Underarm hair

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Underarm hair
Latin hirci
TA98 A16.0.00.021
TA2 7061
FMA 70756
Anatomical terminology

Underarm Hair, Also Known As Armpit Hair, is the hair in the underarm area (axilla).


Development and function

Underarm hair, as human body hair, usually starts to appear at the beginning of puberty, with growth usually completed by the end of the teenage years.

This is an illustration demonstrating the Wolfsdorf Staging for axillary hair development in children. Staging for Axillary Hair Development.jpg
This is an illustration demonstrating the Wolfsdorf Staging for axillary hair development in children.

Axillary hair goes through four stages of development, driven by weak androgens produced by the adrenal in males and females during adrenarche, and testosterone from the testicle in males during puberty. [1] Like Tanner Staging for pubic hair, axillary hair can be staged according to the Wolfsdorf Staging system, named for pediatric endocrinologist Joseph Wolfsdorf, as follows: [2]

Staging a patient's axillary hair will allow the physician to track the child's development longitudinally.

The evolutionary significance of human underarm hair is still debated. It may naturally wick sweat or other moisture away from the skin, aiding ventilation. Colonization by odor-producing bacteria is thereby transferred away from the skin (see skin flora). [3] Overall, the main key feature armpit hair provides is to ease from skin-skin friction, and thus irritation, as the armpit when in its natural position and used in its natural function is constantly exposed to itself and naturally rubs against itself on a daily basis, even more so where a person is doing any sort of physical labor, be it leisure or intense. As stated previously, air ventilation and oil dispersion go hand-in-hand with this natural phenomenon.

Cultural attitudes

Today in much of the Western world, it is common for women to regularly shave or pluck their underarm hair. Some men trim or shave the underarm, and the practice has increased among younger men. The prevalence of this practice varies widely, though. Religious reasons are sometimes cited; for example, in Islamic culture both Muslim men and women remove underarm hair to meet religious guidelines of cleanliness. [4] Removal of underarm hair was part of a collection of hygienic or cosmetic practices recommended by the Islamic prophet Muhammad (570–632) as consistent with fitra for both Muslim women and men, [4] and has since usually been regarded as a requirement by most Muslims. [5] In much of the Western world, some men also choose to remove their underarm hair for aesthetic reasons.

Many competitive swimmers remove nearly all of their body hair, including their underarm hair, believing it makes their bodies more streamlined during races. Many male bodybuilders and professional wrestlers also remove their body hair for cosmetic purposes.

Seneca the Younger suggests it was common practice in ancient Rome: "One is, I believe, as faulty as the other: the one class are unreasonably elaborate, the other are unreasonably negligent; the former depilate the leg, the latter not even the underarm." (letter 114).

In the West, the practice began for cosmetic reasons around 1915 in the United States and the United Kingdom, when one or more magazines showed a woman in a dress with shaved underarms.[ citation needed ] Regular shaving became feasible with the introduction of the safety razor at the beginning of the 20th century.[ citation needed ] While underarm shaving was quickly adopted in some English-speaking countries, especially in the US and Canada, it did not become widespread in Europe until well after World War II. [6] [7]

In art

In works of art, the underarm hair is usually removed; showing it is a mark of modernism.[ citation needed ] This contrasts to the depiction of pubic hair in art, which is rarely portrayed in works created in the Middle Ages, increasingly common in Renaissance art, and quite frequent in modern times. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Leg shaving

Leg shaving is the practice of removing leg hair by shaving the hair off using a razor or electric shaver. In addition, some people remove leg hair using waxing, sugaring, depilatories, epilators or other depilation devices, or lasers, but shaving remains the least expensive and one of the least painful methods.

Pubic hair Hair in the genital area of adolescent and adult humans

Pubic hair is terminal body hair that is found in the genital area of adolescent and adult humans. The hair is located on and around the sex organs and sometimes at the top of the inside of the thighs. In the pubic region around the pubis bone, it is known as a pubic patch. Pubic hair is found on the scrotum in the male and on the vulva in the female.

