This is going to be one of those relatable, am I right, ladies?, moments: Have you ever looked down in the shower or something, and noticed, spouting forth from your nipple-area, a long dark hair? If yes, you're not alone! Hence this being a relatable moment.
Nipple hair is something patients are constantly asking Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist in New York, about in her practice. To put it simply, having a nipple hair or few is completely normal. Dweck said some women have none, and some women have quite a bit. It's all fine and dandy! But because you probably have more questions about it, Dweck explained all there is to know about nipple hair.
Where the hair comes from
To be clear, nipple hair really counts as hair coming from anywhere surrounding the nipple. Dweck said you're most likely to see hair you'd consider to be "nipple hair" growing out of the areola, or the fleshy, soft, mound of skin around the actual nipple.
"On the areola, there are little glands called Montgomery glands, and these secrete a sebaceous material meant to lubricate and keep the skin moist around the nipple so you have healthy nipples for nursing," Dweck said. She added that, sometimes, these glands also produce a bit of hair, and that's totally fine.
Nipple hair and hormones
Again, nipple hair: It's normal. But it's worth keeping an eye on, because Dweck mentioned that suddenly growing a large amount of hair on the nipple can be a sign of hormonal imbalance.
"Usually it wouldn't just be isolated to the nipples if you're having this issue [with hormones]," Dweck said. "But an elevated testosterone level, which is the male hormone most of us have, if it's suddenly really high, we can see hair growth in unusual places, including the chest and the nipples."
Dweck said sudden hair growth is something you should talk to a doctor. Especially if you notice hair growing in other stereotypically "masculine" places, like the upper lip or chin. That could be a sign of hirsutism, or sudden "male" hair growth in women, which is a symptom commonly associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
How to safely remove it (if you want)
Dweck said that usually by the time a patient is coming to her to ask about nipple hair, they've already removed the hair in some way and have developed a small infection. So, if you want to remove it, she has some advice on how to do so safely.
"The recommendation is to do what you're comfortable with, some women don't mind hair hair on the nipple, they don't even notice it," she said. "But some women are bothered by it. If it's just a small amount, plucking is the most common way to remove it. Make sure you're using a clean instrument like a tweezer, don't pick at it, don't try pulling it out."
Dweck said treat nipple hair-removal the same way you would hair removal on any other sensitive body part, like with pubic hair. If the area becomes red, swollen or painful afterwards, and that doesn't resolve within a day or two, Dweck advised seeing a doctor to check for infection.
Otherwise, go forth and treat your nipple hairs as you think they'd like to be treated. Pluck 'em, shampoo and condition 'em—your nipples, your choice.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.