Shaving your hair. Your friends suggest it. Fashion magazines recommend it. People say it lets your hair regrow faster. And darker. But what is the truth? Does shaving even affect hair growth, let alone positively? What about waxing? To answer these questions, let’s first take a brief look at the structure of the human hair:
The skin consists of two layers: epidermis (the thin upper layer) and dermis (the thick lower layer). A hair follicle is a modified part of the epidermis that extends into the dermis. Hair grows from inside the hair follicle i.e. below the skin’s surface. Hair cells are formed inside the hair follicle, which die out and form the hair shaft (the body of a single hair strand). The cellular composition provides the structure to form the hair strand. Of course, the epidermis, dermis and hair follicle are much more complicated. But we’ll focus on the hair shaft.
The hair shaft has three concentric parts in its cross-section: The outermost cuticle, the middle cortex and the innermost, hollow medulla. The cortex is usually thickly pigmented and holds the colour of the hair. The cuticle is layers upon layers of dead cells. In conclusion the hair cells are generated fairly below the hair’s surface, and the hair shaft is constituted only of dead cells.
So what happens when you shave hair? Shaving is simply the trimming of the hair shaft, a removal of the dead hair cells. It does not affect the generation of hair cells below the epidermis at all. Even if you plow through your arm with a steel beam. If hair generation is not affected at all, then it is scientifically impossible for shaving to stimulate hair growth in any way. This hypothesis has been proven by hundreds of clinical trials, some dating back to almost a century ago.
Hair growth and type depend only on your genetics, health and diet or some kinds of medication. You’d wonder how this myth has lasted so long. It refuses to die. In the following section we talk about the three main parts to this myth:
- Faster Regrowth: Typically hair grows at the rate of half an inch a month if you’re getting all the necessary nutrients. It is untrue that hair grows faster after shaving. When you shave your hair to see if it grows back faster, but you have no actual record of how fast it grew before. Then, it might create a psychological effect making you feel that your hair in fact has grown back faster. Moreover, hair follicles go into a fake hibernation period once your hair length reaches a certain length (a few feet for most people, might be longer if growth abnormalities happen). At this length if you trim or shave your hair, the resumed growth of your hair will definitely feel very fast.
- Darker: Hair colour is stored as pigmentation in the cortex (middle layer) of the hair shaft. Your natural hair colour depends on your genetics, age and diet (or some growth abnormalities in some conditions). However, over time the hair colour of the shaft tends to fade because of exposure to sunlight and chemicals. When you shave your hair, the new hair that grows out may look darker because it has all of the natural pigmentation that old hair does not. This darkness too will fade out over time.
- Coarser/Thicker: Hair is thicker at the base and gets thinner as it reaches the end, forming a pointed end at the final point. Hair thickness varies for everyone, and it depends on your age, hair type (genetics) and the hair colour (black is thicker than red). Even weather; diameter of hair strand increases as it gets warmer. So when you cut your hair it doesn’t have the thin and tapered lower part of a normal strand. Hence appearing thicker and coarser as it is also missing the pointed end.
Most of these myths related to shaving are simply untrue and have been busted by clinical trials. One thing to keep in mind however is that shaving your facial hair may cause stretching of skin. If you shave too often and with forceful motions, it causes some stretching of skin over time.
One question still remains how does waxing affect hair growth, if at all? Sadly unlike in the case of shaving, waxing does affect hair growth. Negatively even, though some women would not agree. Waxing pulls out the hair from inside the hair follicle. Such repeated trauma may reduce growth from some hair follicles. It also reverses the natural direction the hair grows out of the follicle in, due to the upward motion made during waxing.
While trimming or shaving your hair has no such magical effects, it does have a few positive effects other than making you look groomed. There are effects such as:
- You can trim off the lowest part of your hair. This will make your hair appear thicker as the hair is much thinner at the end.
- Sometimes a hair strand splits into two endings, which gives it an unhealthy look. Trimming an inch or two off the end gets rid of these split ends.
- Shaving scrubs away dead skin cells, although it shouldn’t be confused with full-on exfoliating. Shaving and exfoliating are different processes and it is advised to keep them separate.
- Shaving daily lets you know of ingrown hairs earlier before they get too big and too ugly. This lets you dismantle the situation early.
- Pubic and facial hair holds a lot of bacteria. The same bacteria as human waste matter is found in beards. If you find this fact revolting, it might be a good idea to shave and keep it all clean.
This myth pervades normal hygiene and grooming knowledge everywhere. After reading this post, we hope you find yourself free from the notion that shaving helps hair growth in any way.