Body hair can be differentiated from head hair and vellus hairs, which are the thing barely noticeable hairs that cover most areas of the body. Body hair, also known as terminal hair, begins to develop during puberty and its growth is extensively tied to androgenic hormone levels. Body hair grows differently than head hair because of differing lengths for each of the follicular growth phases; which explain why head hair can grow to substantial lengths when compared to body hair.
As we stated earlier, the growth of body hair is dependent on hormone levels as can be deduced by the sudden onset of body hair growth during the pubertal hormone surge. Male bodies become covered to varying degrees in dark, coarse hair. The affected areas include the face, the chest, back, abdomen, arms, legs, genitals, and buttocks. As we age, our body’s hormone levels fluctuate and hormone synthesis slows down. Just as women enter menopause and experience a reduction in the production of estrogen, when men grow older they produce less testosterone and DHT. With age, a male’s body hair will undergo changes in color and thickness. The most prominent begin to manifest around the age of 30, but can certainly appear at younger ages as well.
Let’s take a closer look at how males of different ages can expect to experience body hair loss.
- Body hair loss during the teenage years: It is during this period that terminal hair begins to develop, thickening and become darker and coarser over time. Barring extraordinary reasons, such as rare disorders, teenage boys will not experience body hair loss.
- Body hair loss at 20 below: body hair loss before turning thirty should still be considered abnormal. No natural body process results in any significant body hair loss this early in life. Body hair loss during this period is most likely due to outside influences such as skin conditions or traumatic events such as cancer therapy.
- Body hair loss at 30: As soon as you turn thirty you can reasonably expect to begin showing signs of hair loss. In fact, statistics report that by age 35 more than half of all males present the first signs of hair loss on the scalp and body. This proves that hair loss is not a problem that is only associated with advanced age. Another change that can be seen during this period is the start of the greying process as hair begins to change color.
- Body hair loss at 40 and 50: At this point in a man’s life, the process called Late-onset hypogonadism begins to manifest. Late-onset hypogonadism is more commonly known as Andropause or the male menopause. This period in a male’s life is characterized by a significantly lower secretion of testosterone. This hormonal imbalance can wreak havoc on body hair growth. By age 50 a noticeable thinning and greying of body hair is normal.
- Body hair loss beyond 60: By the time a male turns 60, there is a 65% probability that he has already experienced some significant body hair loss. The quantity and quality of axillary, pubic, chest and abdominal hair has been greatly reduced. From this point forward the hair loss becomes progressively more pronounced. The importance of hormonal component cannot be ignored as by this point testosterone production is dropping around 1% per year.
In any case, even though body hair loss should be expected with age, any significant hair loss that is experienced can potentially have a sort of clinical significance and should be discussed in detail with a primary health care provider.
- Rushton, D. H. “Nutritional factors and hair loss.” Clinical and experimental dermatology 27.5 (2002): 396-404.
- Vogt, Annika, et al. “Morphometry of human terminal and vellus hair follicles.” Experimental dermatology 16.11 (2007): 946-950.
- López-Otín, Carlos, et al. “The hallmarks of aging.” Cell 153.6 (2013): 1194-1217.