What causes random long white body hairs?

What causes random long white body hairs?

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I'm sure many of you have experienced this - you scratch your back or brush your hand over your arm and find a ridiculously long thin white hair, sometimes as long as 3 or 4 inches. I know a few people who get these quite frequently, and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest they almost grow almost overnight. A quick Google search for "single long white hair" throws up plenty of references to them, and various beauty advice, but I'd like to know the biology behind them.

  • What triggers abnormal body hair growth?
  • What causes these hairs to grow so much longer than other "normal" body hairs in physical proximity?
  • Why are they so thin and white compared to other body hair?

My primary hypothesis is that the hair cell grows rapidly in an uncontrolled manner, similar to how cancer might, and that the unusual appearance is due to the cells being starved of nutrients. I may be completely wrong, though.

I'm mainly interested in humans here, but if more in-depth research is available on animals that'd be interesting too.

Since it's been so long, I guess a rushed speculative answer might be at least an idea.

DNA gets damaged randomly all the time, and repair mechanisms are in place to fix it. When the damage is too large or of a very complex kind, permanent mutations can develop, and cause disorders such as cells proliferating without control - i.e. tumours.

I could imagine that the same mechanism could result in cells which overproduce keratin (hair) without melanin (pigment), if the associated genes are affected. Considering that trichocytes and melanocytes, the two cell populations at the base of the hair responsible for production, are among the most rapidly proliferating cell types in humans, an increased risk for mutation would not surprise me. I was able to find a few papers on keratin-associated gene clusters by a quick search, but they all seemed to be related to production of fragile hair rather than excessive length.

One random long blonde hair

Hi, I have naturally very dark brown hair and black eyelashes/brows. Twice now, I have found one random very long (about 5cm) very thin and pale (I can't tell if it's platinum blonde or white) hair on my chest, near my neck. I don't have any other hair on my chest and it's very difficult to find this one rogue hair because it is in no way visible. Even when I pluck it, it's very difficult to see. I'm sure that there is nothing wrong with me but I guess I was just wondering what was up with that? I would hate to think 'it just happens' for no apparent reason?

People have a very wide range of hair characteristics, both between individuals and on the same body. Considering that the various hairs growing on mammals are all essentially the same thing (keratin in a shaft grown from a follicle) just altered slightly at different locations (top of head, chest, legs etc.) it makes perfect sense that within the "normal" spectrum of hair growth you will find outliers which don't fit the more regular pattern.

That's why one can find one really long eyebrow hair, or have a small bald spot in the middle of an otherwise hairy region on your leg. Myself, I've got your standard caucasian brown hair, but for some odd reason I have a patch of a dozen or so hairs on my chin which have a distinct red-head hue. These variations certainly don't happen "for no reason", I'm quite positive that they have valid underlying biochemical explanations. You should think of them as part of the normal random variation that is present at all levels of our biology, without which evolution would be impossible.

Here's The Real Reason You've Got That One Random Chin Hair

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.

Dr. Heidi Waldorf, d irector of laser and cosmetic dermatology at The Mount Sinai Hospital, broke it down for HuffPost.

“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.”

What&rsquos with That Long Strand of Hair Suddenly Growing Out of Your Chin?

A dermatologist shares the lowdown on random facial fuzz.

Have you looked in the mirror and been startled by a long chin hair that seems to have suddenly popped up out of nowhere? You&rsquore not alone. If you haven&rsquot already heard mom or a BFF complain about this embarrassing problem, experts assure us that chin hair is super-common among women. But where the heck do these strands spring from?

&ldquoChin hair results from a combination of genetics and hormones,&rdquo says Hadley King, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at New York&rsquos SKINNEY Medspa. It&rsquos our male hormones (called androgens), as well as our overall hormonal balance, that stimulate growth of chin hair, she explains.

Depending on how sensitive your hair follicles are to these hormones, you may sprout more or less of them. That sensitivity and the levels of hormones at play are generally determined by genetics. So if grandma has a fuzzy chin, it&rsquos likely you&rsquoll end up with one, too.

Chin hair can grow at any age, but most women notice growth increasing with age since hormonal balances shift as we get older. Simply plucking the stray chin hairs is the speediest way to remove them. If you have more than a stray, you may want to consider electrolysis or laser hair removal for more effective clearance, says King.

