Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Pit Hair

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Photo: PYMCA/Getty Images

This week, the Cut asked, “Should you grow out your pit hair?” And assuming the answer is a resounding yes! then let us throw down our razors and declare this June “Pune,” a female-focused, armpit-centric answer to “Movember.

Growing out your pits might technically be as easy as “ceasing to shave,” but it still raises many questions, both practical and philosophical. Is there such a thing as too long? Is it cheesy that I was inspired by Lena Dunham or Jemima Kirke? Will people think it’s gross? (Answers: Nope, they’re trailblazers; who cares?)

Let this everything guide to growing your armpit hair ease your hairy journey.

Why do we have pit hair, anyway?
One theory, according to Jaime Schmidt, founder of Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant, is that armpit hair wicks away sweat from the skin so that it doesn’t spread across the body. Another theory suggests that pit bush is a natural defense against friction — a way to prevent chafing between the arm and the torso. But, of course, it could also be because of sex — that handy explanation for basically everything. A 2007 study suggests that armpit hair, which grows atop sweat glands, acts as a pheromone diffuser (try finding that at Anthropologie), and helps spread your natural, irresistible scent to potential mates.

Why should I grow it out?
Didn’t you read? You’re signaling potential mates! But if that’s not enough, grow your pit hair because you dig ‘70s style, because you can, or because it’s an eff-you to societal expectations. Because it’s like a septum ring, but not as high commitment! Also, maintaining pit hair saves you at least 45 seconds in the shower. All good reasons. Take your pick.

How long will it take to grow?
Freedom and liberty start the minute you stop shaving or waxing. Stubble really kicks in after a week. Lele Gomes, esthetician and celebrity waxer at the Rita Hazan Salon, estimates that armpit hair grows at approximately one inch per month. According to Gomes, getting luscious underarm tresses like Jemima Kirke will likely take at least one to two months. And if you’ve waxed, expect your armpit hair to grow back slower and more thin, as you’ve been yanking out your hair at the root. Sorry if this news was the pits.

What is a good length?
Long enough to look deliberate: Rocking stubble just looks like you forgot to shave, and this is a
statement. Also, long enough so your armpit doesn’t feel itchy. Maybe long enough to idly twirl during boring meetings.

Okay, but is there such a thing as too long?
Hair can only grow so long; it’s not like you’ll be able to fishtail your pit hair by summer’s end.

Will it be smellier?
Maybe. Having an armpit as naked as a mole rat does make it easier to get deodorant closer to the skin, rendering it more effective. Schmidt says, “The hair can trap odor. But some people do feel that having armpit hair keeps sweat away from the skin, creating less odor.” But remember, your armpits aren’t smelly — they’re just full of attractive pheromones luring potential mates.

Do you have to reconsider your deodorant?
Yes. If you’ve been using a solid, you might have to ditch it for a couple reasons: (1) A hairier pit makes it hard to get deodorant close enough to the skin and (2) you need the powers of invisibility. Consider a liquid-y roll-on (like those popular in Europe), a gel deodorant (just leave ample drying time or else it will feel like there’s jelly in your armpit), or a spray. Whatever you use, don’t over-apply; the goal is to avoid visible deodorant at any cost.

Should I buy any extra stuff?
You could. If you don’t want to smell too pheromone-y, you might want to try an antibacterial body wash or deodorant soap, which has stronger antibacterial properties than a regular one. (The combination of sweat and bacteria is what creates your body’s natural musk.) Try something like Tom’s Natural Deodorant Soap. Exfoliating will help prevent any ingrown-hair bumps, caused when hair follicles are trapped by dead skin. You can use an exfoliator like Fresh’s Brown Sugar Body Polish.

All pit hair is not created equal. How might my hair grow in? Will this lead to new insecurities?
Your hair might grow in like a soft, beautiful horse’s mane. It might grow in like mine, which is coarse and curly — a luscious pit Afro, if you will. Or it could crop up as sparsely as Justin Bieber’s mustache. It’s yours, though! Embrace it and the world will too.

Will I need to shave off my beautiful pelt for certain situations? Formal events? Job interviews? Weddings? The office?
Job interviews
: Think about your last job interview. Did you raise your arm in some sort of arm-baring salute or shake hands? It’s a moot point.
Formal events
: No need! Just look to Jemima Kirke for inspiration. Her pit hair brought the perfect flair to a beautiful red-carpet dress.
Weddings
: If you’re in the bridal party and the bride is like, Please, I don’t want your hairy pits in my wedding photos, consider getting a new friend. But if you like her, I guess shave? It’s not like cultivating a nice underarm pelt is that time-consuming.
The office
: It’s like a tattoo! Just don’t wear a tank top if you think someone will get offended. If you work in a restaurant, I guess so long as you wear armpit hairnets, nobody, not even the sanitation department, can say anything.

If I shave it off, am I selling out?
Are you being sponsored by Gillette? It’s just armpit hair, dude.

But what about shaving my legs?
This may be a controversial opinion, since presumably one of the perks of not shaving your armpits is saying bye-bye to razors — but if your armpit hair is a fashion statement (not a political one or coming from a place of sheer laziness), then yes, shave your legs. All attention should go to the hair underneath your arms. It should not compete with any other body hair.

Do you have to be hot to pull this off?
One could argue that, like normcore, this is just a trend for “hot people.” But what are you saying?! You, person, are beautiful, and your armpit hair will only enhance that beauty. Just look at this picture of Penélope Cruz. Is she beautiful? Sure, but with that pit hair, she’s
stunning.

What are some fun pit-hair trends?
You could dye it bright colors, as some internet websites claim is a trend, or maybe bead it like you’re on a Caribbean vacation, but we’d like to encourage a more natural approach. Armpit hair is enough of a trend in its own right, you know? All you need to enjoy your summer of hirsute glory is the right attitude and a solid collection of tank tops.

And Now, We Answer Every Armpit-Hair Question