Hair removal Temporary removal of body hair

Hair removal, also known as epilation or depilation, is the deliberate removal of body hair.

Shaving Removal of hair with a razor or other bladed implement

Shaving is the removal of hair, by using a razor or any other kind of bladed implement, to slice it down—to the level of the skin or otherwise. Shaving is most commonly practiced by men to remove their facial hair and by women to remove their leg and underarm hair. A man is called clean-shaven if he has had his beard entirely removed.

Eyebrow Facial feature

The eyebrow is an area of short hairs above the eye that follows the shape of the lower margin of the brow ridges of some mammals. Their main function is to prevent sweat, water, and other debris from falling down into the eye socket, but they are also important to human communication and facial expression. It is common for people to modify their eyebrows by means of hair removal and makeup.

Bikini waxing

Bikini waxing is the removal of pubic hair using a special wax, which can be hot or cold, that adheres to hairs and pulls them out when the wax is removed quickly from the skin, usually with a cloth strip. While the practice is mainly associated with women, male waxing is sometimes done to remove men's pubic hair.

Adrenarche is an early stage in sexual maturation that happens in some higher primates and in humans, typically peaks at around 20 years of age, and is eventually involved in the development of pubic hair, body odor, skin oiliness, and acne. During adrenarche the adrenal glands secrete increased levels of weak adrenal androgens, including dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), and androstenedione (A4), but without increased cortisol levels. Adrenarche is the result of the development of a new zone of the adrenal cortex, the zona reticularis. Adrenarche is a process related to puberty, but distinct from hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis maturation and function.

Pubarche refers to the first appearance of pubic hair at puberty. Pubarche is one of the physical changes of puberty and can occur independently of complete puberty. Pubarche usually results from rising levels of androgen and not estrogens in females, and androgens in males from the adrenal glands, ovaries, or testes but may also result from exposure to an anabolic steroid.

Axilla Area of the human body beneath the joint between arm and torso

The Underarm Also Known As Armpit is the area on the human body directly under the joint where the arm connects to the shoulder. It also contains many sweat glands.

Vellus hair Type of hair that is short, thin, slight-colored, and barely noticeable

Vellus hair is short, thin, light-colored, and barely noticeable hair that develops on most of a person's body during childhood. Exceptions include the lips, the back of the ear, the palm of the hand, the sole of the foot, some external genital areas, the navel, and scar tissue. The density of hair – the number of hair follicles per area of skin – varies from person to person. Each strand of vellus hair is usually less than 2 mm long and the follicle is not connected to a sebaceous gland.

Labia Part of the female genitalia

The labia are part of the female genitalia; they are the major externally visible portions of the vulva. In humans, there are two pairs of labia: the labia majora are larger and fattier, while the labia minora are folds of skin between the outer labia. The labia surround and protect the clitoris and the openings of the vagina and the urethra.

Terminal hair Thick, long, and dark hair, as compared with vellus hair

In humans, terminal hair is thick and long, such as grows on the scalp, as compared with vellus hair growing elsewhere. During puberty, the increase in androgenic hormone levels causes vellus hair to be replaced with terminal hair in certain parts of the human body. These parts will have different levels of sensitivity to androgens, primarily of the testosterone family.

Body hair, or androgenic hair, is the terminal hair that develops on the human body during and after puberty. It is differentiated from the head hair and less visible vellus hair, which is much finer and lighter in color. The growth of androgenic hair is related to the level of androgens and the density of androgen receptors in the dermal papillae. Both must reach a threshold for the proliferation of hair follicle cells.

Islamic hygienical jurisprudence

Islamic hygienical jurisprudence includes a number of regulations involving cleanliness during salat through wudu and ghusl, as well as dietary laws and toilet etiquette for Muslims. The fiqh is based on admonitions in the Quran for Muslims to be ritually clean whenever possible, as well as in hadith literature.