And while you can get chin hair with a perfectly normal balance of hormones, if you also notice irregular periods, excess facial and body hair, and stubborn adult acne that isn&rsquot responsive to treatments, you may have polycystic ovary syndrome(PCOS). If you&rsquore concerned, see your doctor to determine if your chin hair may be a sign of PCOS.

Whether your hormonal balance is &ldquonormal&rdquo or PCOS-related, medications that affect hormones, like oral contraceptives or spironolactone, can help curb excess chin hair growth, as well as overall facial hair, says Hadley.

If you decide to pluck those suckers or take more aggressive action, Hadley says to take comfort in the fact that this isn&rsquot a serious issue. &ldquoSome of us are just hairier than others,&rdquo she says. And you have good ol&rsquo genetics to thank for that!

3. An iron deficiency may be present.

Everyone has a hair cycle. Some people tend to naturally shed hair in the spring and fall others in the summer and winter. But diffuse hair loss&mdashnoticeable hair loss on your body and your head&mdashcan indicate anemia, or a deficiency of iron in your blood. Vegans and vegetarians or women with heavy periods are at a higher risk, and it may result in hair loss, brittle nails, and odd cravings. If you suspect iron may be an issue, see your doctor for a blood test.

Are rogue hairs anything to worry about?

Whatever the cause of rogue hairs, Dawson notes that they are almost certainly benign. For women, granted, a ton of rogue hairs cropping up in one place in a short amount of time could be hirsutism, a sign that one&rsquos sex hormones have been thrown out of whack, potentially leading to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome, which does merit medical attention. For men, though, they are just one of those weird aspects of being a hairy human being with a stochastic body.

If rogue hairs bother you, dermatologists also agree that there&rsquos no reason not to pluck them, or laser them off, or remove them via electrolysis, depending on your personal preferences and budget. They won&rsquot grow back, as old wives&rsquo tales would have it, thicker, darker, and faster.


Like much of the hair on the human body, leg, arm, chest, and back hair begin as vellus hair. As people age, the hair in these regions will often begin to grow darker and more abundantly. This will typically happen during or after puberty. Men will often have more abundant, coarser hair on the arms and back, while women tend to have a less drastic change in the hair growth in these areas but do experience a significant change in thickness of hairs. However, some women will grow darker, longer hair in one or more of these regions.

Chest and abdomen Edit

Vellus hair grows on the chest and abdomen of both sexes at all stages of development. After puberty and extending into adulthood, most males grow increasing amounts of terminal hair over the chest and abdomen areas. Adult women also typically can grow terminal hairs around the areola though in many cultures these hairs are typically removed. [ citation needed ]

Arms Edit

Arm hair grows on a human's forearms, sometimes even on the elbow area, and rarely on a human's bicep, triceps, and/or shoulders. Terminal arm hair is concentrated on the wrist end of the forearm, extending over the hand. Terminal hair growth in adolescent males is often much more intense than that in females, particularly for individuals with dark hair. In some cultures, it is common for women to remove arm hair, though this practice is less frequent than that of leg hair removal.

Terminal hair growth on arms is a secondary sexual characteristic in boys and appears in the last stages of puberty. Vellus arm hair is usually concentrated on the elbow end of the forearm and often ends on the lower part of the upper arm. This type of intense arm vellus hair growth sometimes occurs in girls and children of both sexes until puberty. Even though this causes the arms to appear hairy, it is not caused solely by testosterone. The hair is softer and different from men's arm hair, in texture.

Feet Edit

Visible hair appearing on the top surfaces of the feet and toes generally begins with the onset of puberty. Terminal hair growth on the feet is typically more intense in adult and adolescent males than in females.

Legs Edit

Leg hair sometimes appears at the onset of adulthood, with the legs of men more often hairier than those of women. For a variety of reasons, people may shave their leg hair, including cultural practice or individual needs. Around the world, women generally shave their leg hair more regularly than men, to conform with the social norms of many cultures, many of which perceive smooth skin as a sign of youth, beauty, and in some cultures, hygiene. However, athletes of both sexes – swimmers, runners, cyclists and bodybuilders in particular – may shave their androgenic hair to reduce friction, highlight muscular development or to make it easier to get into and out of skin-tight clothing.

