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In this edition:
- Dances with Werewolves
- A-Shaving Mysteries!
- What’s in My Hair?
- How Does My Body Hair Know When To Stop Growing?
- How to Love Your Hairiness (or Lack Thereof)
- The Fuzzy History of Presidential Facial Hair
- Hangover Howlers
- Would the Tortoise Ever Actually Beat the Hare?
- Oh FAQ: How Do I Make My Beard Less Horrifying?
- Get to Know Your Body: Pubic Hair
1 – Dances with Werewolves
John B. Kachuba, lycanthropy expert and author of Shapeshifters: A History, offers up a hair-raising look into werewolf lore.
Just to be clear, there’s no such thing as werewolves, right?
There are lots of examples in history of werewolf incidents, and while it’s hard to put any sort of veracity to them, you do have accounts in newspapers talking about werewolves. Many of them came from France, which seemed to go crazy with werewolf sightings in the 16th century — people were even burned at the stake for it. The weird thing is, though, there are modern examples too, like sightings in India in 1996 and in England in 2014.
Did anyone ever get accused of being a werewolf just for being too hairy?
In some cases, yeah. For example, a unibrow was considered a werewolf symptom, along with hairy palms. A similar thing also occurred with vampirism, where people were diagnosed as dying of vampirism because they were pale and emaciated, when it turns out they were likely dying of tuberculosis.
When a werewolf turns back into a person, where does all the hair go?
You know, nobody ever talks about that, but it’s a good question. Honestly, there never seems to be that level of detail in the stories, so I’m not sure if they shed or they shave it off. I bet it’d clog up the sink pretty good, though.
2 – A-Shaving Mysteries!
There are a lot of myths around grooming — let’s see which are true, and which are big, hairy lies.
Shaving Makes Your Beard Grow Back Thicker and Darker
False! But it can briefly make it appear thicker, as shaving leaves your hairs with blunt ends, which look thicker than their naturally tapered tips.
Manscaping Prevens B.O.
False…ish. Prevent entirely? No. Reduce? Probably! No matter how manscaped you are, hair-producing areas like your armpits and groin are prone to smelling bad because they have lots of apocrine sweat glands. These produce a greasy, high-protein sweat beloved by the hungry bacteria that actually produce that funky B.O. smell. You’ll definitely smell worse if you’re hairy, though, as the hair traps both the smell, and the bacteria causing it.
Going Bald Makes Your Nose and Ear Hair Grow Wild
True! You can blame this on dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a byproduct of testosterone. As we age, many guys’ head hair develops a sensitivity to DHT, which kills hair follicles. Weirdly enough, though, DHT acts like hair steroids on previously lightly-haired parts, like the ears and nose. Why? Science doesn’t know yet, but the obvious answer is, nature hates us.
Swallowing Hair Will Mess Up Your Insides
False — assuming you’re talking about just one, which will pass right through. If you happen to eat a clump of hair, however, it could cause abdominal pain, so don’t do that.
3 – What’s in My Hair?
A head-to-balls look at what’s floating around in there.
Your Mop Top
Jason “The Germ Guy” Tetro, host of the Super Awesome Science Show, explains that your head hair will get way more environmental bacteria than unexposed body hair. This may include stuff like Malassezia, a kind of fungi; Staphylococcus, which can cause infections in an open wound and dandruff on your scalp; and Microbacterium hatanonis, a newly discovered species of bacteria that lives in hairspray.
Your Chin Pelt
A Swiss study carried out earlier this year found that men’s beards generally had more germs in them than dog fur. These included Staphylococcus and various kinds of poop-particles.
Your Arm Farm
Corynebacterium is the big one you’ll find in your armpits — they’re the bacteria that makes your pits stink by eating your sweat and releasing gas, which we register as B.O.
Your Pool Sweater
Chest hair is probably your cleanest body hair, as it isn’t exposed to the environment and it doesn’t attract bacteria quite like the swamp that is your armpits. Still, you’ll likely find Staphylococcus there, as it commonly lives all over your skin.
You might find Candida here, a naturally-occurring skin fungus that can cause yeast infections if it builds up due to poor hygiene. There may also be the fungus Trichophyton rubrum, which can cause jock itch. Feel itchy yet?
4 – How Does My Body Hair Know When To Stop Growing?
There’s a good reason you don’t have long, flowing locks all over your body.
Every hair on your body has a growth cycle that consists of three stages. There’s the anagen phase (when your hair grows), the catagen phase (when it stops growing and rests) and the telogen phase (when it falls out). Then, it cycles back to the anagen phase.
