Body hair is everywhere. Or at least it often seems that way. Back hair isn't such a big deal in the winter, but as summer approaches and a guy would rather flaunt a smoother, less simian look, figuring out what to do about it and other unsightly types of body hair suddenly becomes a bigger deal. Thus, in the spirit of better summer and spring grooming, we present 10 things men should know about body hair.
We Have Body Hair In The Womb
The first thing men should know about body hair is that it starts before we're even born. The thought or the image of a cute little unborn werewolf in utero is troubling for many reasons, but, fortunately, by the time the child is ready to join the world, he or she has shed this first round of body hair, known as lanugo. Made up of small and extremely fine hairs, lanugo covers almost the entire infant's body. You're probably better off not knowing how we, as womb-restricted babies, get rid of it, but for educational purposes, it involves ingestion and our first bowel movement. Round one of the battle against body hair is generally over before we take our first breath of air.
We Have Three Different Types Of Body Hair
Lanugo is the first type of body hair you'll have, and it is succeeded by soft, fine, colorless hairs called vellus, known colloquially as peach fuzz. Vellus hair isn’t attached to any subcutaneous tissue nor is it connected to any sebaceous glands. This is in stark contrast to the last type, terminal hair, which greets us at puberty. Much more coarse than vellus, with subcutaneous tissue (which helps to anchor it and contributes to the pain experienced when yanked), terminal hair is also joined by sebaceous glands that contribute to the body odor that no embarrassed pubescent kid should be without.
Most Women Prefer Men Who Groom Their Body Hair
One thing men should know about body hair is how women feel about it. Let's face it, compared to women, we guys have it pretty good when it comes to dealing with body hair. A hairy chest may not do it for every woman in every era, but at least it's socially acceptable. In Western culture, women are pressured to remove any vestige of visible body hair, save for in a few spots, and the upkeep is nothing to sneeze at. But surveys frequently show that women wouldn't mind it if men did a little more body hair maintenance as well, although their demands tend to be far less strenuous. In most instances -- even in the case of back hair -- women just want to see some effort at good grooming..
Each Body Hair Is Guarded By Tiny Glands
As mentioned, with the onset of puberty, we lose much of our vellus hair, and it is replaced by terminal hair. This thicker hair comes armed with what are known as sebaceous glands, or glands that produce a protective substance known as sebum. Sebum acts to protect the skin and hair follicle from bacteria. That's the good part. The not-so-good part is that it breaks down that bacteria, and the breakdown is responsible for body odor.
We May Have Swapped Body Hair For Body Fat
Responding to a reader's question about body hair, Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Alexis McKinnis offers up a fascinating hypothesis regarding the relationship between body hair and body fat: "[Humans] may... have started shedding fur as we acclimated to living near the sea. Less body hair makes for a more streamlined swimmer or fisherman, and our unusually high amount of body fat (in comparison with our mammalian relatives) was produced to compensate for the loss of protective warmth."
Body Hair Serves Two Main Purposes
For the most part we humans have evolved beyond relying on body hair for survival, but it still does have several basic functions: In cold weather, body hair can help the body retain heat, and, in hot weather, as we sweat, body hair can work to wick moisture away from the skin like a good golf shirt.
A Man’s Amount Of Body Hair Is Directly Correlated To Intelligence
Sasquatchian guys with body hair to spare, take heart: According to one American psychiatrist, the more body hair you’ve got, the smarter you are. In a 1996 study widely cited by the media (but curiously difficult to find in published form online), Dr. Aikarakudy Alias told the Eighth Congress of the Association of European Psychiatrists that higher intelligence -- gauged by academic rankings -- is correlated with higher amounts of body hair on men.
Body Hair Is Muscular... Kind Of
Don't try flexing it, as you’ll fail miserably, but your body hair does indeed have muscle cells. These smooth (not under your conscious control) arrector pili muscles cells hide behind body hair and like to flex (well, contract, actually) under specific conditions, such as when you're suddenly exposed to cold temperatures or you think you just saw a ghost. The consequence is that your hairs stand on end.
Body Hair Grows Faster In The Summer
According to Brian Thompson, a hair specialist at New York City’s Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic, body hair does, in fact, grow slightly faster in the spring and summer. As for the reason why, some have suggested that it has to do with the body's speedier metabolism during those months. In any case, the faster growth only applies to androgenic hair (scalp and other hair whose growth is influenced by hormones).
Some Body Hair Works To Attract The Opposite Sex
It may not make sense, but the body hair that attracts the opposite sex is not found anywhere on our heads. According to Dr. Marc A. Pomerantz of the Chicago Hair Institute, both pubic hair and underarm hair act to catch and then dry special hormones secreted by the body so that they can ride the wind and reach the olfactory senses of the opposite sex.