Pubic Edit

Pubic hair is a collection of coarse hair found in the pubic region. It will often also grow on the thighs and abdomen. Zoologist Desmond Morris disputes theories that it developed to signal sexual maturity or protect the skin from chafing during copulation, and prefers the explanation that pubic hair acts as a scent trap. Also, both sexes having thick pubic hairs act as a partial cushion during intercourse. [1]

The genital area of males and females are first inhabited by shorter, lighter vellus hairs that are next to invisible and only begin to develop into darker, thicker pubic hair at puberty. At this time, the pituitary gland secretes gonadotropin hormones which trigger the production of testosterone in the testicles and ovaries, promoting pubic hair growth. The average ages pubic hair begins to grow in males and females are 12 and 11, respectively. However, in some females, pubic hair has been known to start growing as early as age 7.

Just as individual people differ in scalp hair color, they can also differ in pubic hair color. Differences in thickness, growth rate, and length are also evident.

Armpits Edit

Underarm hair normally starts to appear at the beginning of puberty, with growth usually completed by the end of the teenage years.

Today in much of the world, it is common for women to regularly shave their underarm hair. The prevalence of this practice varies widely, though. The practice became popular for cosmetic reasons around 1915 in the United States and United Kingdom, when one or more magazines showed a woman in a dress with shaved underarms. Regular shaving became feasible with the introduction of the safety razor at the beginning of the 20th century. While underarm shaving was quickly adopted in some English speaking countries, especially in the US and Canada, it did not become widespread in Europe until well after World War II. [2] [3] Since then the practice has spread worldwide, some men also choose to shave their armpits.

Facial Edit

Facial hair grows primarily on or around one's face. Both men and women experience facial hair growth. Like pubic hair, non-vellus facial hair will begin to grow in around puberty. Moustaches in young men usually begin to grow in at around the age of puberty, although some men may not grow a moustache until they reach late teens or at all. In some cases facial hair development may take longer to mature than the late teens, and some men experience no facial hair development even at an older age.

It is common for many women to develop a few facial hairs under or around the chin, along the sides of the face (in the area of sideburns), or on the upper lip. These may appear at any age after puberty but are often seen in women after menopause due to decreased levels of estrogen. A darkening of the vellus hair of the upper lip in women is not considered true facial hair, though it is often referred to as a "moustache" the appearance of these dark vellus hairs may be lessened by bleaching. A relatively small number of women are able to grow enough facial hair to have a distinct beard. In some cases, female beard growth is the result of a hormonal imbalance (usually androgen excess), or a rare genetic disorder known as hypertrichosis. [4] Sometimes it is caused by use of anabolic steroids. Cultural pressure leads most women to remove facial hair, as it may be viewed as a social stigma.

Hair follicles are to varying degrees sensitive to androgen, primarily testosterone and its derivatives, particularly dihydrotestosterone, with different areas on the body having different sensitivity. As androgen levels increase, the rate of hair growth and the weight of the hairs increase. Genetic factors determine both individual levels of androgen and the hair follicle's sensitivity to androgen, as well as other characteristics such as hair colour, type of hair and hair retention.

Rising levels of androgen during puberty cause vellus hair to transform into terminal hair over many areas of the body. The sequence of appearance of terminal hair reflects the level of androgen sensitivity, with pubic hair being the first to appear due to the area's special sensitivity to androgen. The appearance of pubic hair in both sexes is usually seen as an indication of the start of a person's puberty. There is a sexual differentiation in the amount and distribution of androgenic hair, with men tending to have more terminal hair in more areas. This includes facial hair, chest hair, abdominal hair, leg hair, arm hair, and foot hair. (See Table 1 for development of male body hair during puberty.) Women retain more of the less visible vellus hair, although leg, arm, and foot hair can be noticeable on women. It is not unusual for women to have a few terminal hairs around their nipples as well. In the later decades of life, especially after the 5th decade, there begins a noticeable reduction in body hair especially in the legs. The reason for this is not known but it could be due to poorer circulation, lower free circulating hormone amounts or other reasons.

