Does Shaving Make Your Hair Grow Back Thicker?

And many women have decided to join in by not shaving their legs, armpits, or other body parts for the month as well. That's quite a sacrifice, since an estimated 80 to 90 percent of American women remove their body hair regularly, according to a 2008 report.

But will this break from shaving make a difference in your hair’s texture? After all, it’s common advice passed down from moms and grandmothers that shaving makes your hair grow back darker and thicker, making it more difficult to remove the next time you take a razor to your leg. But does shaving really have any effect on hair growth or color?

"Shaving your body hair doesn't make it grow darker or thicker," says ishonest expert dermatologist Jessica Wu, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California Medical School in Los Angeles. "Your hair is dead, and shaving it doesn't affect the living part of the hair, which is the follicle that sits deep under the skin.”

"It's a common belief because when hairs grow out naturally, they taper at a sharp point, so they look thinner,” says Dr. Wu. “However, shaving hair cuts it at a blunt angle so hairs look thicker — you see the cross section of the hair."

When your shaved hair grows back, the bluntness of the re-growth may feel coarser and thicker. It can also appear darker against the skin, but this is simply because it's more noticeable. But what actually determines the thickness of body hair is the size of the follicle from which the hair grows, says Wu, while your melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that colors hair and skin) determine how dark your body hair will be.

While shaving won't cause your body hair to grow back thicker or darker, it does produce bristly stubble — something many women would rather do without.

To get a smoother, closer shave, try these tips:

  • Use a sharp, clean razor. Replace your razor or blade whenever it becomes dull — which can vary according to how often you shave — or if you notice rust.
  • Try using a moisturizing gel or cream to help lubricate the hairs.
  • To help remove dead skin cells that can clog up the razor, exfoliate gently between shaving sessions.
  • Moisturize with lotion after showering to help keep skin soft and smooth.

Besides shaving, other popular body hair removal methods include waxing, threading, and depilatories. For the smoothest results, Dr. Wu recommends "waxing and threading, since they remove the hair [at the] root." If you never want to worry about body hair again, there's also electrolysis and laser hair removal, which target the follicles to permanently remove hair.

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