If you’ve got “baby hairs”—those wispy little hairline strands —you’ve no doubt blamed them on breakage, new growth, or stress.
But it turns out, some of us are simply genetically predisposed to hair thinning (sorry), and those genetic factors interfere with the way our hair responds to androgens, or “male” hormones like testosterone.
Confused? We got you.
WHAT CAUSES BABY HAIRS?
Baby hairs are produced when the growing (anagen) phase of the hair cycle becomes shorter.
Normally, this happens over several cycles.
When the growing cycle shortens, new hairs simply don’t grow as long as those that cover the rest of your head, ever. Baby hairs are also common in women who’ve recently given birth, though it’s typically temporary if they didn’t have them before.
Baby hair-like breakage can occur as a result of traction on the hair (for example, if you wear it in a ponytail for long periods of time) and over-heating or chemically over-treating your tresses, but that shouldn’t prevent damaged strands from re-growing to their regular length over time.
Why do we have them?
Baby hairs grow in during your childhood. They’re meant to serve a purpose, including:
- protecting your skin from irritation
- wicking away sweat
- keeping your body warm
Vellus that grows on the rest of your body may not be as irritating as baby hairs.
But patches of vellus that grows right next to your terminal hair tends to really stand out. It can usually appear as a different texture and lighter color from the rest of your hair.
Tips for styling baby hairs
You can learn to live with your baby hairs by adopting styling strategies to make them work for you. You may also want to consider removing your baby hairs.
Here are some styling tips you can try:
- Go with the grain. If you’re trying to style your baby hairs, try to work with the direction that they grow instead of styling them to lie flat in another direction.
- You can use a small amount of hair gel, mouse, or even water teamed with a small, round barrel brush to bring hairs forward and comb them down.
- Create small ringlets that frame your face or gel baby hairs down so that they form a subtle crown around your hairline.
- Using bobby pins, try to twist small sections of your hair over your baby hairs to create a style that makes them less noticeable.
- If you’re aiming for a pin-straight hairstyle, style your baby hairs separately, using a small, round brush. You don’t want to dry or burn your baby hairs with too much heat from a straightener or curling iron. But you may be able to tame them carefully with some patience and your blow-dryer set on cool or low.
- If your hair is curly or porous, you may be able to create length in your baby hairs by using a fine-toothed comb to pull them down and together. Using your fingers and some hair product, you may be able to create curls that look more intentional instead of small ones that stick up or look bumpy under the rest of your hair.
- When you braid or plait your hair, don’t try to incorporate baby hairs. Pat them down and comb them out into a style of their own.
Removing baby hairs
If you’re not able to style your baby hairs and just can’t stand having them anymore, you may want to consider removing them.
Waxing is one option, but when you’re working with hair on your forehead and nape of the neck, it can be hard to get a result that lasts and looks even.
Laser hair removal for your baby hair is another option. This will remove baby hair, changing the way your hairline appears permanently.
However, laser hair removal will only get rid of some of your baby hairs. Other baby hairs that are shorter, lighter, and finer may grow in to take their place.
Laser hair removal works best if you have dark hair and light skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatologists.
The bottom line
Baby hairs can be a source of irritation, but they do serve a function.
People who have a perfectly symmetrical hairline like you see in magazines are most likely the result of photo editing. For most of us, baby hairs are a part of life.
Learning to adapt to your baby hairs by making them part of your signature hairstyle is one way to rock what you’ve got. Another option is baby hair removal, which can have varying results.