Octopuses have erogenous areas

Terminal body hair in women and men

As body hair is the name given to the hair on the human body in contrast to the hair on the head. With regard to androgen sensitivity, it follows different growth and development modalities than the scalp hair. With the exception of the beard hair in men, their growth cycle is limited to a few months and thus much shorter than that of the scalp hair. For example, leg hair falls out after two months, armpit hair after six months.[1]

Since the terminal or adult body hair only develops through an increased release of androgens (male sex hormones), it is sometimes also called androgenic hair designated. Due to the different levels of androgen release in women and men, the terminal body hair develops in a gender-specific manner. It is therefore also considered a secondary gender characteristic.


Development of male body hair

With a few exceptions, the entire human body is covered with vellus hair, a marrowless, unpigmented fuzz. Due to the increased release of androgens during and after puberty, vellus hair is converted into terminal hair in a gender-specific manner. The resulting terminal hair is medullary and individually pigmented. The degree of body hair in question depends on gender, genetic disposition, hormonal status and age.

First and foremost, the genetic disposition determines the individual expression and thus the extent of the hair. A certain number of hair growth cells are genetically determined in the skin.

Men and women do not differ in the number of hair growth cells. Only the different functions of the endocrine system, i.e. the proportion of androgens, determine the amount and density of hair growth. In some peoples women are also very hairy. Here it is not uncommon for hormonally healthy women to have a male hair type by Central European standards.


In some parts of the body that are rich in sweat glands (for example on the armpits), the terminal hair supports the temperature regulation by increasing the surface area and allowing sweat to be released more easily. Other areas are additionally protected by the hair, for example the pubic area. Especially in the perianal and perigenital area, the body hair also serves to reduce friction.

Hair not only increases the surface area of ​​the body, it also increases the sensitivity of the skin. There are some parts of the body that are erotically stimulated by caresses - one speaks of erogenous zones of the skin. If you now touch the hair, this tactile stimulus is amplified many times over due to the enlarged surface. The hair transmits the contact to the skin, where there is an intensifying effect.

Another function is that the vellus hairs make an important contribution to the protection against blood-sucking ectoparasites: On the one hand, the above-mentioned intensifying effect of the fine vellus hairs in particular means that parasites such as ticks, mosquitoes or bed bugs crawling on the skin are noticed faster and more effectively (detection function); on the other hand, bloodsuckers need significantly more time to find a suitable puncture point in the tangle of hair (barrier function).

Androgen sensitivity

Action process of androgen sensitivity

Hair on the body reacts differently to androgens than hair on the head. In contrast to scalp hair, the growth of which decreases with increased androgen intake, the growth of body hair is stimulated. The development from vellus hair to terminal hair during puberty is based on this androgen sensitivity.

The androgen sensitivity of body hair is not only evident during puberty, but also with artificial androgen intake, for example through certain hormone preparations. Studies show that people who take steroid preparations, for example, develop increased body hair. Women in particular can develop hairiness similar to the male growth pattern when taking such preparations (virilization, hirsutism). The artificially increased androgen intake not only affects hair growth, but also damages the entire organism (infertility, increasing risk of cancer, liver insufficiency, and so on).

In women, body hair can also increase due to the falling estrogen level during menopause and the resulting androgen dominance. This can be counteracted by taking estrogen supplements.

Female body hair

Woman with armpit and pubic hair

During puberty, women develop terminal hair in the following areas:

Male body hair

Excessive upper body hair in a man

In contrast to women, the man's body is covered by more terminal hair. Various parts of the male body have terminal hair growth that develops during and after puberty:

The development of male body hair begins in the early phase of puberty, but continues even after the end of puberty and reaches its peak in the sixth decade of life. As a rule, it is even the case that on certain parts of the body, such as the chest, upper arms, shoulders and back, fully developed terminal hair only develops between the ages of 20 and 30 or often never. The degree of body hair at the end of puberty therefore does not always correspond to the potential terminal state.

Increased body hair

An excessive and unnatural growth of body hair is called hypertrichosis. Hypertrichosis, which is medically defined as a disease, can occur in both women and men to different degrees and at different ages.

A form of increased body hair that only affects women is hirsutism, which manifests itself in the development of a male hair type that is atypical for women. Hirsutism is usually triggered by an increased release of male sex hormones.

Atavism, the occasional manifestation of otherwise only embryonic features, can result in full-face or full-body hair in adults of any gender.

Cultural aspects

Proportion of depilated body regions, broken down by gender (based on a survey of students aged 18-25 years, University of Leipzig, 2008)

When hair is considered abnormal depends not only on medical, but also on social circumstances. The way in which body hair is viewed differs greatly between the various cultures. In some cultures it is exhibited as a gender characteristic, in others the hairless body is considered an ideal. Body hair was removed or shortened as early as medieval Europe.

For several decades there has been an increasing tendency to depilate the body (full-body shaving, intimate shaving), especially among women, in western industrialized nations. In many cultures of modern times, excessive hair growth is considered unaesthetic, especially in women, and product and wellness advertisements also confirm and support the constant trend towards smooth, hairless skin. The closer you wear a bathing suit or bikini, the more what is shown on increased skin must be hairless. Although the social acceptance of body hair is much higher among men, a trend towards shaving can also be seen here. Removing body hair is less common in men than in women. A study of young adults carried out by the University of Leipzig in 2008 came to the result that 97% of women and 79% of men remove at least part of their body hair. [2][3][4][5]

Individual evidence

  1. Why hair grows all the time. In: Wissenschaft.de. November 2, 2006, accessed on July 24, 2008: "While leg hair ceases to grow and falls out after about two months and armpit hair about six months, the hair on the head of a person continues to grow uninterruptedly for at least six years."
  2. The psychology of the intimate shave. Psychologists are investigating reasons for body hair removal - 97 percent of young women and 79 percent of men shave. In: derstandard.at. November 25, 2008. Retrieved November 25, 2008.
  3. Every second pulls bare below. In: Blick.ch. November 30, 2005, accessed July 24, 2008.
  4. No more fur! In: MIRROR ONLINE. June 18, 2007, accessed July 24, 2008.
  5. Hairy considerations. About people's efforts to hide their affinity with the apes. In: literaturkritik.de. 2011, accessed May 2, 2011.