Men manscape – that’s nothing new. They shave their chests, shoulder, backs, even their arms and legs.
Or, armpits, and don’t forget about “down there.” Not all shave their armpits, however. Not that armpits are unique to the manscaping landscape, but it leads to the question, “should men shave their armpits?”
It’s a question we’ll explore in this post while listing the reasons why a man should shave his ‘pits, and some reasons why he shouldn’t. In the end, we’ll leave it up to you to decide, as always, but we hope that examining the pros and cons will guide your decision-making.
Depending on the study, it seems clear that over half of the men today manscape to some degree. Some go all out and trim and shave from head to toe. Others concentrate on certain parts and use certain tools designed for the job – like pubic trimmers and body groomers.
A 2014 study, for example, said that 57% of millennial men did some manscaping now and then. Other studies show that the percentage is even higher.
Why do men manscape? For a variety of reasons, including:
- Better hygiene
We’ll explore all of those reasons and more as we join the jury in discussing the pros and cons of men shaving their underarm hair.
5 Reasons why men SHOULD shave their armpits
More data: A study conducted by Men’s Health surveyed 4,044 men. Of those men, 68% said they trim their armpit hair. The reasons why they did varied, although shaving for aesthetic reasons was most popular.
Let’s look at all the reasons why you should consider shaving your armpits:
The basic armpit has a bunch of apocrine glands, which produce sweat. These glands are found in areas of the body in which you have hair, such as your armpits and groin.
Eccrine glands represent the other main type of sweat glands. Both eccrine and apocrine glands release a fluid that is odorless until it combines with the bacteria on your skin.
Apocrine glands open into your body’s hair follicles – the follicles that lead to the surface of your skin. Again, you’ll find them in areas of the body where the hair is most abundant, i.e, the scalp, armpits, and groin.
This all leads to the fairly logical conclusion that shaving your armpit could reduce sweating and, in conjunction, body odor.
The question is does shaving armpits reduce sweat? And it’s a $1 million question considering that a definitive answer may not exist.
Then again, think of it this way: When you rid your armpits of their clumps of hair you create a cleaner surface for your antiperspirant (the stuff that keeps you from sweating, not the one that prevents odor) to keep your sweat glands from perspiring.
Also, men don’t just sweat when temperatures rise. Many men sweat more in the winter because of extra layers of clothes, fireplaces that make a room extra toasty, and even campfires.
2. Shaving fights odor
Let’s face it, no man – at least most, that is – prefers to present their raw body odor to the rest of the world. One of the difficult things about becoming an adolescent, when hair started to sprout on different areas of the body, was that body odor came right along with it.
Sweat mingles with bacteria on your skin to cause odor. That’s what happens in the armpits when the apocrine glands release their milky substance; it’s odorless until it conspires with bacteria to produce the dreaded B.O.
One of the benefits of shaving your armpits is that you rid it of hair that provides a base for your apocrine glands. That means there’s less of the substance produced by apocrine glands.
There have also been numerous studies, as far back as the 1950s if not beyond, in which the benefits of shaving armpits included reducing odor. Scientists have suggested that, because bacteria trapped in armpit hair led to odor, it only made sense that shaving the hair would reduce odor.
Also, your armpit hair traps moisture. So, you have a warm, moist environment in which odor-causing bacteria thrive. Shaving your underarms, it would seem, should help disrupt the stink-producing process.
Scientists believe that armpit hair has followed an evolutionary process in which it initially – in caveman days, that is – was a way to produce a scent that attracted potential mates. That may still be true to some degree, but we’ve come a long way from the days when mere survival was constantly on the minds of everyone.
Athletes have shaved their body hair for years as a means to improve their performance. The practice began with a couple of male swimmers in the 1950s who insisted that it helped reduce “drag” while enabling them to cut precious seconds off of their times.
Does it really help? While a NASA study showed that shaving body hair reduced drag at a barely perceptible rate, a study by the American College of Sports Medicine showed that shaven swimmers experienced an increase in stroke length, as well as cardiovascular benefits.
Competitive road cyclists often shave their leg hair to enhance their performance, while runners sometimes sacrifice the hirsute look to gain a few seconds that may mean the difference between winning and losing.
Wrestlers often shave their bodies to reduce the chafing and other skin irritation caused by close contact with their opponents.
Bodybuilders go hairless because of the aesthetic. It’s hard to show off those sculpted pecs or quads if they’re covered in man fur.
One of the many reasons while so many men choose to manscape is because it makes them more comfortable. While armpit hair may not itch to the aggravation level of say, your pubes, it’s still a nuisance when they do.
And, just like you don’t want to be caught itching your crotch at the office – or anyplace, for that matter – you don’t want to be caught digging away at your armpits either.
Longer armpit hair can easily become tangled, snagged, and pulled. It’s not unlike pubic hair becoming snagged in your zipper (OK, so nothing’s quite like that); it’s a level of discomfort any man would love to avoid.
Plus, armpit hair traps moisture … so, you scratch your armpit and then pull back fingers covered in moisture. No, not a good feeling or look.
Bodybuilders need to shave their body hair, including their armpits, if they hope to keep pace with their competitors. They look better without all the hair, and they aren’t covering up the muscle definition and tone they’ve worked so hard to achieve.
While most men don’t need to shave their body hair to keep up with the Jones’s, there is something to be said for hacking the man forest down to bare skin. And, let’s be honest, does a patch of hair in your underarms look sexy or attractive?
