Underarm hair

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Underarm hair
Details
Latin hirci
Identifiers
TA A16.0.00.021
FMA FMA:70756
Anatomical terminology

Underarm hair (Sometimes called axillary hair or armpit hair) is the hair in the underarm area (axilla).

Development and function[edit]

Underarm hair, as human body hair, normally starts to appear at the beginning of puberty, with growth usually completed by the end of the teen-age years. The evolutionary significance of human underarm hair is still debated. It may naturally wick sweat or other moisture away from the skin, aiding ventilation. Colonization by odor-producing bacteria is thereby transferred away from the skin (see skin flora).[1]

Male axilla with hair 
Female axilla with hair 

Cultural attitudes[edit]

Today in much of the Western world, it is more common for women to regularly shave their underarm hair. The prevalence of this practice varies widely, though. Religious reasons are sometimes cited; for example, in Islamic culture, both men and women remove underarm hair to meet religious guidelines of cleanliness. Removal of underarm hair was part of a collection of hygienic or cosmetic practices recommended by Prophet Muhammad (570-632) as consistent with fitra for both women and men and has since usually been regarded as a requirement by most Muslims.[2] In much of the Western world, men also choose to remove their underarm hair for aesthetic reasons, though the practice is less common for men than women. In Western society, a woman is considered distasteful and ungroomed if she has hairy underarms. Men can be considered groomed with or without the hair. [3]

Many competitive swimmers remove nearly all of their body hair, including their underarm hair, to make their bodies more streamlined during races. Many male bodybuilders also remove their body hair for cosmetic purposes, as do many (but not all) models in various kinds of erotica.

Seneca the Younger suggests it was common practice in ancient Rome : «One is, I believe, as faulty as the other: the one class are unreasonably elaborate, the other are unreasonably negligent; the former depilate the leg, the latter not even the armpit» (letter 114).

In the West, the practice began 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.[4]

Underarm hair in art[edit]

In works of art, the underarm hair is usually removed; showing it is a mark of modernism.[citation needed] This contrasts to the depiction of pubic hair in art, which is rarely portrayed in works created in the Middle Ages, increasingly common in Renaissance art, and quite frequent in modern times.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paye, Marc; Maibach, Howard I.; Barel, André O (2009). Handbook of cosmetic science and technology (3 ed.). Informa Health Care. p. 703. ISBN 1-4200-6963-2. 
  2. ^ "Compendium of Islamic Texts". USC. Retrieved 24 March 2012. [dead link]
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Hope, Christine (1982). "Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture". Journal of American Culture 5 (1): 93–99. doi:10.1111/j.1542-734X.1982.0501_93.x. 
  5. ^ Weekes, Ann Owens (1993). "Students' Self-Image: Representations of Women in "High" Art and Popular Culture". Woman's Art Journal 13 (2): 32–38. doi:10.2307/1358151.