If you’ve ever noticed a rogue nipple hair, it probably prompted an array of emotions including confusion (um, hi, what are you doing here?) and annoyance (what does one even do about unwanted nipple hair?). But, in most cases, having hair around your nipples is actually perfectly ordinary. Think of it this way: You have hair all over you body, so your breasts shouldn’t be any exception.
Pretty much everyone has some level of hair on their breasts.
What people typically call “nipple hair” usually isn’t on the actual nipple at all. Instead, this hair often pops up on the areolae, aka the pigmented circles surrounding your nipples, and other non-nipple breast skin. “It is extremely common for women to have hair around the nipples,” Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, tells SELF.
The exact percentage of how many women have breast hair isn’t known, since this isn’t something that has been studied at large or that women usually report to their doctors. Still, women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., agrees, telling SELF that breast hair is “very common.”
But…why does it exist? Biologically speaking, humans likely developed body hair for many reasons, some of which scientists haven’t yet fully pinpointed. Hair around your nipples may be a holdover from when body hair was an important part of regulating your temperature, Dr. Zeichner says. Since things like air conditioning, heaters, and fuzzy sweaters can do that now, the hair around your nipples doesn’t seem to serve any present-day purpose. Consider it boob decoration.
There are a few factors that can determine how much (or how little) hair you have on your boobs.
Like any other kind of body hair, breast hair can vary in amount, thickness, and color from person to person. Similarly to your pubic hair, it can also look different from the hair on the rest of your body, Dr. Zeichner says.
You may notice more hair growing around your nipples if your hormones are fluctuating more than usual, like during pregnancy, Sherry A. Ross, M.D., a women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., tells SELF. The pregnancy-induced surge of estrogen can prolong your hair’s growth phase, so just like the hair on your head can seem especially long and lush when you’re expecting, so can the hair on your breasts, Dr. Wider explains. It’s all normal.
If you notice that you’re producing a lot more hair here than you used to, it could be a sign of a condition like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can cause excessive hair growth on your face and body. This type of hair growth is known as hirsutism and can happen because of elevated male hormones, like testosterone, which are a common characteristic of PCOS, Dr. Ross says.
Keep in mind that having hair around your nipples without any other symptoms isn’t a sign of PCOS, Dr. Wider says. But if you’re noticing a lot more than usual and you’re also getting hair on your face, coupled with symptoms like bad acneand irregular periods, it’s worth flagging for your doctor. They can evaluate you and, if necessary, recommend treatment like birth control or other medications to prevent excessive hair growth.
Bottom line: Hair surrounding your nipples is usually just a part of having breasts.
There’s no reason to feel weird about it, or like your breasts need to be as smooth and hairless as a baby dolphin. But if you really can’t stand having breast hair, you can pluck it just like you would pluck your eyebrows (and it might hurt, just like it can with your eyebrows). The skin around your nipples is delicate and can be easily irritated, Dr. Zeichner says, so razors and wax are dicier options than simply tweezing.
If you have more hair around your nipples than you care to pluck, a dermatologist can talk to you about electrolysis (a procedure that involves inserting a tiny needle into the hair follicle and sending in an electric current to destroy the root) or laser hair removal, Dr. Zeichner says. (Just keep in mind that laser hair removal runs the risk of creating skin discoloration or other side effects, so you want to make sure you see someone who knows what they’re doing.)
Again, having hair around your nipples is super normal and not something you need to stress about or consider removing if it’s not bothering you. But, if it does bother you or it seems like a sign something’s up with your health, talk to your doctor to discuss ways you can nip any bothersome breast hair in the bud.