The big sweat stains that pool at our armpits might suggest that underarm hair is to blame. But the issue is actually more complex. Shaving the pits will make you a sleeker swimmer, but is it actually useful for people who are looking to cut down on the sweating? Getting rid of those tufts doesn’t mean you’re getting to the root of the problem. So before you take a razor to them, reacquaint yourself with a little body science.
Where the Magic Happens
Maybe you’ve taken a long look at your armpits and wondered, What’s all this hair even doing here? As it turns out, armpit hair has two significant functions. One is that they serve as a natural buffer, easing friction where your arms and torso intersect and often collide during heavy labor. The hair down there also acts as a launching pad for pheromones. In fact, to get a greater sense of what’s happening below the surface, let’s take a moment to briefly discuss sweat glands and pheromones.
The Gland-y Man Can
You likely learned this from Anatomy class, but you’ve got all kinds of glands inside you. And because they exist beneath the skin, shaving your armpit hair won’t cause your glands to suddenly stop producing sweat. When it comes to sweating, eccrine glands are located pretty much everywhere in your body and they produce the exertion-based sweat that keeps your body temperature regulated. Then there are the apocrine glands, which are located at the armpits and are linked with stress sweating.
Apocrine glands are also where pheromones are said to stem from. The glands expel a fatty secretion—isn’t that fun to say?—which can take on a musky scent. It then travels through the air, bypasses the smeller’s Rational Brain and incites feelings of sexual attraction (some believe). If you want to dive headlong into the wonders of pheromones, check out this article from Quora. Robust patches of underarm hair could spice up your love life if nothing else. But of course, taking an up-close whiff of an exposed pit is often an unpleasant, unattractive experience. Why is that exactly?
The Stench Connection
The armpit is a triple threat: dark, moist, and warm. These cave-like physical conditions create an environment for odor-causing bacteria to thrive.
So What's The Answer?
Using deodorant alone merely neutralizes the odor, but continued sweating can stink things up again in a hurry. While hair doesn’t necessarily exacerbate the amount of sweat, it can act as a minor barrier between deodorant and your sweat glands. By clearing out that thicket of armpit hair, your deodorant can be absorbed more easily into the skin. So while shaving the pits alone won’t make much of a difference, it can be a means to an end in the fight against sweat.