Shaving Does Not Make Your Hair Grow Back Thicker or Faster

Daven Hiskey 47
Today I found out shaving does not make your hair grow back thicker, stronger, faster, or any other “er”.  In fact, contrary to what parents the world over tend to tell their kids when their kids start shaving, it has been proven by numerous studies going all the way back to the 1920s that shaving has absolutely no effect whatsoever on your hair growth rate.

Hair growth is controlled by hair follicles found just underneath the skin.  These follicles are not in any way affected by shaving.  Only the outer part of your hair that is already dead is getting cut.   The follicles underneath that determine thickness/color/growth rate remain completely unaffected by your shaving or not shaving.

How long back this myth has been widely thought to be true nobody knows; although, according to the New York Times, the myth has been popularly believed for at least 50 years.

One of the reasons people seem to believe this (beside just because their parents told them so) is that after they shave their hair and it starts to grow back, it seems much coarser or thicker even though it is not.  If it were, inevitably everyone who shaves on a regular basis would eventually be covered in pencil-thick or bigger hair sprouting out of their bodies from every place they shave.

In fact, the reason behind this extra coarse feeling hair has nothing to do with it actually being thicker or anything of the sort.  To see why it would feel coarser, think about holding a thin, long tree branch.  When it is long, it will be somewhat flexible, allowing you to bend it a bit with little effort.  However, if you cut that tree branch down to a few inches, you will no longer be able to bend it easily or possibly at all; it will suddenly seem much stiffer or stronger.  The same type of thing is going on with your hair when you shave.

Gilette, the best a cat can getSome people also think it looks darker when it is growing back.  This again is false and in fact why people believe this is a bigger mystery than the previously mentioned myth.  If it were true, after a certain number of shaves, everybody’s hair would be black.  There really is no reason to think it is getting darker, as once again, the hair follicles underneath your skin determine hair color and they are completely unaffected by shaving.  It’s possible that people believe this, because, when they first start shaving, the hair tends to be quite a bit lighter than years later as they grow to adult hood.  So perhaps they think this because through their pubescent years the hair darkens a bit naturally and so they think it’s because of the shaving when in fact the two have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

As far as the growth rate misconception, this more or less comes to the same thing.  The hair follicles underneath the skin control it, so cutting away dead hair, isn’t going to do anything.  People again likely think this one is true because when they first start shaving when they are young, their hair doesn’t grow that fast.  Then as they become an adult, it grows much faster than it did when it first started popping up on their bodies.  So they might misconstrue this to have been caused by shaving (and probably just like the previous one, backed up likely by their parents at some point when they first started shaving telling them that shaving will make their hair grow back thicker/darker/faster).  But in the end, this line of reasoning is kind of like thinking the sun comes up every day because your alarm goes off every day around the time it comes up.

Now with waxing it is possible to affect the thickness and other aspects of hair regrowth.  However, it will never be the case that the hair will grow back thicker/darker/faster.  In fact, by waxing you are damaging the hair follicles underneath the skin; over time as you wax more and more, the hair will grow back less and less and even sometimes will get lighter colored and thinner.  So though waxing, unlike shaving, actually does affect your hair growth, it more or less affects it in the opposite way most people think shaving does.

Bonus Hair Fact:

  • Many people believe that brushing your hair is good for it “Got to get your one hundred strokes a night in.”  In fact, it is actually quite bad for your hair.  It pulls out healthy hair that wasn’t yet ready to come out, possibly damaging hair follicles in the process; it also breaks healthy hair and scratches your scalp.  Because of this, it’s actually best to keep hair brushing to a minimum.

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47 Comments »

  1. Logan June 10, 2010 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Hair appears courser when it grows back after you shave because it is blunt instead of tapered like a new strand of hair would be when it grows in. Your hair grows in cycles, so at any given time some hairs are shorter than others which makes the hair appear thinner and lighter. Hair can also appear lighter if you don’t shave because as each hair comes in it emerges as a dark hair in the midst of other sun-bleached hairs. If you do shave, all the hairs emerge at once and you notice they look darker before any of them have a chance to be bleached.

  2. Jaja January 1, 2011 at 7:05 am - Reply

    From personal experiance I find that hair does grow back quicker the more you shave it.
    As a woman it’s socially unexceptable to have hairy legs, so in the summer I have to shave them more often. Every day actually and I feel I need to because by the end of the day its already grown back to a point when it’s visible.
    But during the winter when it’s cold and I deem it unnesisary to shave because I would not be caught dead outside at -5 degrees without at least two lairs of clotheing covering them I shave less. Yet when i do shave, As I did two days ago, after two days past the hair has not grown back to anywhere near as much as it would after 24 hours during the summer.

    At first I was thinking maybe that’s is just the patern of hair growth during different seasons, But if that were the case would hair not grow quicker in winter to match the droping temperature?

    All the other women I know agree that they shave more in the summer than they do in winter, so i find this hard to beleive. I do however agree that it does not grow back thicker or darker.

    BTW: please over look whatever spelling mistakes I have made. It’s not my strongest point :\

    • Katie October 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm - Reply

      Perhaps it has something to do with blood circulation?

