the skin and if combined with a disturbed acid mantel caused by the use of most soaps (basic pH), may lead to increased body odor.

Appearance of underarm hair in puberty

A 2006 study of 15,000 Americans aged 11-18 gave the following results:Fact|date=March 2008

The survey concluded that nearly all 15-year-olds have underarm hair, and 4 of 5 Americans begin to grow hair under their arms at 13 or 14. Most have underarm hair that is adult in quantity at age 16, but 20% do not until 17 or 18.

Axillary hair in art

The axillary hair in art is usually removed; not doing so was a mark of modernism. This is in contrast to the depiction of pubic hair in art. Rarely, pubic hair was portrayed in art created in the Middle Ages. Depiction of pubic hair gradually became more common in the Renaissance, and quite frequent in modern times. [ [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0270-7993%28199223%2F199324%2913%3A2%3C32%3ASSROWI%3E2.0.CO%3B2-6&size=LARGE&origin=JSTOR-enlargePage jstor] ]

See also

* Leg hair
* Leg shaving
* Pubic hair
* Trichophilia
* Underarm


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