Khitan or Khatna is the Islamic term for circumcision, carried out as a recommended practice of Islamic culture by Muslims. Male circumcision is widespread in the Muslim world, and accepted as an established practice by all Islamic schools of jurisprudence. It is considered a sign of belonging to the wider Muslim community.

Body grooming is the act of hair removal, shaving, styling or trimming hair of the male body. It is also often referred to as manscaping, a portmanteau derived from the words 'man' and 'landscaping'.

Facial hair

Facial hair is hair grown on the face, usually on the chin, cheeks, and upper lip region. It is typically a secondary sex characteristic of human males. Men typically start developing facial hair in the later stages of puberty or adolescence, around fifteen years of age, and most do not finish developing a full adult beard until around eighteen or later. Large variations can occur however, as boys as young as eleven have been known to develop facial hair. Women are also capable of developing facial hair, especially after menopause, though typically significantly less than men. Men may style their facial hair into beards, moustaches, goatees or sideburns; many others completely shave their facial hair and this is referred to as being "clean-shaven". The term whiskers, when used to refer to human facial hair, indicates the hair on the chin and cheeks.

Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. It is initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads: the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy. In response to the signals, the gonads produce hormones that stimulate libido and the growth, function, and transformation of the brain, bones, muscle, blood, skin, hair, breasts, and sex organs. Physical growth—height and weight—accelerates in the first half of puberty and is completed when an adult body has been developed. Before puberty, the external sex organs, known as primary sexual characteristics, are sex characteristics that distinguish boys and girls. Puberty leads to sexual dimorphism through the development of the secondary sex characteristics, which further distinguish the sexes.

At the outset of the United States, leg and underarm hair removal was not a common practice for women. In fact, body hair had been viewed as a boon by Caucasian people, and therefore removal was not an imported practice from European settlers into the United States. The removal of armpit and leg hair by American women became a new practice in the early 20th century due to a confluence of multiple factors.

Axillary dissection Surgical procedure that incises the axilla

Axillary dissection is a surgical procedure that incises the axilla, usually in order to identify, examine, or take out lymph nodes. The term "axilla" refers to the armpit or underarm section of the body. The axillary dissection procedure is commonly used in treating the underarm portion of women who are dealing with breast cancer. The lymph nodes located in the axilla area that are affected by breast cancer are called the guardian or sentinel lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are essential to the lymphatic/immune system due to their main function of filtering unrecognized particles and molecules. The idea of treating breast cancer with the axillary dissection procedure was introduced in the 18th century and was backed by German physician Lorenz Heister. There are certain criteria that make patients eligible candidates for this procedure. Patients tend to have three different levels of axillary lymph nodes; the level helps to determine whether or not the patient should undergo axillary dissection.


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  2. "Joseph Wolfsdorf, MD, BCh | Boston Children's Hospital". www.childrenshospital.org. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  3. Paye, Marc; Maibach, Howard I.; Barel, André O (2009). Handbook of cosmetic science and technology (3 ed.). Informa Health Care. p. 703. ISBN   978-1-4200-6963-1.
  4. 1 2 Al-Munajjid, Muhammad (2 December 2012). "What is the hair that it is permissible to remove and the hair that it is not permissible to remove?". IslamQA . Retrieved 25 February 2020.; Al-Munajjid, Muhammad (2 December 2016). "The wisdom behind the prescription to remove pubic hair and armpit hair". IslamQA. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  5. "Compendium of Islamic Texts". University of Southern California. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  6. Hope, Christine (1982). "Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture". Journal of American Culture. 5 (1): 93–99. doi:10.1111/j.1542-734X.1982.0501_93.x.
  7. Adams, Cecil (6 February 1991). "Who decided women should shave their legs and underarms?". The Straight Dope . Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  8. Weekes, Ann Owens (1993). "Students' Self-Image: Representations of Women in "High" Art and Popular Culture". Woman's Art Journal. 13 (2): 32–38. doi:10.2307/1358151. JSTOR   1358151.