Although fine vellus hair is present in the area in childhood, the term pubic hair is generally restricted to the heavier, longer hair that develops with puberty as an effect of rising levels of androgens. Pubic hair is therefore part of the androgenic hair.
Development of pubic hair
Before puberty, the genital area of both boys and girls has very fine vellus hair, referred to as Tanner stage 1 hair. As puberty begins, the body produces rising levels of the sex hormones known as androgens, and in response the skin of the genital area begins to produce thicker, often curlier, hair with a faster growth rate. The onset of pubic hair development is termed pubarche. The change for each hair follicle is relatively abrupt, but the extent of skin which grows androgenic hair gradually increases over several years.
In males, the first pubic hair appears as a few sparse hairs on the scrotum or at the upper base of the penis (stage 2). Within a year, hairs around the base of the penis are numerous (stage 3). Within 3 to 4 years, hair fills the pubic area (stage 4) and becomes much thicker and darker, and by 5 years extends to the near thighs and upwards on the abdomen toward the umbilicus (stage 5).
Other areas of the skin are similarly, though slightly less, sensitive to androgens and androgenic hair typically appears somewhat later. In rough sequence of sensitivity to androgens and appearance of androgenic hair, are the armpits (axillae), perianal area, upper lip, preauricular areas (sideburns), periareolar areas (nipples), middle of the chest, neck under the chin, remainder of chest and beard area, limbs and shoulders, back, and buttocks.
Although generally considered part of the process of puberty, pubarche is distinct and independent of the process of maturation of the gonads that leads to sexual maturation and fertility. Pubic hair can develop from adrenal androgens alone, and can develop even when the ovaries or testes are defective and nonfunctional. See puberty for details.
There is little if any difference in the capacity of male and female bodies to grow hair in response to androgens. The obvious sex-dimorphic difference in hair distribution in men and women is primarily a result of differences in the levels of androgen reached as maturity occurs.
Pubic hair and axillary (armpit) hair can vary in color considerably from the hair of the scalp. In most people it is darker, although it can also be lighter. On some individuals, pubic hair is thick and/or coarse; on others it may be sparse and/or fine. Hair texture varies from tightly curled to entirely straight. Pubic hair patterns can also vary by race and ethnicity.
Patterns of pubic hair, known as the escutcheon, vary between the genders. On most women, the pubic patch is triangular and lies over the mons veneris, or mound of Venus. On many men, the pubic patch tapers upwards to a line of hair pointing towards the navel (see abdominal hair), roughly a more upward-pointing triangle. As with axillary (armpit) hair, pubic hair is associated with a concentration of sebaceous glands in the area.
Modification of pubic hair
In Islamic societies, removing the pubic hair is a religiously endorsed practice.
Trimming or completely removing pubic hair has become a custom in many cultures. A preference for hairless genitals is known as acomoclitism. The method of removing hair is called depilation (when removing only the hair above the skin) or epilation (when removing the entire hair). The trimming or removal of body hair by men is sometimes referred to as manscaping.
Removal of pubic hair is not common in East Asian cultures. However, with more exposure to Western attitudes, pubic hair removal is gaining acceptance.
Some arguments for modification of pubic hair have included:
- sexual practice, such as for oral sex
- tactile sensation
- discomfort, such as heat or itchiness
- personal taste
- to eliminate hairs that could be seen outside of underwear or a bathing suit bottom.
The modification of pubic hair can also be considered a statement about one's style or personal lifestyle as can leaving it unmodified. The fashion designer Mary Quant was famously proud that her husband trimmed hers into a heart shape.
Some styles include:
- None — Lots of trimming and/or maintenance
- Natural — No trimming and/or maintenance
- Trimmed — Hair length is shortened but not removed or shaped
- Triangle — Hair removed (generally waxed) from the sides to form a triangle so that pubic hair cannot be seen while wearing swimwear . This can range from the very edge of the "bikini line" to up to an inch reduction on either side. Hair length can be from an inch and a half, to half an inch
- Landing strip — Hair sharply removed from the sides to form a long centered vertical rectangle, hair length about quarter of an inch
- "Chaplin" moustache — A shorter, square version of the landing strip
- Brazilian waxing/G-wax - Pubic hair completely removed except for a very thin remnant, centred, narrow stripe above the vulva approximately an inch in height, and the hair length in the sub-centimeter range
- Full-Brazilian/Hollywood/Bare — Pubic hair completely removed
- Faux Hawk - Hair is styled in Mohawk fashion without shaving the hair
- Mohawk - Shaving the hair on the left and right leaving the middle to be spiked
- Dyed — colouring hair to match hair on the head, or to give it a unique look (for example, red--in the shape of a heart)
- The Butch/The Bull - Trimming all the hair very short except for a small perpetual long patch(a.k.a. rat’s tail) resembling a popular hairstyle among lesbian women.
- Others — V-shaped, heart-shaped, arrow, initials, etc. These are usually variations of the Brazilian/G-Wax, where a design is formed of the pubic hair above completely bare vulva.
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