Table 1 - Occurrence (%) with Body Hair American Males Aged 14, 16 and 18
Area Age 14 Age 16 Age 18
Pubic 97 100 100
Axillary 40 97 100
Anterior leg 46 90 100
Anterior thigh 30 67 95
Forearm 14 37 80
Abdomen 14 37 75
Buttocks 14 33 50
Chest 3 7 40
Lower back 3 7 20
Upper arms 0 0 10
Shoulders 0 0 0

Ref. Reynolds EL. The appearance of adult patterns of body hair in man. Ann NY Acad Sci 1951:53:576- 584.

Androgenic hair provides tactile sensory input by transferring hair movement and vibration via the shaft to sensory nerves within the skin. Follicular nerves detect displacement of hair shafts and other nerve endings in the surrounding skin detect vibration and distortions of the skin around the follicles. Androgenic hair extends the sense of touch beyond the surface of the skin into the air and space surrounding it, detecting air movements as well as hair displacement from contact by insects or objects. [5] [6]

Determining the evolutionary function of androgenic hair must take into account both human evolution and the thermal properties of hair itself.

The thermodynamic properties of hair are based on the properties of the keratin strands and amino acids that combine into a 'coiled' structure. This structure lends to many of the properties of hair, such as its ability to stretch and return to its original length. This coiled structure does not predispose curly or frizzy hair, both of which are defined by oval or triangular hair follicle cross-sections. [7]

Evolution of less body hair Edit

Hair is a very good thermal conductor and aids heat transfer both into and out of the body. When goose bumps are observed, small muscles (arrector pili muscle) contract to raise the hairs both to provide insulation, by reducing cooling by air convection of the skin, as well as in response to central nervous stimulus, similar to the feeling of 'hairs standing up on the back of your neck'. This phenomenon also occurs when static charge is built up and stored in the hair. Keratin however can easily be damaged by excessive heat and dryness, suggesting that extreme sun exposure, perhaps due to a lack of clothing, would result in perpetual hair destruction, eventually resulting in the genes being bred out in favor of high skin pigmentation. It is also true that parasites can live on and in hair thus peoples who preserved their body hair would have required greater general hygiene to prevent diseases. [8]

Markus J. Rantala of the Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, said humans evolved by "natural selection" to be hairless when the trade off of "having fewer parasites" became more important than having a "warming, furry coat". [9]

P.E. Wheeler of the Department of Biology at Liverpool Polytechnic said quadrupedal savannah mammals of similar volume to humans have body hair to keep warm while only larger quadrupedal savannah mammals lack body hair, because their body volume itself is enough to keep them warm. [10] Therefore, Wheeler said humans who should have body hair based on predictions of body volume alone for savannah mammals evolved no body hair after evolving bipedalism which he said reduced the amount of body area exposed to the sun by 40%, reducing the solar warming effect on the human body. [10]

Loss of fur occurred at least 2 million years ago, but possibly as early as 3.3 million years ago judging from the divergence of head and pubic lice, and aided persistence hunting (the ability to catch prey in very long distance chases) in the warm savannas where hominins first evolved. The two main advantages are felt to be bipedal locomotion and greater thermal load dissipation capacity due to better sweating and less hair. [11]

Sexual selection Edit

Markus J. Rantala of the Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, said the existence of androgen dependent hair on men could be explained by sexual attraction whereby hair on the genitals would trap pheromones and hair on the chin would make the chin appear more massive. [9]

In 1876, Oscar Peschel wrote that North Asiatic Mongols, Native Americans, Malays, Hottentots and Bushmen have little to no body hair, while Semitics, Indo-Europeans, and Southern Europeans (especially the Portuguese and Spanish) have extensive body hair. [12]

Anthropologist Joseph Deniker said in 1901 that the very hirsute peoples are the Ainus, Iranians, Australian aborigines (Arnhem Land being less hairy), Toda, Dravidians and Melanesians, while the most glabrous peoples are the American Indians, San, and East Asians, who include Chinese, Mongols, and Malays. [13] Deniker said that hirsute peoples tend to have thicker beards, eyelashes, and eyebrows but fewer hairs on their scalp. [13]

C.H. Danforth and Mildred Trotter of the Department of Anatomy at Washington University conducted a study using army soldiers of European origin in 1922 where they concluded that dark-haired white men are generally more hairy than fair-haired white men. [14]