Dermatologist and trichologist David Kingsley explains, “Different body hair has different times for each stage, hence the different lengths of hair.” So despite the fact that it may appear to keep growing, scalp hair actually has a cycle that lasts about two to six years, growing about a half-inch per month. As for your arms, legs, eyebrows and eyelashes, the growth phase for them lasts about a month or so, then it rests for a couple of weeks before falling out. This is why your body hair stops growing and you don’t resemble everyone’s favorite co-pilot from a galaxy far, far away.
As for why each section of your body grows to the length it does, Kingsley explains that we don’t exactly know, except to say that evolution has sorted it out. Basically, over time, natural selection has figured out that if eyebrow hair grew in front of our eyes we wouldn’t be able to see. And if our facial hair didn’t grow long enough, we’d never be able to rock that sweet handlebar mustache.
5 – How to Love Your Hairiness (or Lack Thereof)
Some insight from people who’ve learned to accept how much hair they’ve got, be it too much or not enough.
A Guy Who Can’t Grow a Full Beard
James Van Der Woodson, private shopper: It’s about not dwelling on things you can’t control. I used to have a shorter “scruffy” look, so the patchiness was less noticeable, but now my goal is to be proud of my beard. I started to use beard oil, I trim it so it doesn’t look scruffy and I realized that the longer it gets, the more equally distributed it appears. In other words, I work with what I’ve got.
A Guy with a Hairy Back
Mark Joseph Stern, writer: In an era when body positivity is embraced, a stigma against hairy backs lingers on. Women face more pressure to conform to beauty standards, but men can learn from the courage women have displayed in rejecting absurd standards. To scorn body hair of any kind is to reject the beauty of loving yourself.
A Woman with a Beard
Harnaam Kaur, model and activist: Growing up, I hated the way I looked. I endured years of bullying and was even suicidal. Eventually, I learned that people hate what they don’t understand and I grew a tough skin. Self love takes strength, and strength comes from being kind to ourselves. “There is only one of you and that’s your power,” I tell myself. I’m rare, and that’s my power!
6 – The Fuzzy History of Presidential Facial Hair
Undoubtedly, the most presidential type of facial hair is none at all; of the 44 dudes who have been president, a mere 12 had any kind of scruff.
It started with number six — John Quincy Adams. While a beard was considered improper at our country’s founding, the first son of a former president to run for office was somewhat rebellious — and considered a bit of a “dandy,” thus prone to extravagant style — so he proudly wore his mutton chops, explains historian Louis Picone, author of The President Is Dead! Our eighth president, Martin Van Buren — also considered a dandy — wore even more extravagant chops for his term.
It was Lincoln (16) who started the presidential facial hair trend, but he wouldn’t grow his iconic beard until after his election. Famously, he grew it was because he received a letter from an 11-year-old girl named Grace Bedell who told him he’d look better with some whiskers, as his face was so thin.
During the Civil War, men had little access to shaving equipment, so many grew beards. Following the war, Picone says the full beard became the mark of heroism, which is why Ulysses S. Grant (18), Rutherford B. Hayes (19), James Garfield (20) and Benjamin Harrison (23) all had them. In that period, too, Picone says we had another dandy president in Chester A. Arthur (21), who had the most unique facial hair of any president — mutton chops connected to a mustache.
Starting with Grover Cleveland (22 and 24), simply a mustache became the cool thing for a president, as was the style for upper-class men. The solo stache would also be present on Teddy Roosevelt (26) and William Howard Taft (27), who was our last president with any facial hair.
After Taft, the famously proper Woodrow Wilson wouldn’t be caught dead with a bit of scruff. With the invention of the safety razor, plus the military ban on facial hair in WWI, White House whiskers became a thing of the past. This would continue into the present day, with 20th century presidents seeking to contrast themselves from both hippies and many of America’s hirsute enemies overseas (Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden, etc.).
There are other reasons, too: Some political psychologists have found that — subconsciously — people feel a bearded man looks older and more aggressive, which isn’t helpful in politics. Some even feel that concealing one’s face with a beard means that someone has something to hide, which — of course — is absolute BS: After all, Honest Abe had one.
7 – Hangover Howlers
“Hair of the dog” — i.e., using booze to cure a hangover — takes its name from the ancient idea that a rabid dog bite can be cured by the beast’s hair. But does it work?
Will “hair of the dog” actually cure me of my hangover?
