A woman’s relationship with her body hair can be many things: expensive, painful, frustrating and, occasionally, just plain puzzling. Because while we understand why most hairs sprout where they do (lone grey pubic hair, this does not include you) – the odd follicle leaves us flummoxed.
Case in point: nipple hair.
We all have one, or one little bunch, whose sole mission in life seems to be to poke out of our bra at inopportune moments to say hello. (Usually when we’re naked with someone. And usually when the hair has grown so long that said naked person can’t miss it).
So, what’s nature up to?
“Firstly, it is absolutely normal for women to have extra or obvious hairs on their breasts, usually around the areola,” reassures GP Dr Sam Hay.
But wait until you hear the curious reason why.
“Humans have remnants of what’s known as the mammary line,” he explains.
“It’s an embryological line that runs from the armpit, over the breasts and down to the groin. If you think about dogs, they still have a whole line of nipples. We’ve evolved down to just one set, but along that (otherwise invisible) line you classically have extra hair growth. And, like the hair in your armpit and pubic region, it’s thicker and darker than in other places,” he adds.
The hair itself doesn’t have any key function, though some factors can make you more or less prone to it. “It is influenced by ethnic background. Asian women, for example, have far less body hair than Caucasians.”
And just as pregnancy has an oomph effect on the hair on your head, the same happens everywhere – including nipples. (Damn).
“Pregnancy hormones alter the hair growth cycle, making hair fall out less often,” he says. “You typically get more pubic hair, some on your face, a more pronounced line of hairs down to your pubic region. Then, three to four months after delivery, normal hair patterns kick back in and you lose the hair again.”
And what of the link between nipple hair and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, something that Google frequently matches together?
“Hairy nipples by themselves are not a sign of PCOS,” he confirms.
“But if you feel that you have an excessive amount of nipple hair AND you have more hair in other areas (lip, chin, back, chest), then this may be a marker of a hormonal problem, such as PCOS.”
If you’re in any way concerned, always raise it with your GP.
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Dr Sam Hay (drsamhay.com) is a director of a Sydney GP practice and a medical consultant on The Project and Embarrassing Bodies Down Under.