H. Harris, publishing in the British Journal of Dermatology in 1947, wrote American Indians have the least body hair, Chinese and Black people have little body hair, white people have more body hair than Black people and Ainu have the most body hair. [15]

Anthropologist Arnold Henry Savage Landor, in 1970, described the Ainu as having hairy bodies. [16]

Stewart W. Hindley and Albert Damon of the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University studied, in 1973, the frequency of hair on the middle finger joint (mid-phalangeal hair) of Solomon Islanders, as a part of a series of anthropometric studies of these populations. They summarize other studies on prevalence of this trait as reporting, in general, that Caucasoids are more likely to have hair on the middle finger joint than Negroids and Mongoloids, and collect the following frequencies from previously published literature: Andamanese 0%, Eskimo 1%, African American 16% or 28%, Ethiopians 25.6%, Mexicans of the Yucatan 20.9%, Penobscot and Shinnecock 22.7%, Gurkha 33.6%, Japanese 44.6%, various Hindus 40–50%, Egyptians 52.3%, Near Eastern peoples 62–71%, various Europeans 60–80%. However, they never completed an Androgenic hair map. [17]

According to anthropologist and professor Ashley Montagu in 1989, Asian people and black people such as the San people are less hairy than white people. Montagu said that the hairless feature is a neotenous trait. [18]

Eike-Meinrad Winkler and Kerrin Christiansen of the Institut für Humanbiologie studied, in 1993, Kavango people and !Kung people of body hair and hormone levels to investigate the reason black Africans did not have bodies as hairy as Europeans. [19] Winkler and Christiansen concluded the difference in hairiness between black Africans and Europeans had to do with differences in androgen or estradiol production, in androgen metabolism, and in sex hormone action in the target cells. [19]

Valerie Anne Randall of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Bradford, said in 1994 beard growth in Caucasian men increases until the mid-thirties due to a delay caused by growth cycles changing from vellus hair to terminal hair. [20] Randall said white men and women are hairier than Japanese men and women even with the same total plasma androgen levels. [20] Randall says that the reason for some people being hairy and some people not being hairy is unclear, but that it probably is related to differing sensitivity of hair follicles to 5α-reductase. [20]

Rodney P.R. Dawber of the Oxford Hair Foundation said in 1997 that East Asian males have little or no facial or body hair and Dawber also said that Mediterranean males are covered with an exuberant pelage. [21]

Milkica Nešić and her colleagues from the Department of Physiology at the University of Niš, Serbia, cited prior studies in a 2010 publication as indicating that the frequency of hair on the middle finger joint (mid-phalangeal hair) in whites is significantly higher than in Black populations. [22]

It has been shown that individuals can be uniquely identified by their androgenic hair patterns. For example, even when one's particular distinguishing features such as face and tattoos are obscured, persons can still be identified by their hair on other parts of their body. [23] [24]

What is vellus hair?

Vellus hair is the fine, wispy hair that covers most of the body. It develops in childhood and remains on much of the body throughout adulthood.

During puberty, some vellus hair changes to thicker hair called terminal hair.

In this article, we look at how vellus hair changes over time, as well as how it is related to health and hair loss.

Share on Pinterest Vellus hair develops in infancy and finer than terminal hair.

Vellus hair is the light, short, fine hair that covers much of a person’s body. Its length and thickness will vary from person to person. The primary role of vellus hair is to protect the skin and keep the body warm.

Terminal hair, on the other hand, is the longer, thicker, and darker hair that grows on the head. It also forms the thick patches of body hair in the pubic region, under the arms, and beard.

Terminal hairs may appear on other parts of the body, particularly after puberty. It is normal to find a few longer, thicker strands of hair in an area primarily covered with vellus hair.

People who lose terminal hair usually still have vellus hair. This is why men who are experiencing male pattern baldness might still have fine, light patches of hair on their head. Vellus hair is sometimes more noticeable on women and children than men because males tend to have more terminal body hair.

The thickness, color, and length of vellus hair will vary between individuals. In some people, vellus hair is only visible in bright natural light and at a close distance. Other people have slightly thicker and darker vellus hair that may be more noticeable. Some areas of the body may have thicker vellus hair than others.

