8 Things Your Body Hair Says About Your Health, According to Doctors (2022)

Having body hair is a normal part of, well, being human. The fine fuzz that covers your skin is made up of vellus hairs (from the Latin word for “fleece”). But those long, coarse, pigmented bad boys? They’re called terminal hairs, which make up your eyebrows and eyelashes, and pop up on the scalp, chin, under your arms, and in your pubic area.

The amount of thicker hair that you have on your body usually depends on your genes, says Gary Goldenberg, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “There is a variety of normal: Some will notice very little body hair that’s very light in color or texture, whereas others may have more body hair and it may be darker and coarser.”

But when your body hair changes suddenly, it can be a tip-off that something isn’t quite right elsewhere. Whether it’s growing faster than usual, coming in thicker, or even falling out, here are a few things your body hair may be signaling about your health.

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1. Your male hormones are out of balance.

    A sudden increase in hair growth or loss in women is often caused by an imbalance of male hormones (androgens) which are naturally present in both men and women in differing amounts. If you get a boost in testosterone, for example, excess hair can be the result.

    “It’s called hirsutism—a condition of unwanted male-pattern hair growth in women,” says Margaret E. Wierman, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver and chief of endocrinology at the Denver Veterans Administration Medical Center. “The ‘male-pattern’ part of the diagnosis means hair above the belly button, on the upper chest, or on the upper back. More than eight hairs around a single nipple is considered abnormal in women and would meet the definition of hirsutism.”

    Much like male-pattern excess hair, male pattern baldness in women is also a sign of shifting male hormone levels. When estrogen levels decline during menopause and, as a consequence, testosterone rises, many women find that the hair on their heads thins while their facial hair becomes coarser. You might even find an errant hair on your chin. “Initially horrifying, yes,” says Dr. Wierman, “but all perfectly normal.”

    2. It could be a sign of PCOS.

    Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones, and affects nearly 1 in 10 women of childbearing age, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health (OWS).

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    That can cause issues in your ovaries, which produce the egg that’s released each month as part of your menstrual cycle. With PCOS, this egg might have developmental problems or not be released during your period as it normally would.

    That can spur a slew of symptoms, like irregular periods, adult acne, thinning hair, or too much hair on the face, chin, or other parts of your body. This happens due to increased production of testosterone in your body, Dr. Goldenberg explains, which stimulates excessive body hair growth.

    3. An iron deficiency may be present.

    Everyone has a hair cycle. Some people tend to naturally shed hair in the spring and fall; others in the summer and winter. But diffuse hair loss—noticeable hair loss on your body and your head—can indicate anemia, or a deficiency of iron in your blood. Vegans and vegetarians or women with heavy periods are at a higher risk, and it may result in hair loss, brittle nails, and odd cravings. If you suspect iron may be an issue, see your doctor for a blood test.

    4. An underactive thyroid could be causing problems.

    Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck, and it secretes hormones that help control the way your body uses energy, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). When you don’t have enough thyroid hormones, many of your body’s functions slow down—including how much hair you make.

    Thyroid-related hair loss has specific symptoms, says Dr Wierman: “If you find that you’re losing the outside third of your eyebrows and you’re developing ridges in your nails, you probably have autoimmune thyroid disease,” she says. “Go in for a blood test to have your TSH—or, thyroid-stimulating hormone—levels checked.”

    5. Your estrogen levels recently changed.

    The amount of estrogen in your body can also impact your hair. When estrogen levels are high, hair tends to be thicker than usual; When they’re low, it can cause hair loss, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. A sudden change in your estrogen levels—after pregnancy or stopping birth control pills, for example—can also lead to temporary hair shedding.

    6. Your medication may have side effects.

    Certain medications can have a direct impact on your body hair, Dr. Goldenberg says. Some, including certain antidepressants and anti-coagulants, can cause temporary hair loss, usually through a process called telogen effluvium, a hair shedding condition that can also happen after pregnancy, major surgery, drastic weight loss, or extreme stress.

    Other meds can cause hair growth, including a boost in body hair. Those include testosterone, danazol (also an androgen), phenytoin (an anticonvulsant), and glucocorticoids (a type of steroid), he says. In most cases, the hair changes are not permanent and will end once you stop using the medication.

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    7. You could have an autoimmune problem.

    It’s rare, but with certain autoimmune conditions, your immune system can go haywire and attack your hair follicles. The result can be losing your hair in odd, circular patches (called alopecia areata); losing all your hair on your scalp (alopecia totalis); or losing all your hair on your head and body, including your eyebrows and eyelashes (alopecia universalis). These conditions are typically treated with systemic steroids, and the hair can grow back—though the cure doesn’t always last.

