FMC: Body Hair

matthew's picture

Dear Children,

Today I touch on a sensitive topic: body hair. If you are easily offended, please go read something else, as we're going to deal very bluntly with the topic.

Human body hair serves several obvious purposes, amongst others I probably have not thought of.

  • It keeps us warm in the cold.
  • It is decoration. One's hair -- including that on the head -- serves much the same purpose as the mane on a horse. The beauty of one's hair and/or beard causes a reaction amongst the opposite sex, which may be one of revulsion, attraction, or simply an expression of interest.
  • The comparative lack of body hair on humans relative to other animals is thought to be an evolutionary advantage allowing us to run longer distances without overheating, whether for running down game or avoiding predators. There may also be some aspect of sexual selection to it, as being less-hairy has throughout recorded history been believed to be a mark of civilization or better breeding, while those who are perceived as hairier are often assumed to have other Neanderthal traits as well.
  • It serves to trap and preserve bacteria and fungus, and is therefore a scent to be used to mark one's territory from encroaching would-be competitors or predators.

It is this last bit I want to focus on. In modern society, we care about smells. The dense patches of body hair on modern humans stink. This is an evolutionary artifact, and I submit that scent-marking of our territory -- as evidenced upon opening the door to the bedroom of any teenage boy -- is a long-expired bit that should be put to rest as well.

If you are human, you stink.

Them's the breaks.

To mitigate our intense odor, there are several things you can do. We call these "good hygiene", but it's really more than that. You don't wish to offend your family and friends. Here are my tips for all youth aged ten and up that, if followed, will dramatically lower your odor.

  1. Bathe daily with soap, paying special attention to get in the cracks where bacteria festers, and one's body or scalp hair: behind the ears, the butt, the genitals, the armpits, the feet (if you habitually wear shoes, as most of us do), and the scalp. All of these regions tend to foster smelly bacteria which requires daily removal to prevent strong odors.
  2. Brush your teeth at least twice daily, morning and night.
  3. If you still have tonsils, gargle with a non-alcohol mouthwash. This will help dislodge fetid "tonsil stones" that tend to build up in the folds of one's tonsils; even warm water gargled several times a day this way can help.
  4. Avoid malodorous foods if you plan to have company that day. Garlic, asparagus, and onions top the list.
  5. Wash your clothing regularly; any individual piece of clothing should be worn no more than perhaps three times between launderings, and underclothing only once. If you sweated heavily in any piece of clothing, it should be washed immediately thereafter and not left to molder on the floor. The principal exception is outer-garments which do not come into direct contact with skin bacteria, such as suit coats, raincoats, snow pants, etc.
  6. If your body hair, as mine, reaches extreme lengths, it's helpful to trim it every few months if you wish to avoid excessive smelliness. Once or twice a year suffices for mine to keep it down to less than an inch; if left untended, my leg hair grows longer than the typical length of hair on my head. Keeping body hair groomed is nice for you and nice for those around you. I will not comment on the unsightliness or not of having body hair (such standards change over time with sensibilities about body image), but simply suggest that if your armpit hair is longer than your pinky finger, it almost certainly harbors a surprisingly-large colony of bacteria that everyone around you can typically smell.

Thus endeth the lesson.