Indeed, if you’re a man who can make that tuft of hair sticking out from your shirt’s armhole look sexy, then hat’s off to you. You’re a member of a very small club.
True, the first appearance of hair in our armpits (like the first signs of hair around our man-parts) signaled a rite of passage into puberty and, ultimately, manhood, mature wisdom tells us that a hairy ‘pit doesn’t maintain much of its importance as we settle into adolescence.
There’s nothing wrong with having underarm hair, mind you, and you’ll never be alone if you decide not to shave yours.
Let’s not forget another essential question: Do women find men who shave their underarms more attractive? Again, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer, at least through research, that women prefer men with shaved armpits.
In an era when manscaping is far more common than before, women are probably more accepting of men who shave their underarms. It’s not nearly as unusual as it was, say, 20 years ago, and many women say they like men who at least trim their man-forest – whether it’s growing under his arms or around his genitals.
It also gets back to scent, at least to some degree. A 2012 study in the Czech Republic (published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology) showed that women preferred the scent of shaven men’s armpits over unshaven. The preference was slight, but still noticeable nonetheless.
5 Reasons why men SHOULDN’T shave their armpits
There are several potential benefits to shaving your armpits. But don’t pick up your razor before examing some of the potential pitfalls.
1. Grooming issues
Shaving is a risky business no matter how you break it down. You can cut yourself, cause skin irritation, etc. Let’s be real, however, it’s not lethal or anything beyond remotely – very remotely – dangerous.
Nonetheless, you should be aware that:
- The surface of your underarms is uneven, and that can make it challenging to maneuver your razor around on it. You can end up with a nick or cut as you navigate your underarm’s nooks and crannies.
- The skin or your armpits is extremely sensitive, so you may have to endure a bit of discomfort, or even outright pain, if you’re not careful.
- Shaving is often tough on your skin no matter where it is on the body. If the skin is soft and sensitive, as it is on your underarms, you can damage the skin. And razor burn or cut may take a bit longer to heal in those areas.
- You’ll probably notice some skin irritation when you first trim your armpits. It usually goes away within a few days, however, and you can relieve irritation in several ways, including by washing the area carefully each day, applying baby powder to it, and using an antiperspirant to keep your underarms dry.
- Shaving is a common cause of ingrown hair. Ingrown hairs are those that have curled around and grown back into the skin. They often become itchy and uncomfortable, and pus may develop inside ingrown hair bumps that are visible on the skin. On the other hand, you can develop ingrown hair whether you shave the area of skin or not; the problem is more common in people who have very curly or coarse hair.
- Razor burn is another type of skin irritation that may result because of shaving. In many cases, razor burn results from using a razor that has an old blade, one that’s clogged, or one that isn’t lubricated.
2. Other skin issues
Shaving may lead to folliculitis, a condition in which the hair follicle becomes inflamed. The causes of folliculitis also include bacteria or fungal infection, and it first appears as small red bumps – or whiteheads – around the tiny follicles from which hair grows.
While hardly life-threatening, folliculitis can cause itchiness, soreness, and it doesn’t look good, although it remains pretty well hidden in your armpits. Severe cases of folliculitis may result in scarring and permanent hair loss. But mild cases usually clear up in a matter of days.
Another issue that sometimes surfaces because of shaving is skin darkening. Razor blades often cause this darkening, especially on sensitive skin. Not that it’s that major of an issue when shaving your armpits. For one, most people aren’t going to notice, or become bothered by, dark skin on your underarms; for another, the chances of developing darkened skin aren’t that high if you shave the area infrequently.
3. You’ll release more pheromones
Among the functions of body hair is that it releases pheromones, a mysterious set of compounds that create a subtle scent that may attract potential mates of the same species.
The connection between pheromones and mate attraction seems less obvious in humans than insects and animals (it’s fairly obvious when a dog is in heat, for example), but many studies show that there is a connection.
4. Shaving may not reduce sweat
Is it 100% certain that shaving reduces armpit sweat? No, not really.
Although apocrine glands that produce sweat open into hair follicles, many scientists believe that shaving doesn’t reduce sweating because it doesn’t directly affect those glands on the rest of the skin. Shaving can reduce body odor, no doubt, but whether you’ll sweat less remains open to debate, or so it seems.
Underarm hair also helps to wick moisture away from the skin and, as mentioned, sends out pheromones that may or may not help you to attract a potential mate.
5. Shaved armpits aren’t that attractive to everyone
True, manscaping is no longer that unusual and many men choose to shave parts of their body – including their underarms – or all of it for a variety of reasons.
While research shows that some women prefer men who manscape, and it’s certainly more acceptable than ever, there are plenty of others who like a hairier man. And, unless your underarm is overly conspicuous (it pokes out between your arm and body when you stand with your arms at your sides, for instance), it’s probably not something that other people either notice or give much thought.
Studies do show that women appreciate men who trim their pubic hair, for fairly obvious reasons.
Like many other potential actions you can take as your journey over the grooming landscape, there are pros and cons to shaving your armpits. And you may have reasons for wanting to do so that are different from another man’s reasons, as well as reasons why you’d rather not.
Shaving may help reduce armpit sweat. It will reduce body odor. It may lead to skin irritation. It may make you more attractive.
Whatever your motivation for shaving or not shaving your underarms, know that there’s no right or wrong answer. If you’re curious, give it a try. There’s not a lot to lose.
How about you? Do you shave your underarms? If so, why? We’d love to hear from you and welcome your comments and suggestions.
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