Can You Really “Beat The Heat”? – The Complex Relationship Between Body Hair and Body Heat

August 5, 2016

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So you’ve got some body hair. Big Deal! You probably look great with the beard anyway…but in your weakest moments, when the thermometer is creeping up toward 100 degrees, you can’t help but imagine you’d be cooler if you just shaved it all off and got rid of that “Fur Suit”. But is there really any truth to that claim? Does body hair actual increase your internal temperature, or is this just another modern myth we still insist on believing?

 

Surprisingly, it is a more complicated answer than we first thought it would be. The whole notion of raising your body temperature with a few wispy hairs just sounded like bad armchair science, but it’s not far off from what’s actually happening when your Brain tells your Body: Cool It!

Without giving it any thought, you already does a pretty good job adjusting to any climate with an internal mechanism called thermoregulation and (surprise!surprise!) your body uses something called “sweat” as a means to cool off. But sweat doesn’t work the same as dumping a cold bottle of water over your head. That sweat is just as hot as you are, so where is the cooling action coming from?
It’s really no big secret but it is almost brilliant in it’s simplicity. Your sweat trickles down onto you, hits the air and evaporates, creating a cooling effect on your skin that, spread out across the entire surface area of your body, lowers your overall body temperature 1 degree (or so) to a more comfortable level. This remarkable unconscious action works pretty darn effectively too…unless of course something (like body hair) gets in the way.

Now, it’s not as simple as: Body Hair + Sweat = Hot Hot Heat like wearing a parka mid August would, but body hair is definitely not helping. That said, A person would need as much hair as an ape before it began to directly effect their internal temperature. So then what’s happening?
Although your hair will help to wick sweat and moisture away, it also keeps that moisture around longer like a bad party guest that has overstayed their welcome. And of course, the longer that sweat takes to evaporate, the longer it will take you to cool you down.

So, No- Body Hair doesn’t technically make you hotter, but it does slow down the rate at which you are able to cool yourself (without a high-powered fan and a perfectly chilled afternoon cocktail) which might as well be the same dA*m thing on a hot summer day.

 

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