What is body hair for?

Feeling or beauty? Body hair off - be careful, these are highly sensitive sensors

Just letting body hair sprout like that is not really popular right now. On the contrary: Anyone who shows hairy legs or who has long hair growing out from under the armpits is viewed crookedly. Women in particular want to avoid this as much as possible. However, the whole thing has disadvantages. Because it’s not for nothing that we’ve grown hair. They have a function. But which one is it?

Who wants to be beautiful must suffer. The saying has some truth - especially if you look at the (missing) head of hair on some parts of the body. Shave, pluck, wax ... although, waxing is quite "old style". Today hair is "lasered away" or removed with light. It should even be completely painless, not a word more about suffering.

"Hair will never grow out of hair follicles again," promises a gentle, female voice on a YouTube video. Whether that's true or not is an open question. For many who pluck and shave all the time, it would be a dream. But no matter how you do it, there is always a problem with removing hair. Because we didn't grow body hair for nothing.

Every hair is a highly sensitive sensor

Martin Grundwald is a luminary in his field of haptics research - the scientific teaching of the sense of touch. He conducts research at the Medical Faculty at the Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research in Leipzig and knows about the importance of hair:

Every hair is a highly sensitive sensor, a receptor that can register the finest touch and deformation stimuli.

Prof. Martin Grundwald

5 million hairs from 5 million hair follicles

Let's start with the basics: According to Grunwald, humans have an average of five million hairs and each hair grows from its own hair follicle.

A hair follicle, these are tiny indentations in the skin, in which human hair is ultimately built and also anchored so that it does not fall out.

Prof. Martin Grunwald

And now it's getting exciting. A small muscle is attached to each hair follicle. When this muscle contracts, the hair stands up straight. Because, according to Grunwald, hair does not grow straight out of the skin, but at an angle. The muscle then sets the hair up when it is cold, for example. Then we get goose bumps. The hair follicle has more to offer than just a muscle.

In addition, the hair follicle is surrounded by a very fine, dense network of receptors, so that any movements, any compression or changes in the hair can also be sensed.

Porf. Martin Grunwald

This makes the hair a highly sensitive antenna or sensor. Furthermore, this sensitive sensor registers the finest touch and deformation stimuli: "If you shave off your hair, this very fine sensitivity is definitely lost." The hair can no longer tell us whether a small fly has just landed on the skin, whether rain is falling on the skin, a warm breeze brushes over it and the hair can no longer intensify the pleasant sensation when touched, because it is gone.

Little body hair is dangerous for the body

What is left of shaved hair: a hole and that can't do anything but cause problems. Grundwald sees this hairless hole as a "gateway for billions of bacteria that normally live on our skin". This can lead to inflammation, he explains and continues: "In this respect, tearing out hair is also linked to the fact that bacteria can then settle there."