Vellus hair has a similar structure to terminal hair. Both types of hair grow from a hair follicle. Each hair follicle contains a gland that secretes sebum, an oil that lubricates the skin and hair.

However, unlike terminal hair, vellus hair does not typically have a medulla. The medulla is a portion of the hair’s core that strengthens it, allowing it to grow longer.

Vellus versus lanugo

Lanugo is a type of hair that develops on a fetus while it is still in the womb. It protects the skin from amniotic fluids and is usually shed before or shortly after birth.

Babies born prematurely tend to have more lanugo than babies born at full gestation. Some babies have thicker or darker lanugo than others. In all babies, vellus hair eventually replaces the lanugo.

Vellus and terminal hairs follow identical growth patterns. The three phases of hair growth for both types of hair are:

  • Anagen: The period of active hair growth, during which the hair grows longer. Vellus hair tends to have a shorter anagen phase than terminal hair.
  • Catagen: A period of transition, during which the hair follicle contracts and limits blood supply. The hair can easily fall out during this stage.
  • Telogen: A resting period during which the hair does not grow.

Everyone will have hairs in all three stages of development at any one time. This is why some hair may regrow immediately after being plucked, but other hair may take months or even years to return.

Why unwanted chin hair happens

First of all, know this&mdashso many people experience the hairy issue. “Having stray facial hairs is very common for women,” says Arash Akhavan, MD, a New York City dermatologist with the Dermatology and Laser Group. “It’s not uncommon for women in their mid to upper 20s to begin noticing stray hairs on their face.” And usually, the number of hairs one finds tends to increase with age. “Due to hormonal changes, hair does increase with age,” says Dr. Akhavan. “Even after undergoing permanent hair removal procedures such as laser hair removal and electrolysis, one must remember that periodic touch-up sessions will be needed since new hairs are always popping out.”

That’s because facial hair in women is frequently hormonally driven&mdashwhich can stem from a number of conditions. “The top hormone for hair growth is testosterone,” says Suzie Welsh, hormone expert, CEO, and founder of Binto, a personalized supplement brand. “This is a sex hormone that’s naturally more predominant in men than women. When women have hormonal fluctuations, and more specifically, higher circulating testosterone levels, one of the side effects is unwanted hair growth&mdashwhich is called hirsutism in the medical world.”

“Having stray facial hairs is very common for women.” &mdashArash Akhavan, MD

You could experience such fluctuations if you deal withpolycystic ovarian syndrom or PCOS, she explains. “This is one of the top reasons women have hormonal fluctuations and higher testosterone&mdashwomen with PCOS have more [testosterone], which results in facial hair growth,” says Welsh. Chin hair on women can also stem from hormonal imbalances. “These sorts of imbalance issues are often caused by some other adrenal disorder, which would be a complication or miscommunication of the glands that control your sex hormone feedback loop,” says Welsh. And lastly, it can happen, and often does, when women enter menopause.

As for why some women get one or two strands while others get more populated facial hair, it’s all about certain specificities: “The pattern depends on the hormonal fluctuation and the number of hair follicles you may have,” she explains. “If you have a greater hormonal balance, your unwanted hair pattern will be more severe.” Note that women experience serious hormonal changes (which can throw off your hormonal feedback loop) during adolescence and into adulthood, and then during menopause, adds Dr. Welsh.

Aside from hormones, another factor is genetics. “Genetics play a huge role, as does ethnicity,” says Dr. Akhavan. “Sometimes facial hair in women can also be a sign of hormonal abnormalities, and I recommend to all my patients with facial hair to have a laboratory evaluation to assess for this possibility.”

What is hypertrichosis?

Hypertrichosis is a rare and curious condition that causes excessive hair growth anywhere on a person’s body. Hypertrichosis is sometimes known as werewolf syndrome.

Hypertrichosis may be confused with hirsutism. Hirsutism is a more common condition that causes women to grow coarse hair in areas that men typically do, such as on their chin.

Share on Pinterest An image of Barbara Vanbeck, a lady with Hypertrichosis, by R. Gaywood, 1656.
Image credit: Wellcome Images, 2014

There are many theories about the cause of hypertrichosis.

