Hairy nipples are a common condition in women. The amount of hair on the nipples varies, but some women find that the hair becomes long, coarse, and dark, which can be distressing.
Hairy nipples are rarely a cause for concern and are usually not a sign of any underlying health issues. However, occasionally they can signify something more serious, in which case, it is essential to consult a doctor.
Almost every part of a person's skin is covered in hair and hair follicles. On certain parts of the body, such as the top of the head, the hair usually grows longer and thicker, while on other parts, it is thin and transparent.
Fast facts on hairy nipples:
- It is not known how common hairy nipples are or how many women have them.
- Many women do not report the condition and instead manage it themselves.
- It is possible for hair that used to be fine and light to turn coarse and dark with age.
There are several underlying reasons that might cause nipple hairs to grow. These are:
Hormonal changes and fluctuations
Hormonal changes in women can cause many different symptoms, one of which is changes in nipple hair growth and color.
Some common hormonal changes happen during pregnancy and menopause.
However, hormonal changes can also occur when a woman is in her 20s and 30s, which may cause nipple hair to change appearance or become noticeable for the first time.
Overproduction of male hormones
It is possible for hormonal imbalances to cause hairy nipples. Overproduction of male hormones, including testosterone, can cause hair growth, while other symptoms include:
- oily skin that can lead to breakouts and acne
- menstrual periods stopping
- increase in skeletal muscle mass
- male pattern baldness, leading to a woman losing hair on her head
If overproduction of male hormones is suspected, it is a good idea to make an appointment with a doctor who can confirm this with a simple test.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) occurs because of a hormonal imbalance. PCOS is a condition that affects the way the ovaries work.
Common symptoms of PCOS are:
- irregular menstrual periods
- ovarian cysts
- excessive hair growth in unusual places, such as the nipples
PCOS is believed to affect around 1 in 5 women.
The side effects of particular medicines can cause unusual hair growth.
Medicines, such as testosterone, glucocorticosteroids, and certain other immunotherapy drugs may cause hairy nipples.
Cushing's syndrome is another condition caused by hormonal imbalance. When it occurs, there is an excess of cortisol in the body. In this case, a person may experience several symptoms, such as:
- increased hair growth
- abnormal menstrual periods
- high blood pressure
- a buildup of fat on the chest and tummy, while arms and legs remain slim
- a buildup of fat on the back of the neck and shoulders
- a rounded and red, puffy face
- bruising easily
- big purple stretch marks
- weakness in the upper arms and thighs
- low libido
- problems with fertility
- mood swings
- high blood glucose level
Cushing's syndrome is fairly rare, and the cause is usually associated with taking glucocorticosteroid medicine, rather than the body overproducing the hormone on its own.
It is possible, however, that a tumor in the lung, pituitary gland, or adrenal gland is the cause.
Treatment for hairy nipples is not usually necessary for health reasons.
However, many women with the condition prefer to try and reduce or get rid of the appearance of hair on their nipples for cosmetic purposes.
There are several methods by which they can try and do this:
Trimming the nipple hair
Trimming the nipple hair may be enough to reduce its appearance. Small nail scissors are ideal, and hair can be cut close to the skin. It is essential to do this carefully and avoid catching the skin.
Trimming will need to be carried out regularly when the hair grows back.
Tweezing the nipple hair
Tweezing nipple hair is an effective way to get rid of unwanted nipple hair. However, this option can be painful as the skin around the nipple area is particularly soft and sensitive.
It is also important to bear in mind that the hair will return, and tweezing the hair increases the risk of infection and ingrown hairs.
Shaving the nipple hair
Shaving is another option to reduce the appearance of nipple hair. However, it is advisable to do so with caution to avoid nicking the sensitive skin.
This option also carries an increased risk of developing ingrown hairs and infection.
Sugaring or waxing is a good hair removal option, though either one is likely to be painful. A salon is the best place to get this treatment type, as doing this at home may cause damage to the skin. Infection and ingrown hairs are again a risk.
Laser hair removal
These popular treatments can help to reduce the hair growth and slow or even prevent regrowth for a while. However, they can be painful, too.
Laser treatment is by far the most expensive option, as it will need to be performed by a plastic surgeon or cosmetic dermatologist.
If a hormonal imbalance is the cause of hairy nipples, a doctor may prescribe or adjust a woman's medication therapy to restore a healthy hormonal balance.
Other treatments and how to choose
The above treatments are all commonly used to remove and reduce nipple hair and usually have minimal side effects.
Bleaching or using hair removal cream to treat the condition, however, is not advised as these methods are usually too harsh for this sensitive area and may cause irritation and damage.
Hairy nipples in women are quite common, and there is usually no need to see a doctor. However, if they are accompanied by any other unusual symptoms, it is a good idea to make an appointment.
A doctor will be able to perform tests to determine whether an underlying cause, such as PCOS, is causing the growth of nipple hair. If so, they will give advice and medication therapy to help manage the condition.
A doctor will also be able to advise how to remove nipple hair safely.
For the majority of women, nipple hair may seem unsightly, but it is not a cause for any concerns about their health.
However, because some medical conditions can cause nipple hair to darken and grow, it is important to see a doctor if any other symptoms are experienced.
Nipple hair can usually be easily treated and managed, should a woman choose to try to remove the hair for cosmetic reasons.