Mackenzie Dunn
June 23, 2020 6:14 am
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Despite what you may have heard, you can’t fix split ends, and antiperspirants don’t cause cancer. In Myth Busters, we debunk common beauty misconceptions and set the record straight.

When I first approached my mom in middle school to ask her to buy me a razor so I could start shaving, I remember her being apprehensive to say yes. With some begging from my 12-year-old self, she acquiesced—but only after she told me to go slow and start with small areas at a time. For example, I had to start by shaving my ankles to my knees; then, gradually, I could work up to the thighs. Her reasoning was simple. According to her, once you start shaving your hair grows back thicker and darker.

It made more sense why she had wanted me to wait as long as possible to start. At the time, I believed this, and I’m sure many of you may have the same idea. It does seem that way, right? If and when we choose to remove our body hair by shaving, we become much more aware of it, and for whatever reason, it does sometimes appear to come back darker in color and thicker in texture. But as old wives’ tales go, it’s hard to believe that years of shaving is only making our hair thicker. We wanted answers, so we talked to experts to give us the scoop.

Does shaving make hair grow back thicker?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the answer is no; shaving hair doesn’t change its thickness, color, or even how fast it will grow back. “Hair color, rate of growth, and thickness are determined by genetics,” says Blair Armstrong, a physician’s assistant in dermatology and founder of Gilded. With that said, it’s not your razor that’s to blame for any thick hairs.

She tells us that hair grows from the follicle, which is located in the deeper dermis layer of the skin. When you shave, you remove hair at the skin surface only, not from the follicle. So while shaving may provide a smooth surface to the touch, in reality, several millimeters of hair remain in the dermis. Therefore, you’re not actually doing anything to the hair follicle itself. In fact, if you were to measure the hairs before and after shaving, there would be no change in the diameter of the hair.

Why does body hair appear darker or thicker after shaving?

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So if shaving doesn’t actually cause hair to grow back thicker, why does it sometimes appear that way? Well, just like when you get a haircut and those dead, frayed ends of your hair are snipped to a clean, blunt edge, the same thing happens when you shave. According to Sreedhar Krishana, M.D., a London-based dermatologist, when we shave, we are cutting the hair at an angle. “When it grows in, it then has a blunt end instead of a fine point that we would have naturally. This can manifest in the hair feeling rougher and appear[ing] darker than it previously did,” she explains.

Additionally, Armstrong says that the apparent darkening of the cut hair is an illusion: “It appears darker because the hair dots are visible directly against the surface of your skin, unoccluded by longer, fuller hair.”

Are there any forms of hair removal that can make the hair appear less thick?

Alright, so shaving doesn’t make our hair thicker, but there are tons of different body hair removal methods out there, and some (like waxing or sugaring) actually do remove hair from the follicle. The hair removal experts at European Wax Center tell us that because these methods actually damage the hair bulb (also known as the follicle) over time, the hair may grow back less dense and with a finer texture. Laser hair removal is another option that zaps hair from the follicle and can either cause it to grow back thinner or to stop growing back at all, but it can be costly. The good news is there’s no real reason to switch from shaving if you don’t want to.