    8. In rare cases, you might have a tumor.

    If hirsutism comes on very suddenly and dramatically—“Say, over a period of six months,” says Dr. Wierman—and your testosterone levels and DHEAS levels (a blood test will reveal both) are very high, you may have a tumor that is releasing male hormones and changing the hormone profile in your body to such as extent that you’re growing hair and fast.

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    “In these cases, we look for a tumor of the adrenal gland or ovary—both are possibilities,” she says. “It’s not common, but it’s something your doctor will check out.”

    ❗When to see your doctor about your body hair

    While having body hair changes can indicate an underlying health issue, it doesn’t always mean that something is off. “Most patients that I see with excessive facial or body hair are a variant of normal,” Dr. Goldenberg says.

    However, “if you are developing new, changing, or bothersome hair on your face, jaw, chin, or chest, make sure to touch base with your dermatologist to understand if there is any underlying medical issue,” Dr. Zeichner says. Getting checked out can rule out potential problems and help get you started on any necessary treatments.

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    Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.

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    FAQs

    What does body hair indicate? ›

    Your male hormones are out of balance.

    A sudden increase in hair growth or loss in women is often caused by an imbalance of male hormones (androgens) which are naturally present in both men and women in differing amounts. If you get a boost in testosterone, for example, excess hair can be the result.

    Can your hair tell your health? ›

    Changes in your hair could indicate nutrition and health issues. A dry scalp or hair could mean you aren't getting enough healthy fats in your diet. Likewise, thinning hair could mean your diet lacks protein.

    What does more hair on body means? ›

    Hirsutism (HUR-soot-iz-um) is a condition in women that results in excessive growth of dark or coarse hair in a male-like pattern — face, chest and back. With hirsutism, extra hair growth often arises from excess male hormones (androgens), primarily testosterone.

    Is having more body hair good? ›

    PROTECTION AGAINST THE SUN: People who have a hairy body are less prone to sunburn and rashes. Another purpose that they serve is to keep us warm. This process goes like this- when we feel cold, our body hair stands on end and trap warm air which is closer to the surface of the skin.

    Is body hair linked to intelligence? ›

    And a study of 117 Mensa members (who have an IQ of at least 140) were also found to have a tendency to thick body hair. Some of the most intelligent men appeared to be those who had hair on their backs as well as on their chests.

    What race grows the most body hair? ›

    According to Researchers at the University of Tokyo, Japanese and Chinese people have the thickest individual hair fibers out of all people. The runner-up for thickest body hair is Black people.

    Does long hair affect brain? ›

    It's believed that when our hairs gets longer, our head gets Vitamin D, phosphorus and calcium naturally. They in due course, enter into our body via two of the tubes which're at the brain's top part. This alteration alters our memory more strong and efficient.

    What does dry hair indicate? ›

    Dry hair is a sign of hair damage. If left untreated, your hair can become brittle, causing it to break or fray easily. Most cases of dry hair can be effectively treated with simple lifestyle changes. If your dry hair persists, make an appointment with your doctor.

    Does long hair affect health? ›

    Long hair DOES NOT drain any nutrients from the body. This is just another hair myth that has gained unreasonable popularity over the last few centuries. The truth is that when hair grows, dead cells are formed. This means that keratinocytes are not able to metabolize anymore.

    Does being hairy mean high testosterone? ›

    Like so many things, it comes down to a mixture of genetics and hormones. We know that at least some of the genes for hairiness are carried on the X chromosome – and the way these genes are expressed varies between different men and ethnic groups – but hairiness also correlates with high testosterone levels.

    At what age body hair growth stops? ›

    Many hair follicles stop producing new hairs. Men may start showing signs of baldness by the time they are 30 years old. Many men are nearly bald by age 60.

    Does less body hair mean less testosterone? ›

    Testosterone promotes body hair growth in men. As a result, one common symptom of low testosterone is a loss of body hair. You may notice thinning of your armpit or pubic hair. Many men find the change is most noticeable in their beard because they don't have to shave as often.

    Is shaving pubic hair good? ›

    Removing pubic hair may therefore make a person more susceptible to common infections, such as UTIs, vaginitis, and yeast infections. Hair removal can also irritate your skin, leading to skin infections such as cellulitis and folliculitis. In other cases, grooming-related injuries, such as cuts, could become infected.

    Why you should not shave your legs? ›

    1. Razor Burns And Cuts Are No Fun. One great reason to set down the razor for good is simply that it can cause so much discomfort. Razor burns are sometimes unavoidable, at times symptomatic of a frequently-used or cheap razor combined with sensitive skin.

    What happens if you don't shave your pubic area? ›

    In addition, hair follicles produce sebum, an oil which actually prevents bacteria from reproducing. It follows that pubic hair may protect against certain infections, including: cellulitis. sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

    What does having a hairy chest mean? ›

    : characterized by especially exaggerated or stereotypical manliness.

