Around the time you reached adolescence, someone likely introduced you to the idea that shaving unwelcome body hair will just make it grow back harder, better, faster, stronger. Well, just in case you were worried, that really has precious little basis in fact.
Scientific American finally got around to addressing this pressing issue. Amy McMichael, of Wake Forest Baptist Health's Department of Dermatology, says flat-out there's no factual basis for the belief: "People are just not very good observers, but there's just no science behind hair growing back thicker." SA suggests it's merely an optical illusion:
The very act of cutting may make hair appear thicker for a short time. A human hair shaft is like a pencil or javelin that tapers at the end. So when a razor slices away the tip, it may appear that the remaining hair, and subsequent stubble, is thicker or darker than it was before the cut. Those short hairs, sticking straight up from their follicles, may even appear coarser. But cutting away part of the hair does not typically change anything about that regrowth process. The tapered hair you had is the hair you'll get back. (Although, in rare instances, excessive waxing, which tears a hair from its root, can eventually reduce growth from certain hair follicles due to the repeated trauma).
You'd think the fact that many women shave their legs regularly for much of their lives without follicular consequences would've long since put this idea to rest. (If it did work, wouldn't balding dudes shave their heads for the extra oomph?) But maybe the very sternly worded conclusions of Scientific American will carry the necessary weight to convince everyone. So go right ahead and shave that upper lip if the spirit moves you. Or don't. Do you. Live your best life. Follow your bliss.
Photo via Johanna Goodyear/Shutterstock.