What to do about nipple hair?

Originally Published: September 9, 2011
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Dear Alice,

My girlfriend is unsure if she should remove the hair on her nipples. She vaguely recalls a conversation with her gynecologist who said removal of the nipple hairs could be potentially dangerous to the mammary glands. Is this true? Or is just plucking bad, and shaving/trimming okay? Any information clearing up this question would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you Alice!

Dear Reader,

Sounds like your girlfriend is in a bit of a hairy situation. No worries, Alice is here to help you sort all this out! First of all, nipple hair is perfectly normal for women and men so there is no biologically beneficial reason to remove it. However, there are many options for the removal of body hair if one so desires. These options may be limited though when dealing with sensitive parts of the body like the nipples.

Though there is no evidence that removing nipple hair would have any effect on the mammary glands, one of the downsides to shaving hair in this sensitive area is that it could potentially lead to blocked follicles which may turn into benign yet un-fun sebaceous cysts. Other options like plucking, waxing/sugaring, and depilatory creams have similar potential for causing blocked follicles, ingrown hairs, infection, hyperpigmentation (discoloration of the skin), scarring, and just generally for being unpleasant in many cases. Laser hair removal and electrolysis are more permanent options for hair removal though there is little information available about the safety and frequency of their use in removing nipple hair.

Since it is likely that your girlfriend is just looking to get rid of a few hairs, to prevent discomfort and irritation, her best bet is to carefully use manicure scissors to trim her nipple hairs. Pulling the hair taut with tweezers may assist in a cleaner trim but remember, this method (like shaving) would require regular upkeep since without removing the root, the hair will quickly and easily grow back. Furthermore, trimming or shaving may make the darker, thicker base of the hair more noticeable. Another option is to bleach the hair so that it is less noticeable but the chemicals may irritate sensitive skin around the nipple. Check out the Related Q&As below for additional details on hair removal techniques.

Rest assured that a few hairs around the areola (nipple) is nothing to be concerned about, especially as women reach menopausal age and their hormones shift. Outside of this time frame, if women have a noticeable increase in the amount of hair growth on the chest or other atypical locations paired with irregular periods, it may be a sign of something that a health provider should check out. In this situation, Columbia students can contact Medical Services at x4-2284 or make an appointment by logging on to Open Communicator.

Hopefully with these tips, your girlfriend can satisfy her need to nip her unwanted nipple hair in the bud.

Alice