Does shaving make you hairier?

September 12, 2012 - 07:08

A scientist shoots down a shaving myth while wiping out a waxing myth.

Whether you want to or not, you won’t be able to influence hair growth with a razor blade. (Photo: Betsssssy/WikimediaCommons)

Now that summer is ending, a lot of female legs are getting a well-deserved break from razors.

But will the leg shaving have any effect on hair growth?

Is it true that hair grows faster and thickens when you shave – for instance if women shave their upper lips or the hair on their legs?

Hair is dead

“Hair doesn’t grow faster and it doesn’t get any thicker if you shave,” says Joar Austad.

He is a chief physician at the Oslo University Hospital's Department of Dermatology.

The reason why you can’t increase the coarseness of hairs by shaving is that the portion of hair that sticks out from your skin is already dead.

The hair shaft doesn’t register that it’s been cut off and thus cannot send any information about it to the hair follicle, which continues with business as usual, regardless of your shaving antics.

“It’s akin to clipping a fingernail,” explains Austad.

“It doesn’t grow any slower or faster because you trim it.”

Old myth

A quick web search reveals that this question has been posed time and again during the history of the internet and many of us were misinformed about the alleged consequences of shaving long before internet arrived.

Why won’t this myth lie down and die?

“There are lots of these so-called old truths, and a shaved hair does indeed feel stiffer,” says the dermatologist.

“If you shave off a hair, it does of course get shorter, and a shorter hair is like the stub end of rope. It’s stiffer than a longer segment of the same rope. If you let your hair grow out again you’ll see that it’s just like it was before being shaved.” 

Just as stiff with removal creams
Hair is dead above the skin and isn’t changed by shaving, except that it gets shorter, explains Chief Physician Joar Austad. (Photo: OUS)

Shaving does no harm, at least with regards to growth and structure.

But is it the best way to get rid of unwanted hair?

“At least it’s one way, and hair removal creams are another. These make the hair shaft even shorter because the cream works closer to the surface of the skin.”

So creams can prolong the time it takes for the hair to grow back.

“But the hairs will be just as stiff and thick when they push through the skin, whether you use a cream or a blade,” adds Austad.

Wax can sometimes hamper a little growth

A third method of removing hair is to yank it out, for instance by using a wax.

This method is rougher for the person undergoing the treatment and for the hair follicle. But the dermatologist predicts you’ll be disappointed if someone has claimed a wax job will curtail growth.

“You pull the hair out much deeper so it takes longer before you see the hair again.”

He says that sometimes when hair is removed with wax, this injures the dermal papillae, the growth zone down at the bottom of the follicle.

“This can curb growth to some extent, but it’s uncommon. The general answer is that waxing doesn’t have any effect on hair growth either,” says Austad.

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Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no

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Translated by
Glenn Ostling

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