There are three different types of hair in humans:
- Terminal Hair
- Lanugo hair
- Vellus hair
Underarm hair is one of the terminal hairs, i.e. hair that is more strongly pigmented, longer and thicker than the rest of the body hair. All terminal hairs have the same structure and consist of three layers:
- The hair marrow is located in the middle of the hair shaft and represents about one third of the diameter of the hair. This is where mainly fats and degradation products of cells are found.
- The hair cortex, which forms the main component of the hair shaft, is connected to the outside of the hair. The cortex consists of a multitude of fibres made up of keratin (a structural protein). The special arrangement of these fibres gives the terminal hairs their high elasticity and tear resistance. – The cuticle layer is on the very outside. This serves to protect the hair cortex by completely covering it with cells stacked on top of each other like roof tiles.
Axillary hair growth
Underarm hair grows in the armpits of people and is one of the secondary sexual characteristics. They do not exist from birth, but develop during puberty (usually as one of the later pubertal characteristics) under the influence of certain hormones. As it is mainly the testosterone level that is responsible for the development of underarm hair, men have on average more underarm hair than women.
Apart from hormones and a genetic predisposition, there are many other factors that influence the intensity of hairiness. For example, the climate has an effect on underarm hair in so far as people living in hot climates have more pronounced hairiness due to evolution, which is due to the fact that the hair contributes to cooling the body by evaporating the sweat absorbed there. Friction in the armpits can also have an influence on the extent of hairiness there.
All of this contributes to the fact that underarm hair varies greatly from person to person. Just like the hair on the head, the hair can also differ in shape and colour, in addition to its density. The average life span of an armpit hair is about 6 months, which is why this hair is significantly shorter than head hair, which grows for up to 7 years before it falls out.
Function of the armpit hair
Underarm hair fulfils a multitude of functions. On the one hand they are there to absorb the sweat secreted in the armpits. From here it can evaporate and help to cool the body.
Contrary to the widespread opinion, there is no increase in sweating when armpit hair is present, it is just more difficult to wash off odour-forming bacteria from hairy armpits than from hairless ones, which is why it is actually the case that hairy armpits tend to smell more unpleasant. However, this can be remedied by particularly thorough washing. Furthermore, underarm hairs play a role in sexual life: they are considered to be a visual attraction (in some cultures, underarm hairs are considered to be erotic symbols) and also help to better distribute sex attractants (pheromones).
Their third function is to reduce friction in the armpit. After removing the underarm hair, a cooling cream or oil can be applied to soothe the skin. Deo should not be applied immediately afterwards, as there is always the slightest skin injury and the deodorant can cause burning and pain.
Applying antibacterial and soothing after shave balms disinfects the skin and prevents pimples and redness. One example is Dr. Severin Body After Shave Balm from the pharmacy. The skin under the armpits is very sensitive and hair removal can be very difficult for this reason.
From the multitude of methods for removing underarm hair, the one that irritates your skin the least should be chosen. The hair removal methods also differ in the amount of time the underarm hair needs to grow back after removal. Quick and painless hair removal by shaving, for example, leads to regrowth of the hair after a short time, as only the tips of the hair are shortened.
For this reason, shaving must be repeated every day or every other day if no stubble is to be visible. When removing underarm hair with an epilator or wax, the appearance of regrowing hairs does not occur so quickly. To remove underarm hair with a wet razor, the armpit should be moistened with warm water before shaving (e.g. in the shower).
If there is a tendency towards ingrown hairs, a peeling can be carried out beforehand. Some shaving foam or shower gel should be applied to the skin, the arm should be raised high up and the shave should be performed with a sharp razor blade. When using a depilatory cream for sensitive areas, it can be applied to cleansed, dry skin and should be left on for a few minutes.
For underarm hair removal using wax, the hair length should be between 6 and 12 millimetres. Depending on the product, the wax is applied warm or cold beforehand. The armpit should be thoroughly cleaned before this, then baby powder is applied to make waxing easier.
A strip of fabric is placed on top of the wax, which is pulled off the skin in the direction of hair growth in the fastest possible movements. An epilator is pulled over the dry skin and the hairs including the root are plucked out like with tweezers. There are also some permanent hair removal methods such as laser or flashes of light, but these should only be performed by a dermatologist.
After the removal of underarm hair, a cooling cream or oil can be applied to soothe the skin. Deo should not be applied immediately afterwards, as there is always the slightest skin injury and the deodorant can cause burning and pain. Nowadays there are many people who shave or pluck their armpit hairs.
This trend originated in the USA and has been particularly prevalent in Western Europe since the 1980s. However, it can also be proven that even some people in ancient times removed their armpit hairs for cleanliness reasons. In the meantime, however, this plays a secondary role and hair removal is mainly done for aesthetic reasons.
Especially for women, long armpit hairs are considered unattractive today, for men they are still more accepted, although for about 10 years now there has been an increasing tendency to shave. A survey from 2012 showed that almost half of all men between 14 and 29 years shave their armpit hair. Apart from these visual reasons, there is also the argument of many competitive athletes that removing underarm hair (and body hair in general) leads to reduced resistance on the skin surface, which could optimise performance in some sports, such as swimming.
As the skin under the armpits is relatively sensitive, many people may experience irritation of this area after shaving their armpit hairs. This is often exacerbated by the use of deodorants, which put additional strain on the skin due to the substances they contain. It is therefore not uncommon for itching and the formation of small red spots on the affected area to occur after the removal of underarm hair.