Chin hairs are like stars. You don’t always see them, but every so often they emerge to surprise you in all their bold glory.
Facial hair, of course, is no big deal, but we have always wondered what the deal is with that one thick, long hair that seems to appear out of nowhere, just begging to be plucked.
We took a break from staring at our faces in magnified mirrors to call on the experts. First and foremost, we wanted to know what makes those individual chin hairs different from our thinner, finer facial hair.
“These are terminal hairs versus the vellus hairs on the rest of the face,” she said. “Hair differs in its susceptibility to testosterone. Beard and mustache hair are more susceptible. Since [the chin is] considered a masculine area, when hair appears in that area in women, it is referred to as hirsutism.”
Hirstuism is a medical condition that is often caused by polycystic ovary syndrome and certain medications that cause excessive growth. But if you have just one or two terminal hairs that appear in the same place each time they grow, you can usually chalk it up to our unique, complicated bodies.
“Hair follicles have a mind of their own,” Angela Lamb, director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice, director of dermatology at the Institute of Family Health and an assistant dermatology professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told HuffPost. “Sometimes one or more hairs will grow in thicker or fuller than others. This is the same reason why you may notice different hairs on your scalp that are curlier in some parts more than others.”
It’s not totally random, though. Like most other things in life, you have genetics to thank for the amount of hair that grows in on your face.
“Many cases are hereditary,” Lamb said. “If the women in your family grow facial hair, you may as well. It has to do with how your hair follicles respond to androgens [male sex hormones, like testosterone] that are present in all women’s bodies.”
And while we would bet money that those individual chin hairs grow in at an exponentially faster rate than the other hair on our bodies, Lamb maintains they come in at the same speed. She also assured us that there is no scientific evidence to back up any claims that plucking these hairs makes them grow in thicker.
Waldorf did say, however, that the reason it may appear longer is thanks to the different ways hair grows on the body.
“Hair growth differs in different areas of the body, as does the growth cycle,” she said. “Which is why scalp hair generally grows longer than eyelash hair.”
Both Waldorf and Lamb state that there is no danger in plucking these hairs, aside for the potential risk for infection that comes with plucking any hair. And Waldorf explained that while you don’t ever develop new follicles, more vellus hairs can be stimulated by hormones to become terminal hairs as you get older. “As women age, estrogen levels go down and natural testosterone goes unopposed.”
As far as methods of removal go, both doctors referred to the same three options:
“Laser hair removal, electrolysis, and a topical prescription call Vaniqa that causes hairs to grow in thinner and slower,” Lamb said. “These are not true ‘preventions’ but rather elimination techniques.”
Much to our dismay, Lamb offered no scientific explanation for why those hairs are so darn satisfying to pluck. But what she did say is that plucking is “an easy compulsive behavior that can be deeply satisfying.”
Sounds about right.