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Many people believe that if you shave or - especially - wax your legs, arms, chest, pubic hair or armpits then the hair will grow back stronger, or thicker, or more black, or more rapidly, or any combination of those.

Is it actually true?

  • i have a light, reddish-brown beard, but if i shave it the next day the stubble looks black. since i don't think the hairs are actually changing color, my assumption is that they look darker when they are smaller because they contrast more with the skin color, or maybe because the hairs are more perpendicular to the skin. i think the myth comes from that--lighter hair can appear darker when it first starts growing back in. but i don't think the hair is actually changing – Kip Aug 3 '12 at 14:06
  • I thought that the actual answer should include a scientific study. I also expanded on the answer a little bit explaining to how the myth could have originated – Xitcod13 Oct 19 '12 at 0:43
  • @Kip: the lighter color after the hair grows could be caused from damage by sunlight and other environmental factors. – haylem Sep 5 '13 at 9:08
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    My empirical observation is that repeated waxing can permanently reduce the thickness and amount of hairs. Sadly, aside from the websites of a few spas, I can't find any references for this. – Dennis Oct 19 '14 at 12:11
  • All these answers are for shaving and not for waxing (or depilating), which is a different thing altogether. Hairs don't know they've been cut, but waxing pulls the root out. So maybe it makes a difference. – RedSonja Jan 19 '16 at 13:55
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According to a Mayo Clinic dermatologist, no, it is a myth.

Both he and snopes.com point to the fact that after cutting or otherwise removing hair, it grows back in feeling coarse and stubby to the touch. This can lead to the perception that the hair is stronger or thicker, when in reality, it's the same as it always was, just shorter and with rougher ends. After the hair grows out again naturally, the hair will likewise seem smoother, because hair tapers when not cut.

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    But surely there's a difference between a cut hair with a squared-off end, and a hair that's been completely removed and regrown with a tapered or rounded end? – e100 Mar 9 '11 at 18:19
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    @e100 Yes, but only in the way it feels to the touch-- The one with the squared-off end will feel coarse. – Jason Plank Mar 10 '11 at 0:01
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    A hair that is waxed is pulled out by the root. My understanding is that it would then be a new hair that grew, not the stump of the original hair. Are hairs the same thickness throughout their lifecycle, or do they start thinner and become thicker as they grow? I guess I should look it up. – Richard A Aug 17 '11 at 14:05
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Short answer: No

Here is a study from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology:

The effect of repeated shaving on human hair growth was studied. Five healthy young white men each shaved one leg weekly for several months and left the other leg as a control. No significant differences in total weight of hair produced in a measured area, or in width or rate of growth of individual hairs, could be ascribed to shaving.

According to this list of myths there are other studies that confirm the findings (although it does not contains citations from or links to the studies)

However, what some young individuals can find in their daily lives can seem to counter that claim. If an adolescent shaves their hair and waits for it to grow back it may indeed grow back thicker than before because the individual is going through puberty and their hair thickens with time. This has nothing to do with shaving but can fool an adolescent that it does. If they keep shaving their hair a long time can elapse until they see their hair fully grown out again. After they do they may rightly assume that it has gotten much thicker than before and accredit it to the shaving.

This could possibly be how the myth originated.

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    This answer starts out very well - with a good reference, but then you make some claims ("other studies", teaching economics, and "can make the hair appear coarser") that aren't substantiated. – Oddthinking Oct 19 '12 at 0:57
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    @Xitcod13: Just link to the abstract of the other studies. Even when the actual results that back up the claim are behind the paywall, there are a lot of people in university who can simply access the stuff behind the paywall. – Christian Oct 19 '12 at 11:40

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