That depends on how you define “cure.” Nothing reverses a hangover except sleep, fluids and time, but more alcohol does relieve some of your hangover symptoms. “It’s unlikely anything could really get rid of all the symptoms,” says Aaron White, a scientific advisor at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “But there’s every reason to believe that hangovers involve a mini-withdrawal syndrome, and that’s why the hair of the dog can reduce hangover symptoms for a short time, though perhaps making things worse in the long run.” In other words, just stick with water.
Okay, but what about actual hair of the dog — will rubbing some of the rabies-infected dog’s fur on the wound cure me?
No, you idiot. Back in Ancient Greece, hair of the dog referred to packing a bite wound with hair and/or drinking a mixture containing the dog’s hair, but as you should have guessed by now, this is a nonsense cure. Emergency medicine doctor Benjamin Wedro explains, “Putting hair into the wound would cause increased risk of bacterial infection, and wouldn’t decrease the risk of getting rabies, which is a viral infection.” As for the drinkable potion, all that you’ll end up with is a hair in your throat and perhaps a case of dog breath.
8 – Would the Tortoise Ever Actually Beat the Hare?
You know the story: Tortoise and hare get into a race, but the hare is so overconfident that he slacks off and the tortoise wins. Let’s see if it adds up in some classic races.
100 Meter Dash
At 37 mph, there’s no way the hare loses unless he stops for drinks. Even then, he’d have to get loaded not to beat the tortoise going 0.037 mph.
Hare: 6.05 seconds
Tortoise: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Bunnies run for short bursts, so if you throw in some breaks, he’ll still get there in 10 minutes tops. For the tortoise, herpetologist Taylor Edwards explains that in one of his studies, one specimen migrated seven miles in a week — since a 5K is a little over three miles, three days or so seems likely.
Hare: 10 minutes
Tortoise: 3.5 days
Tortoises migrate long distances, so a 26-mile marathon is doable. As for the hare, Edwards says, ecologically, they never move beyond a few miles from their home — they just dash around to avoid being eaten, so he wouldn’t get far before bounding back.
Tortoise: A few months
Steps Over a Lifetime
This one depends on perspective. Even with the tortoise’s 100-year lifespan, a hare is going to take more steps in his five years, according to BBC Earth. But since he’s going in circles, the tortoise will go farther, as some travel 75 miles annually.
Hare: Lots of pointless running in circles
Tortoise: A long, full life of travel and sight-seeing
9 – Oh FAQ: How Do I Make My Beard Less Horrifying?
With all those fecal coliforms, food particles and bacteria in your beard, Dollar Shave Club’s in-house barber Asia Jackson tells us how to keep that scruff clean.
Step #1: So it doesn’t dry out, a bearded dude should wash his beard every other day, starting with combing the beard before a shower to de-tangle it.
Step #2: In the shower, use our Wanderer 2-in-1 Face & Body Wash to thoroughly clean your beard hair and refresh your skin.
Step #3: Then use our Wanderer Hydrating Hair and Scalp Conditioner to help soften up that beard and protect it from dryness.
Step #4: After the shower, comb again and let it dry a bit before putting on our Dr. Carver’s Softening Beard Oil to nourish your beard.
Step #5: Use a soft-bristled brush to train your beard hair to go where you want it to go — keep this on you throughout the day and brush occasionally.
Step #6: Let your beard fly proudly, knowing there’s as few poo particles in it as anyone could reasonably expect.
10 – Get to Know Your Body: Pubic Hair
Let’s travel deep into the jungle that is your pubic region.
The reason most pubic hair tends to be curly is a matter dispute, but the prevailing theory is that by giving your nether regions a cushy pillow, it prevents against friction during sex.
According to a 2016 study by the University of California, grooming one’s pubic hair is linked to an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. While the study didn’t account for the possibility that regular pube-groomers may be having more sex — and so already at higher risk — it did find that they were 80 percent more likely to have STIs like syphilis, chlamydia, HIV and even public lice (although being totally bare can prevent crabs).
Should you go bare? Melanie Mari, manscaper at Bare Skin Studio, says that unless you’re already pretty hairless, being baby-smooth down there will look awkward. How much pubic hair you want is a personal choice, but Mari says if you’ve got moderate body hair, go with the “1” setting on your clippers and a “2” if you’re hairier.
Does grooming make you look bigger? “Yes,” Mari says, definitively. By mowing your lawn, your, uh, tree trunk will look bigger simply because it will stand out more from its surroundings. Think about it — would the Washington Monument be quite so impressive-looking if it stood in California’s Redwood Forest? Probably not.
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