    • Lara October 30, 2013 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      During summer it grows faster

    • Cowapalooza January 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      It’s actually proven that hair grows faster in warm weather, so in winter it grows back slowere because of the lower temperatures. I was in china over the summer and my leg hair grew like crazy, but when I got back to canada in winter it all went away

  3. mimmi February 28, 2012 at 2:35 am - Reply

    dont be fooled people.Hair grows darker and coarser after shaving. im talking from experince.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven February 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm - Reply

      @mimmi: Sorry, but every single scientifically done study on this subject shows the opposite, that hair doesn’t grow back any different than before you shaved (unless you wax, in that case you can damage the follicles and the hair will grow back lighter and finer, in that case). Once again, if hair actually grew back darker and coarser, eventually everyone would have porcupine-like black quills growing out of wherever they shave regularly.

      • john January 28, 2014 at 12:08 pm - Reply

        At my first job, I constantly rubbed the hair off a certain section of my inner forearms. It came back darker. Years later, I still have those dark sections of hair.

        • Antome April 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm - Reply

          Hi, it’s interesting, rubbed how?
          I knew that constand rubbing damages the follicles rather than stimulating them. Could it be late male based androgenization of hair. (By late I mean past 25, past the period after which one should be fully developed)

  4. medstudent March 14, 2012 at 10:56 am - Reply

    @jaja hair grows faster when its warmer out. Fact

  5. Mike June 10, 2012 at 3:42 am - Reply

    Scientific studies or not, I once wanted to shave my chest as a teenager and ran my razor across my chest.. then changed my mind (go figure) and decided i’ll keep the hair.

    The right side of my chest now definitely has more hair on it in the place where I shaved it, but JUST, not a lot.

  6. Danny Trevino June 15, 2012 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Ok I am an adult, who started shaving my stomach as an adult and it was lightly colored and thin, now it is thick and there is a lot more, also as an experiment I shaved one leg and the leg that was shaved grow more hair and it was thicker it is about an inch longer than my other leg

  7. leyla June 25, 2012 at 5:53 am - Reply

    well my mum never let me shave my legs coz there wasnt any hair and she was right, i wanted to get rid of my arm hair i only had a lil bit so when i was in the shower i decided to shave my arms and legs and they became darker thicker and ewww as and now i have to wax like every week coz im hairy i should of listened my mum when i was 12 now im 20 and hair is pissing me off srsly.. self experiment

  8. Ella June 27, 2012 at 6:48 am - Reply

    Dude, I’m not sure if you even read the article. They explained when you are younger (i.e. 12) your hair grows slower and is likely finer and lighter. This is called “vellous hair”, like we have all over our body. As hormones kick in, it becomes courser and darker in certain places, called “terminal hair”. Hair will never grow back thicker or darker from shaving, but it may feel that way because it has a blunt end or look thicker because the ends are blunt not tapered like an untouched hair and it will stay this way unless you reset it. The only way to “reset” that hair to normal is to wax it off ensuring you pull out the entire follicle and it will grow back with a fine tapered end like before.

    It likely would have grown back thicker and darker anyway, regardless of shaving. This is a good article, you guys should read it all and actually understand it.

  9. lili June 29, 2012 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    as a black woman, i started to shave around 18. i shaved both legs, but only up to the knees. guess what? the bottom half of my legs have DARKER and THICKER hair.

  10. Joolia July 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    All of you that say you have had these personal experiences that disprove science are morons. You obviously know nothing about the human body or hair growth. You need to educate yourselves. No kidding your hair grows darker and coarser on the lower half of your legs. Do some research about hair follicles and how they differ on different parts of your body. No kidding you have to shave more in the summer. Again, research. Don’t spread your ignorance and try to validate each others moronic ideas.

  11. Ashley October 19, 2012 at 10:22 am - Reply

    My hair grows back normal, i believe people are different then others

  12. steve December 1, 2012 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    Lili, I know several people who have never shaved in their lives, who have heaps of hair below their knees and next to none above them.

  13. Cherie February 6, 2013 at 9:51 am - Reply

    Sadly, at a certain age a woman stops needing to shave the legs as much… and starts needing to shave the chin – and even women on hormone replacement mention it!

    On the other hand, as a teen I was involved in an auto accident and spent months with one leg in a cast. I suppose the dark, thick hair on that leg was the result of little interaction with socks, hose, etc., and perhaps sunlight? It was certainly an unpleasant surprise to see it and of course, I couldn’t wait to get home and shave it off.

  14. Shannon February 19, 2013 at 10:04 am - Reply

    I beg to differ on this, I started shaving my “snail trail” in adulthood (I’m a woman) because it was ever so slightly darker than the hair surrounding it and that bugged me, now it is BLACK and as thick as mens facial hair, and not just on the part where my snail trail was, but all around that area because I haven’t exactly been precise with the razor, and anywhere I accidently shave around there gets darker and thicker, and due to that I keep shaving it until it becomes DARK and BLACK and THICK like what men grow on their faces. Explain that all you “ermahgerd science” people. Science is not necessarily fact, a lot of it works on theory, so you don’t have to believe without a doubt everything a scientific study says.

