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I've recently encountered the idea that plucking an area of hair (say, with tweezers) causes the hair to grow back thicker/denser/stiffer etc. yet I remain skeptical. This concept is rampant with anecdotal evidence, mainly amongst those trying to reduce the appearance of hair (say, on a woman's legs or face). But we all know what any good skeptic thinks of anecdotal evidence. Here are my questions:

  1. Is there any hard science to suggest that plucking, waxing, or otherwise extracting entire hairs (epilation) impacts the appearance of regrowth in that location?
  2. And if so, in what way and by what mechanism?

Note that this is in contrast to the question on shaving asked here.

  • Since we're so big on citing things here, here's a place where the claim is made: youtube.com/watch?v=xuboJiAUMd8 – Brian Schroth May 11 '11 at 1:32
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    very similar, older question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/490/… – Mad Scientist May 11 '11 at 5:47
  • Thanks for finding that, Fabian--I searched "shaving" and came up with nothing. I will edit my question down to the parts not asked in that one. – eMansipater May 11 '11 at 6:27
  • I looked around a bit but just couldn't find anything addressing this that seemed reliable. For those also looking, though, I did find out that "plucking" is more scientifically known as "epilation" -- this at least brought about more scholarly looking articles in my searches. EXAMPLE – Hendy Jun 8 '11 at 2:45
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    Trying to answer this. I emailed THIS to the AOCD, the AAD, and the Dermatology Research Center HERE. We'll see if I get anything back... – Hendy Jun 9 '11 at 14:56
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Edit: Caught out by the question being changed but I will leave this here as it was relevant to the question as originally asked.

I can only answer your first [now removed] question, but there was a 1970 study performed on 5 men (on their legs) and published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology which measured rate of hair re-growth as well as hair thickness after shaving. It came to the conclusion that:

enter image description here

  • Sorry jozzas, you fell victim to an edit after Fabian found an earlier question. But you still get an upvote from me since you found a source not referenced there! – eMansipater May 11 '11 at 6:33
  • @eMansipater no worries, will leave this answer anyway as it's of interest. – jozzas May 11 '11 at 6:37
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Hair Growth Rates The source includes the a table Hair follicle regeneration after plucking by body region

So once the hair is plucked you have a certian number of days before that hair regrows. New hairs will grow in the area. So in the short term it will appear much thinner. However after a certain amount of time with out repeating the epilation process the hair density will return to a simalar density from before the initial epilation.

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    I found similar things, but I got the sense that the question was primarily around density and follicle appearance vs. rates/days-until-regrowth. I though the "wives" tail was that continued plucking would create hairs that were less visible due to being thinner/whispier if plucked. I could be wrong. – Hendy Jun 13 '11 at 15:26
  • And if you continue to pluck they will appear thinner sparser. But the studies above showed that over time they return to statisically the same. Also note that as you age your hair grows back slower. So I suppose that taken as a whole if you start plucking when you are at your fastest regrowth rate till you are much older with a much lower rate then the numbers would back up your belief. But the cause is age not actually plucking. – Chad Jun 13 '11 at 16:02
  • @Chad: Well, I agree re. density, but I've not found a study on appearance -- as in, I thought part of this was finding out if the follicles lighten in shade at all or are thinner as in follicle diameter, not thinner as in lower follicles/area. – Hendy Jun 13 '11 at 16:12
  • "ve recently encountered the idea that plucking an area of hair (say, with tweezers) causes the hair to grow back thicker/denser/stiffer" Hair is hair the study above showed no signifigant change in the qualities of hair. I would attribute the old wives tale to be if you start growing darker hair as a young adult and start plucking them as you age the hair naturally gets darker/thicker. So plucking will probably have the appearance of causing it. But I would wager if you could convice a girl to only pluck half her face when she stops plucking the results will be the same. – Chad Jun 13 '11 at 16:31
  • @Chad: You may be right per the above, though I didn't think they measured follicle thickness or color, just density. – Hendy Jun 13 '11 at 16:35

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