How Your Body Hair Changes Over Time

August 18, 2015
Yup, pubes do go gray.

We all know that hair on your head grows gray after some time and that age inevitably thins it out. But does the same fortune hold true for your body hair?

You may be surprised to learn that hair below your neck has its own way of aging. Dermatologist Rebecca Kazin, M.D., medical director of the John Hopkins Dermatology and Cosmetic Center, gives us the lowdown your down-low strands.

All body hair that sprouts during puberty—think hair on your underarms, genitals, and chest hair on guys—is controlled by hormones. Since our estrogen levels drop as we reach middle to later age, body hair growth corresponds by becoming sparser and thinner, too. In fact, most people will see a significant slow down in the production of leg and arm hair.

RELATED: Are Your Body Hair Removal Habits Normal?

“Less body hair is the result of hormones, but there are also less building blocks for hair growth as we get older—skin is thinner, there is less subcutaneous tissue, and follicles get smaller over time, resulting in finer, fuzzier-textured hair,” says Kazin.

However, don’t get too excited at the thought of putting down the razor and tweezers in your later years—unfortunately, those same hormonal changes that result in less body hair often stimulate hair growth in other areas of the face, thanks to a rise in testosterone levels. (You’ve probably heard mom or grandma complain about more hair above the upper lip and strays on the chin—now you know why!)

RELATED: 5 Ways to Deal with Random Facial Hair

And it turns out that body hair can go gray just like the hair on your head. “Melanin pigments the hair, and with time, there is less melanin production, which turns hair gray,” says Kazin, who notes that the hair on your head goes gray faster, though. How rapidly this happens anywhere from the head to the body is largely genetic. To borrow a raunchy punchline, your carpet may not match your drapes for a few years.

If you’re considering laser hair removal, keep this in mind: Since hair becomes thinner and loses pigment (or color) with age, many older people are no longer good candidates for laser hair removal, which works by “chasing” down pigment in hair. So you’ll want to get this particular treatment sooner rather than later. “Sometimes, a patient may not realize that she has as much gray hair as she does until she does laser hair removal and those are the only hairs left behind,” says Kazin.

RELATED: Why I Quit Waxing May Face and Decided to Embrace My Beard

As with everything that comes with aging, taking it all in stride can help. If you’re someone who gets five o’clock shadow under your arms or on your legs (that’s us raising our hands!), at least that’s one thing you can look forward to getting better with age.  

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Grace is a beauty and wellness journalist who contributes to outlets like The Today Show and Marie Claire and Brides magazines, as well as digital sites, including WomensHealthMag.com. Her mission is to help you feel and look your best so you can go out and conquer the world.

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