    What is the purpose of chest hair? ›

    Put in simpler terms, it helps spread our irresistible, musky scent to potential mates—a scent that, according to a 2007 study, not only increases a man's perceived attractiveness, but also helps women feel more relaxed. For troglodytes, having a lot of chest hair made you an attractive proposition.

    Is body hair linked to testosterone? ›

    Body Hair

    Excessive hair growth is often caused by increased testosterone levels. For example, an individual may grow more hair in the face, chest, chin, or back areas. More often than not, the hair will also be darker and coarser. For some people, however, it can lead to baldness.

    What race has the best hair? ›

    Caucasian, Asian and Indian hair samples were put to the test for the World's Best Hair study. Their results put an end to any splitting of hairs over the issue: in terms of health, the Indian hair is the best, topping other ethnic groups on all four counts.

    Why do humans have hair on their private parts? ›

    Pubic hair plays a role in reducing friction during activities such as sexual intercourse. It also plays a role in preventing dirt and pathogens from entering the genitals. A person can safely remove their pubic hair if they wish to, but they do not need to.

    Why some men have no body hair? ›

    Lower amount of body and facial hair in men can accompany sever disorders such as Klinefelter syndrome, hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and XX male syndrome. Others are Noonan syndrome and sometimes sparse body hair can be seen in men with azoospermia.

    What are the disadvantages of having long hair? ›

    • 1 It's Super Annoying. No joke! ...
    • 2 It Loses a Lot of Volume. The longer your hair is, the thinner and flatter it looks! ...
    • 3 It's Time Consuming. ...
    • 4 It Makes You Spend More. ...
    • 5 It's Impossible to Live with in Summer. ...
    • 6 It's Heavy. ...
    • 7 It Gets in the Way.

    Does hair have memory? ›

    Hair does have memory, and if you blow-dried it straight and ran a flat iron through it sometime in the past two to three days (and have not washed it since), it will be harder to get your uber-straightened strands to hold curl.

    Does long hair give you energy? ›

    The term “Kundalini energy” also refers to life force energy, and many Kundalini practitioners believe that keeping long hair helps to harness that life force energy by offering protection, nourishment and patience.

    What lack of vitamin causes hair loss? ›

    Only riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 deficiencies have been associated with hair loss.

    What does healthy hair look like? ›

    Shiny and Smooth.

    If hair looks silky, it's a safe bet that it's healthy too. That shiny—and sought-after—texture is the result of a smooth, flat-lying cuticle.

    What nutrient deficiency causes dry hair? ›

    Biotin. Biotin is an essential B vitamin (meaning we need to consume it daily) that's known to be important in hair and nail growth. "When patients have a biotin deficiency, they suffer from thinning, dry hair, and dry skin," says Zeichner.

    Does hair length affect intelligence? ›

    hairier men got better grades. On a statistical level, he discovered that the top six engineering students had more hair on their bodies than the bottom eight. A deeper survey of his study found that the more intelligent men had hair on their chest as well as their backs. To concluded his study Dr.

    What Vitamin has biotin? ›

    Vitamin B7 and Health

    Biotin supplements are often glamorized as a treatment for hair loss and to promote healthy hair, skin, and nails.

    Should you sleep with hair up or down? ›

    It is best to sleep with your hair down if your hair length is short. This also lets the air flow freely through your hair, which makes you sleep more comfortably. On the other hand, if you have long hair, it is recommended to tie your hair loosely to prevent knots and breakage.

    What are signs of high testosterone in females? ›

    In more severe cases of testosterone imbalances in women, high testosterone can cause infertility and obesity.
    ...
    Symptoms of too much testosterone in women
    • excess body hair, specifically facial hair.
    • balding.
    • acne.
    • enlarged clitoris.
    • decreased breast size.
    • deepening of the voice.
    • increased muscle mass.

    Why some people are so hairy? ›

    Hormones called androgens, which are present in both sexes, stimulate body hair (known as vellus hair) to darken and coarsen. Men have higher levels of androgens than women, so their body hair tends to be more prolific.

    Does pubic hair fall out with age? ›

    As we age, some pubic hair thinning, or loss, is normal. However, certain conditions like alopecia or an adrenal issue can also cause hair loss. If you have any concerns, it's best to contact your Axia Women's Health provider.

    Does pubic hair stop growing? ›

    Can you regrow pubic hair after menopause? Pubic hair and hair on the body doesn't usually grow back after the menopause, this is due to levels of oestrogen and progesterone remaining low as we continue to age. Not everyone will lose their pubic hair.

    Why do some men have no chest hair? ›

    Body hair, in sex-assigned at birth males, is mostly affected by genetics and androgens (which are hormones such as testosterone). If you have body hair in your axilla (or armpits) and pubic area, and you have gone through puberty, your hormones are probably normal. You may have less chest hair due to genetics.

