Updated: Mar 10, 2021
Written by: Ashley Paul
Fact-Checked By : Dr. Tara Scott, OB-GYN
Nipple Hair Is Normal
If you have a body then chances are you have already discovered that it is almost entirely covered in hair. There are different types of human hair. Terminal hair consists of head hair, eyebrow hair, pubic/underarm hair, and leg/arm hair.
You also have thousands of light, short vellus hairs which can be found pretty much everywhere. Everyone is born covered in vellus hair. As women, we tend to keep more of our vellus hair as we transition from puberty to adulthood, but it's also common for women to have terminal hair in other areas such as the nipples or face.
Do you have nipple hair? If so, know that all women do and that it is completely normal.
What Does It Look Like?
Nipple hair differs from woman to woman. “In general, breast hair initially presents as fine, thin hair, and then with age and hormonal changes, [it] may begin to grow thicker and coarser,” explains Rina Allawh, MD, a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology LLC. “Hair thickness may vary based on ethnicity and skin type,” Allawh adds. “For example, darker skin types are more likely to have thicker breast hair than fairer skin types.”
Why Do Women Have It?
Your body is covered with hair follicles and the nipples are no exception! Take a look at your breasts and you will see how the tiny bumps around your areola contain hair follicles. Some women have lighter hairs while others have darker, more wiry hairs or somewhere in between.
Genetics and ethnicity are a factor when it comes to the color and texture of the hair itself. If you have thick, dark body hair then chances are it's also going to be on your nipples. If the women in your family tend to have thick, dark body hair then you'll probably have it too. Plenty of women have dark hair around their areola while having completely normal hormone levels.
Hormones and Nipple Hair
Nipple hair changes throughout your life cycle. The first time your nipple hair begins to sprout happens at the onset of puberty. According to Constance Chen, MD, nipple hair may become more noticeable during hormonal milestones like pregnancy and menopause. During pregnancy, for example, the rise in estrogen can cause both the areola and nipple hair around it to darken.
The Parasite Connection
Your body hair is not just hanging out there without reason. It helps regulate your temperature, wick away sweat from the hot sun, and protect your skin from parasites. In fact, new research suggests that people with more body hair are actually better at detecting bed bugs.
If your nipple hair comes with other symptoms then it can be prudent to investigate what’s going on. Hirsutism, which means excessive hair growth on unexpected areas of the body, is an attribute of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a condition that results from higher-than-normal levels of hormones called androgens – namely, testosterone. The ovaries also become enlarged and develop cysts on them. PCOS affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age, making it way more common than one would think.
Before you assume that you have PCOS be sure to look out for the other telltale symptoms which can include:
- Irregularity or lack of menstrual periods
- Increased oil on skin or acne
- Loss of head hair
- Increased hair growth in less common places like the nipples, face, abdomen, chest, upper arms, and upper legs.
- Difficulty losing weight despite having a healthy diet and exercise.
Dr. Allawh points out that Cushing syndrome is another type of underlying health condition that can cause excess nipple hair growth. Other symptoms consist of:
- High blood pressure
- Red or round face
- Bruising easily
- Stretch marks
- Mood changes
- Muscle weakness
- Pads of fat on the chest, upper back, neck, and abdomen
Cushing syndrome is caused by an excess amount of the hormone cortisol. This can happen naturally from chronically high-stress levels, excessive athletic conditioning, malnutrition, alcoholism, and even depression.
Did you know that certain medications can also cause Cushing syndrome? The number one cause of this condition is the continued use of corticosteroid medication like prednisone. It is commonly prescribed to treat inflammatory diseases like lupus, allergies, asthma, and eczema. If you are being currently prescribed oral corticosteroids, testosterone, or immunotherapy medication do not hesitate to talk to your doctor if you are worried about your boob hair.
Do You Need To Treat Hairy Nipples?
I’ll say it loudly for the back of the room: NO.
You do not need to remove dark hairs around your nipples. Nipple hair is normal and will look differently on different women. Nobody expects your body to look as smooth as a dolphin so there is no need to worry or feel self-conscious. If a person is being judgmental about the hair that exists to protect your body then take that as a giant red flag and never see them again.
What If I Want To Remove My Nipple Hair?
If you want to remove your nipple hair then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either. In the body-positive movement, a key tenet is that nobody deserves to have her body policed by society. In the same vein, it also makes sense that women have every right to opt to safely remove their fuzz if they choose to do so.
Constance Chen, MD echoes the same sentiment but reminds us to be careful: “It’s fine to remove the hair if it bothers you but you should be careful around the delicate skin of the breast to not cause cuts, infections, or ingrown hairs.”
Here is a list of hair removal techniques:
- Laser Hair Removal
If you want to trim just be very careful to not cut yourself. Plucking is pretty much risk-free, however, if you find ingrown hairs cropping up then you might want to try another option. It is risky to shave your nipple hairs because the skin is spongy and may be prone to snagging on the razor. Waxing can be done at a salon but a word of caution, it can really hurt!
Laser high removal is the most expensive option along with electrolysis. While electrolysis is permanent, laser hair removal typically takes multiple sessions to get a more permanent result. Electrolysis is considered painful while lasering is way less so. Be sure to avoid Nair hair removal cream or other depilatory creams on your nipples because they can cause painful rashes and infections.
Whether you decide to embrace your nipple fuzz or remove it, know that hair being there does not make you weird or unique. We all have it, so let’s all tell a friend and put an end to the shaming of female body hair. You are beautiful and so is every strand on your nipples.