Body hair – the ultimate challenge, especially during summer time. Well not both genders have such a hard time dealing with it, as women probably are much more haunted by the ordeal, but nevertheless this question is on everybody’s lips: what’s it for? Here are 3 theories in favour of body hair.
There are several explanations regarding this subject beginning with evolutionary inheritance and finishing with pheromones, responsible for sexual attraction. The human body contains about 5,000,000 hair follicles, each one producing a hair shaft. The function of human hair supposedly depends on the part of the body from which it grows. It is believed that the human hair performs several functions, such as protecting the skin from environmental influences. It is believed to respond to external input and translate this information into neurological impulses that are brain interprets as sensory stimuli.
# The good old theory of evolution
Hair appears to keep out body temperature within normal ranges. Nearly every hair follicle on our body has a little smooth muscle, known as a piloerector muscle, connected to it. All these muscles have a nerve supply, so when the nerves are activated, the muscles contract and the hair follicles rise. We have roughly as many hair follicles as chimpanzees do. But as humans evolved, the overall amount of human body hair has diminished. Well not the actual number of hairsprings has diminished, but human body hair has lost its pregnant color, thickness, and the over all “furry” aspect. We reportedly no longer needed it for heat and protection.
However the theory of evolution fails to explain why we still have underarm hair, or pubic or some considerable amount on our legs… We’re not so cold anymore.
# The theory of sexual attraction
It is believed that the tufts of hair around the genitals, as well as under the arms, release pheromones, which may act as erotic signals. Pheromones get trapped in the pubic hair once released by the apocrine glands on the surface of the skin. This odor-less production then combines with bacteria decomposed by the secretions of the sebaceous glands. The resulting scent is unique for each and every one of us due to a genetic complex called the Major Histocompatability Complex (MHC). Studies suggest that women are attracted to men with very different MHCs than their own, supposedly because a genetically diverse offspring is more able to fight off disease.
# Body hair keeps the skin healthy
This is the latest theory and probably the most accurate one. Human body is home to roughly ten times as many bacterial cells as human cells. There are also fungal cells, but not so much is known about their functions. Since these bacteria think of you as their home sweet home, they do everything they can in order to keep their home as cozy as it can possibly be, at least from a bacteria’s perspective: by producing substances that help you fight infections or others that help you digest your food properly. In other words hair follicles are homes for such friendly bacteria, along with sebaceous glands.
So in order to be healthy, you need to have a good microbiome (this community of microorganisms living on or inside our bodies). This includes hair follicles as well. Instead of being useless, then, hair is critically important to maintaining skin health, as its follicles provide a necessary and pleasant environment for certain members of the skin microbiome. So we would have been much more vulnerable had it not been for our annoying body hair.
So give it a kiss and be grateful for it, will you? Body hair is generally ok; it just wants to protect you. Because of the fact that it is no longer compatible with modern beauty standards, most people, especially women, have it removed. But bare to mind that hygiene conditions while doing this are highly important as we wouldn’t want the bacteria that’s supposed to stay on your skin get the chance to visit the inside.