    Does facial hair mean high testosterone? ›

    The results showed that beard length (directly measured and self-reported) was not related to testosterone levels or dominance; thus, no evidence was found to support the hypothesis that beards are honest (or dishonest) signals of the beard owners' testosterone levels and dominance.

    How do I know if my testosterone is low? ›

    Specific Signs/Symptoms of Testosterone Deficiency (TD)
    1. Reduced sex drive.
    2. Reduced erectile function.
    3. Loss of body hair.
    4. Less beard growth.
    5. Loss of lean muscle mass.
    6. Feeling very tired all the time (fatigue)
    7. Obesity (being overweight)
    8. Symptoms of depression.

    Is having high testosterone good? ›

    Elevated testosterone will raise your “bad” cholesterol levels, and can thus lead to heart health issues – potentially resulting in a heart attack, cardiovascular disease, or stroke. Risk of sleep apnea and infertility is also heightened if you have high testosterone levels.

    Does less body hair mean less testosterone? ›

    Testosterone promotes body hair growth in men. As a result, one common symptom of low testosterone is a loss of body hair. You may notice thinning of your armpit or pubic hair. Many men find the change is most noticeable in their beard because they don't have to shave as often.

    Do guys with more body hair have more testosterone? ›

    Body Hair

    Excessive hair growth is often caused by increased testosterone levels. For example, an individual may grow more hair in the face, chest, chin, or back areas. More often than not, the hair will also be darker and coarser.

    What does it mean when a guy is hairy? ›

    Like so many things, it comes down to a mixture of genetics and hormones. We know that at least some of the genes for hairiness are carried on the X chromosome – and the way these genes are expressed varies between different men and ethnic groups – but hairiness also correlates with high testosterone levels.

    What causes excessive body hair in males? ›

    In men, genetics is the most common cause of a hairy back. Certain genes can make men more sensitive to the effects of testosterone, the male hormone that encourages growth of body hair. This can make back hair more present and thicker.

    What are signs of high testosterone in females? ›

    In more severe cases of testosterone imbalances in women, high testosterone can cause infertility and obesity.
    ...
    Symptoms of too much testosterone in women
    • excess body hair, specifically facial hair.
    • balding.
    • acne.
    • enlarged clitoris.
    • decreased breast size.
    • deepening of the voice.
    • increased muscle mass.

    Does facial hair mean high testosterone? ›

    The results showed that beard length (directly measured and self-reported) was not related to testosterone levels or dominance; thus, no evidence was found to support the hypothesis that beards are honest (or dishonest) signals of the beard owners' testosterone levels and dominance.

    Does testosterone make harder? ›

    Testosterone treatment has not been shown to improve erections in men with normal testosterone levels. And studies show that it does not help men with low testosterone levels if ED is their only symptom.

    Do girls like chest hair? ›

    Overall, 40 percent of the women agree. However, 43 percent of the total women surveyed prefer men keep all their chest hair, considering it a sign of masculinity. And 17 percent want a smooth chest without a single hair. For the men, 83 percent said they have just let their chest hair grow.

    Why do some men have no chest hair? ›

    Body hair, in sex-assigned at birth males, is mostly affected by genetics and androgens (which are hormones such as testosterone). If you have body hair in your axilla (or armpits) and pubic area, and you have gone through puberty, your hormones are probably normal. You may have less chest hair due to genetics.

    What are the benefits of chest hair? ›

    So, how what are the pros of having chest hair?
    • Freedom.
    • A life without razors.
    • No more heavy grooming.
    • No more razor stubble on your chest.
    • Lessens the likelihood of skin irritation/infection in that area.

    What is the purpose of chest hair? ›

    Put in simpler terms, it helps spread our irresistible, musky scent to potential mates—a scent that, according to a 2007 study, not only increases a man's perceived attractiveness, but also helps women feel more relaxed. For troglodytes, having a lot of chest hair made you an attractive proposition.

    Why do men shave their chest? ›

    Should guys shave their chest? If you take attractiveness out of the equation, there are a few reasons to trim or shave your chest hair for your own sake: to lend extra definition to your muscles, streamline your body for swimming, to keep it from poking out of your shirt. All good reasons.

    At what age body hair growth stops? ›

    Many hair follicles stop producing new hairs. Men may start showing signs of baldness by the time they are 30 years old. Many men are nearly bald by age 60.

    Does plucking chin hair make it grow more? ›

    There are many ways to get rid of facial hair. Shaving and plucking are the most common. However, shaving facial hair is not popular among women, even though it does not make hair grow back faster or thicker.

    Why do females get chin hair? ›

    Both men and women produce testosterone; women just have lower amounts. Testosterone changes vellus hair into terminal hair by activating receptors in hair follicles. This is totally normal and happens to everyone, especially during puberty.

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