Why We Have Armpit Hair (And You Should Consider Letting Yours Grow)

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woman looking in the mirror wondering why she has armpit hair

The war on female body hair is still raging, but there’s a movement sweeping through the world that embraces a more natural, “let it grow!” approach. Armpit hair is at the forefront of this march.

Not only are more women — including celebrities — refusing to shave, wax, and laser their underarms, but they’re going one step further by bedazzling (pitjazzling?) the area. There’s unicorn armpit hair, glitter armpit hair, braided armpit hair ... you get the point.

Whatever you decide to do with your own body is completely your choice, and we’d never tell you to do one thing or the other. That said, given all the armpit hair rage in recent months, we thought it’d be interesting to find out what sort of evolutionary purposes armpit hair serves.

Why do we have armpit hair?

Before puberty, our armpit hair begins as "vellus" hair, or "peach fuzz," as it's often referred to, which can be found all over the body, but it turns into "terminal" hair as we enter puberty, which is the same type of hair we grow in our eyebrows, eyelashes, and nether regions (among other places).

Armpit hair, like pretty much all the hair we grow on our bodies, protects us in one way or another, by providing benefits such as preventing chafing when we run or otherwise exercise vigorously (less skin-on-skin friction), and aiding our bodies in regulating the body's core temperature.

An added benefit of growing out your armpit hair that should simply go without saying is: not only do you protect that delicate area of skin from a blade or waxing or a laser by not subjecting it to those harsh treatments, but by not removing your armpit hair, you'll have a shorter beauty routine, less work involved overall, and you get to embrace one of the gorgeous areas of your body — just the way nature intended.

RELATED: People Are "Pitjazzling" Their Armpit Hair Because Why Not?

There are plenty of benefits to growing out your armpit hair, and for some insight into this topic, we spoke to Leigh Caruana, an esthetician and the co-owner of Breathe PDX in Portland, Oregon. Here's what we learned.

5 Benefits and purposes of armpit hair

1. It keeps you warmer.

“Armpit hair does serve many purposes. For example, hair grows in our armpits to help keep the heat in, so if you live in cold areas — or you’re smack dab in the middle of a polar vortex — that’s good news,” Caruana notes.

2. It attracts your perfect mate.

“[Armpit hair's] purpose could also be to hold our pheromones and attract that perfect mate," says Caruana. You read that right: armpit hair captures sweat and pheromones that can make you more desirable in the eyes of another.

3. It can actually make you smell fresher.

Caruana adds that for athletes, armpit hair can also help absorb all your sweat. This can potentially keep odor-causing bacteria away from your actual skin to prevent super-stinky pits and to make washing the area easier.

4. Armpit hair can prevent skin tags.

But that’s not all! The hairs prevent skin-on-skin friction that can sometimes be painful or uncomfortable and can even lead to the formation of skin tags. That hair also serves as a protective cover for the arteries that traverse through your underarms. Basically, your body knows what’s up and is simply trying to protect you.

5. It's way less of a hassle.

Arguably, the biggest benefit of letting your armpit hair grow out is that you don’t have to deal with the hassle of shaving it all the time! Just like any other part of your body, you’ve just got to make sure you’re taking the time to keep the area clean and groomed.

RELATED: I Grew My Pit Hair Out And Wow — I Didn't Expect To Learn This

Benefits of shaving your armpit hair

Like we said, we’re not here to tell you what to do with your body. Growing out your armpit hair does have some setbacks. The biggest is probably having more difficulty applying deodorant and dealing with a potentially stronger odor in between washes. (Protip: a spray-on deodorant may make the process easier.)

If you do want to shave your armpits, Caruana recommends waxing over other hair removal methods.

“Waxing helps prevent ingrown hairs versus shaving. It also thins the hair out so it’s finer and there’s less of it when it grows back in,” she advises. “You also don’t have to do anything to it until your next wax four to six weeks later.”

A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology in 2016 supports Caruana's recommendation of waxing over shaving.

There are a few products that will help with in-between waxing appointments.

The first is exfoliating pads — try Pixi By Petra’s Glow Peel Pads ($25) — which will buff away the top layer of skin cells to keep your underarms bump-free. The second is a softening oil to apply to new growth. Caruana says she’s a huge fan of FUR Oil ($52) because “it’s all-natural and keeps hair and skin soft in order to prevent ingrown hairs. It also helps with chafing.”

The bottom line? Do what you want when it comes to shaving, but know that armpit hair does have its evolutionary benefits and that no matter what, you’ve gotta keep the area groomed.

RELATED: Talk About The Pits! 15 Celebrities With Untamed Underarm Hair

Wendy Rose Gould is a freelance lifestyle reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She contributes to NBC, Refinery29, Brides, Allure, Spotlyte, Total Beauty, Soko Glam, and others.