Congenital hypertrichosis may run in the family. It seems to be caused by genes that stimulate hair growth becoming abnormally active. In most people, the genes that caused extensive hair growth in humankind’s very early ancestors are now inactive because people do not need to be covered in hair to stay warm.

In people with congenital hypertrichosis, these genes get reactivated in the womb. There is still no known cause for this.

However, acquired hypertrichosis, which develops later in a person’s life, has a range of possible causes. Causes include:

Sometimes, having a condition called porphyria cutanea tarda, which causes the skin to be extremely sensitive to UV light, may trigger hypertrichosis.

If hypertrichosis occurs only on specific places of the body, it may be due to chronic skin conditions, such as lichen simplex, which is associated with repeated rashes, itching, and scratching on a particular patch of skin. Increased blood supply (vascularity) in one specific area of the body can also cause the condition. Sometimes, symptoms of hypertrichosis appear in the area where someone wore a plaster cast.

The primary symptom of hypertrichosis is the presence of hair in greater amounts than is usual for a person’s age, race, and sex. Hair may also appear in unusual areas.

Not all hair produced by hypertrichosis is the same. Hypertrichosis can create three different types of hair:


Lanugo hair is long, thin, and very soft. It is similar to the hair on the body of a newborn baby. Lanugo hair will typically have no pigment and usually falls out a few weeks after birth. In people with hypertrichosis, this lanugo hair will remain until it is treated.


Vellus hair is usually short, soft, and faintly pigmented. These hairs may appear all over the body except in areas where there are no hair follicles, such as the mucous membranes, the soles of the feet, and the palms of the hands.


Terminal hairs are the darkest of the three types of hair. Terminal hair is usually thick, coarse, and long. It is often associated with hormones and is typically found on the face, armpits, and groin.

Women with hirsutism will often develop terminal hair on the face, back, arms, and chest.

The severity of hypertrichosis symptoms may increase or decrease with age.

There are many types of hypertrichosis, which are categorized according to how and when a person develops the condition.

Congenital hypertrichosis lanuginosa

The fine lanugo hairs appear in a fetus as usual but do not fade away after birth. Instead, the hairs continue to grow excessively in different areas of the body during the person’s life.

Congenital hypertrichosis terminalis

Instead of being born with lanugo or vellus hair, the baby may have terminal hair at birth that grows throughout their life. Affected individuals often have thick, fully pigmented hair that covers their body, including the face.

Acquired hypertrichosis

Acquired hypertrichosis develops later in life. It follows many of the same patterns of congenital hypertrichosis. Hair may be lanugo, vellus, or terminal hair, and it can appear in small patches or over the entire body.

Naevoid hypertrichosis

Excessive hair growth found on one or more patches of skin. A typical example is a very solid and bushy monobrow, also known as a unibrow.


Commonly mistaken for hypertrichosis, hirsutism affects up to 10 percent of women. Hirsutism is a term that relates to women who develop coarse terminal hairs in a typical male hair-growth distribution pattern, such as on the chin and chest. Women often develop hirsutism due to a hormone imbalance.

Some people might be able to reduce their risk of developing certain types of acquired hypertrichosis by avoiding:

There is no known cure for congenital hypertrichosis. Treatment involves managing the symptoms by removing the hair from the affected area.

Short-term methods of hair removal include:

Temporary solutions such as these can minimize the appearance of hair in the area, but the condition will cause the hair to grow back. Using these methods can also irritate the skin and cause rashes or ingrown hairs. It is also difficult to use some of these techniques in some regions of the body.

Electrolysis or laser treatment

Some people may opt for long-term treatments, such as laser epilation or electrolysis.

Electrolysis destroys the individual hair follicles using electrical charges.

Laser epilation does the same using laser light and is typically less painful than electrolysis. For some people, the treatment will result in permanent hair loss, though it may take multiple sessions to achieve the desired result.

Depending on the type, hypertrichosis is often accompanied by other symptoms and may be linked to an underlying condition.

There may be a genetic component to some forms of hypertrichosis, so anyone with a family history of the condition may wish to speak to a doctor.

Managing the symptoms or treating the underlying cause is the only necessary and readily available treatment for hypertrichosis.