Nipple hair is something most of us will experience at some point in our lives - whether that’s as soon as puberty hits, during pregnancy or when we go through the menopause. Of course, we know bodily hair is entirely natural, but you wouldn’t be alone in wondering if your nipple hair is normal. After all, it’s not like nipple hair is particularly prevalent in TV and film nude scenes.
But before you reach for the tweezers in a panic, you deserve to know that it’s absolutely not uncommon for women of all ages to develop nipple hair. It may have sprouted as a teen or could crop up later in life. Here's what you need to know:
Is it normal to have nipple hair?
Just in case you need it confirmed: you're totally not alone here. Babylon’s GP Dr Claudia Pastides tells Cosmopolitan: “Yes, it is normal to have nipple hair. We don’t know what percentage of women have nipple hair, but I suspect it is rather high!"
So, before you start panicking that your body is different to other peoples', just know that most of your female friends probably have hairy nipples too.
Why do women have hairy nipples?
Aside from the fact that it grows naturally, you may notice more nipple hair during certain periods of your life, explains Dr Claudia. "Our nipples, like other parts of our skin, can grow hairs," she says. "It is especially common around the times we go through hormonal changes, such as pregnancy and menopause."
It also shouldn't be seen as a masculine feature. "Hair growth is complex and not solely down to testosterone," says Dr Claudia. "The female sex hormones also play a part and can lead to an increase in the amount of hair (as many women will have experienced in pregnancy, finding that their hair thickened considerably and then shed away after birth).
But the reason we tend to associate hairy chest with men is simply because: "Men tend to have more hair follicles around their nipples than women and they also have more testosterone, which influences those hair follicles to grow hair. Interestingly, testosterone doesn’t cause all hair follicles to grow hair, as we know from male-pattern baldness that sometimes the effect of testosterone on a hair follicle can inhibit hair growth."
If you've started to grow more hair around the nipples and have put it down to your pill, you're probably not entirely correct. "Contraceptives don’t tend to make you more hairy," explains Dr Claudia. "Hormonal contraception can - in fact - improve hormone levels for some people and it is sometimes prescribed as a treatment for hirsutism (excessive hair growth) in premenopausal women.
"In menopausal women, the levels of female sex hormones goes down and this can lead to the male sex hormones having an increased effect on hair growth.
"During pregnancy, there is an increase in all the sex hormones, including testosterone."
Is it safe to pluck nipple hair?
As with any of your body hair, you may choose to remove it - and you don’t need to do anything special or different to the way you remove hair from other body parts.
However, if it's not a big deal to you, you should feel no shame in letting it stay and saving yourself the hassle.
Should I see a doctor?
Most of the time, the answer is no.
"But if you’re finding yourself generally more hairy, it can be a sign of hormonal imbalance, in particular an increase in testosterone (frequently referred to as ‘the male hormone’, but actually women also have testosterone in their bodies)," explains Dr Claudia.
"Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an example of this and can cause a woman to have more body hair; so if you also have symptoms that are typical of PCOS (such as weight gain, oily skin/acne and irregular periods) - it is worth speaking to your GP about it.
"Most of the time, hairy nipples and bodies in general are not a cause for concern, but if you’re worried about your body hair or how it is making you feel about yourself - do speak to your doctor."
But rest assured that your hairy nipples are entirely normal, and most other people have them.
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