FlipFact of the Day: A teenage boy runs excitedly to the nearest convenience store, eager to buy his first razor and someday grow the manliest of manly beards with regular shaving. Elsewhere, a young girl spends whatever’s left of her money that week at a waxing salon, afraid to shave her legs for fear that her hair would come back thicker. In both cases, their beliefs are founded on a misconception that keeps growing back, no matter how many times science has tried to shave it off: the myth that shaving your body hair makes it grow back with a vengeance.
Decades of research have yielded no strong evidence whatsoever that shaving affects hair’s thickness or growth rate. In fact, it doesn’t make much sense for shaving to do so. Your hair cells are no longer alive once they exit the surface of your skin. When you shave, what you’re essentially doing is just chopping off dead hair; you’re not actually removing or affecting the hair follicles beneath your skin. Thus, there’s really no reason why shaving would make hair grow back thicker. (A small handful of studies have allegedly shown that shaving may stimulate regrowth. However, they’re typically not founded on reliable science.)
As hair grows and becomes subjected to chemicals, soap, and sunlight, it wears down, tapering like the tip of a pencil. Meanwhile, the part of the hair shaft that remains under the skin—the base—remains thick. Naturally, when you cut off the exposed part, the thicker part gets pushed out as it grows. This, in turn, gives your hair the illusion of increased overall thickness. Over time, though, the newly exposed parts of your hair will endure the same external factors, which will affect your hair in a similar fashion.
Interestingly, excessive waxing may actually negatively affect hair growth. In rare instances, the repeated trauma that comes with tearing hair from the roots could curb its growth.
The truth about hair growth is that it varies from person to person, and not because one shaves more frequently than the other. If that were the case, then razor blade manufacturers should have already driven toupee makers out of business a long, long time ago.
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Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.