    • prahs May 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      also your one personal experience is not fact. science is much more qualifyed than your single misfortune of being hairy in one place.

    • Antome July 11, 2013 at 7:25 am - Reply

      Ok i wouldn’t disqualify your experience as the other one below you did, but couldn’t it be that your belly hair started to bug you at one point because it was actually getting hairier on its own?
      And wouldn’t you need to let it all grow out completely until your hair is replaced to determine more objetively if it really got much more thicker since you shaved and not maybe just a little bit more, as I said above. You might be fooled by the blunt tip :).

  15. Kay April 20, 2013 at 12:13 am - Reply

    When hair is shaved off, a layer or two of skin is removed with the unwanted hair. Imagine a tree trunk that is cut at ground level: more tree is exposed as earth is removed during the cutting process. The tree grows back, but appears “thicker” than before because the removed earth stays removed. As far as the darker color, the damaged skin has been pulled away from the hair follicles, like your gums pull back from damaged teeth. The “crater” formed around each hair follicle is filled with dust, dirt, sweat, etc. that slowly stains the regrowing hair. Hopefully this makes sense… thanks for letting me contribute.

  16. Anonymous June 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    I shaved my arm hair, and have been for about a year now. I knew I should let it grow out so I did for a month or two, but nothing happened. I noticed in two or three days it grew out a centemeter and completely stopped growing. I couldn’t stand it and shaved it all off- again. It just stood straight up and made no progress whatsoever, but I did notice it got darker because I spend a lot of time in the sun and I had it almost blond, but then it became thicker and more like the roots of my hair once I had shaved it. I do not recommend shaving it because the regrowth is terrible.

    • Antome July 11, 2013 at 7:29 am - Reply

      Yeah it’s just that some people can’t bear the regrowth, as it can be a real hassle. It was thicker like the roots because only the root finishes growing once you shave, and that’s why it didn’t grow back as long as it originally was, stubble only grows it’s MaxLengh minus the ShavedLength.

  17. this is stupid June 27, 2013 at 11:55 am - Reply

    ok joolia if were all morons explain 3 hairs coming out of each pore…. this is stupid telling young ppl this isn’t true is ridiculous… did a razor company make this?? my kids will never touch a razor

    • Antome July 11, 2013 at 7:31 am - Reply

      That’s a good point, I also experienced bifid double hair around my nipples since shaving, I’m not sure i had those even before. But it’s strange, how could cutting a hair make another hair come out. Could it be the result of shaving very near to the follicle?

  18. Kim July 14, 2013 at 7:37 am - Reply

    Even if these studies have been done…scientific studies are NOT absolute. If they were people would not continue to get noble prizes proving a previous thesis wrong. There would be no need to doctors to continue studying so much. New discoveries are hardly NEW discoveries…they are a realization that the old idea was wrong and it changes rapidly. I’m talking from personal experience; once I found I had too much of an accumulation of hair around my belly button and i shaved it…the NEXT set of hair that grew back was twice as thick…im not talking about coarseness…the hair there before was significantly thinner, and I know this because I left back hair directly around it and can compare. Another time i shaved off a little more of the old hair and same result it grew back to the thickness of the previous shaves set. It never got thicker or darker after that. But one thing science hasn’t changed over the years is that coincidence isn’t realistic.

    • Antome July 24, 2013 at 11:40 am - Reply

      But how would it be possible, it is simpli cutting a hair that bears no message to the root. It could be that it just lost its tapered end, so the lower end is thicker. And maybe you didn’t shave the hair around it, because it actuall was not the same as the hair you shaved and that was because you shaved that area and not that other one around it.

  19. Bethany October 23, 2013 at 3:31 am - Reply

    this person wants you to be a hairy monkey dont listen

    • Antome November 15, 2013 at 8:41 am - Reply

      Hi, if your experience said so to you I deeply respect it.
      As a male, it’s true that wherever I started shaving in my face hair become thicker, but I was a teen it was already becoming dark, though still fuzzy and that’s why I shaved them. The last thing I shaved was my neck which also got dark hair, but when I was shaving my mustache, my neck hair was almost non existing, then I didn’t shave it, and even if I did, I think it wouldn’t have had any effect. When I did it was already in the process of thickening.
      I think it depends on whether you believe the hair knows when it gets cut or not.
      For example, let’s say you shave a hair which stopped growing being fully grown. Do you think it, having realized being cut, would start growing back to it’s full length again.
      In this case you would believe shaving stimulates dormant follicles.

  20. ronaldo roldan April 19, 2014 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    I hate to disappoint as I should be saying the complete opposite having worked for Gillette for many years, but shave a lighter hair 8 out of 10 times it will come back darker..there is no science to back it up currently but it is a fact..period.

    • Antome April 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      Hi, so isn’t it just the hair which has grown back with the tip as thick as the base, being the tip of the newly grown base what used to be the base of the unshaven hair?
      Or people realizing they have to shave when the hair is already getting thick on their own.
      Have you experimented it taking these factors into account?

    • A Disgruntled Brit July 24, 2014 at 4:09 am - Reply

      If there’s no science to back it up, it’s not a fact…

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