Pubic hair

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Pubic hair is hair in the frontal genital area, the crotch, and sometimes at the top of the inside of the legs; these areas form the pubic region.

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 most females, pubic hair first appears along the edges of the labia majora (stage 2), and spreads forward to the mons (stage 3) over the next 2 years. By 2-3 years into puberty (roughly the time of menarche for most girls), the pubic triangle is densely filled. Within another 2 years pubic hair also grows from the near thighs in most young women, and sometimes a small amount up the line of the abdomen toward the umbilicus.

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 too numerous to count (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.

Patterns of pubic hair vary. 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.

Pubic hair and axillary 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 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.


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