Nearly the entire human body is covered in hair and hair follicles. Some of this body hair may be very thin and transparent. Some of it, like leg hair, may turn thicker and darker with age. And then sometimes, long or coarse hairs pop up in places you didn’t expect, like your ears, chin, and even your nipples.
Hairy nipples are normal for women. Seeing black, wiry hairs growing around the areolas can be surprising, but you’re not alone. The percentage of women who have hairy nipples is unclear, and many women don’t report it to their doctor.
In most cases, hairy nipples aren’t cause for concern. For most people, they’re a normal part of bodily changes. But sometimes they may be a sign of a problem that needs your doctor’s attention.
Read on to learn more about hair growth on your nipples and when you should talk to your doctor.
Many women experience hairy nipples. A few underlying causes can lead to the growth of nipple hairs. Most of them are very common, which helps explain why hairy nipples are common.
Fluctuations in hormones can cause a variety of symptoms, including darkening nipple hair. These fluctuations can occur during times of significant hormonal change, such as pregnancy and menopause. Subtle hormonal changes also occur in a woman’s 20s and 30s, and they can result in changes in your hair as well.
Overproduction of male hormones
A high level of androgens, such as the hormone testosterone (which is normally more abundant in males), can cause a variety of symptoms, including unusual hair growth. Other symptoms may include:
- oily skin or acne
- absent menstrual periods, known as amenorrhea
- increase in skeletal muscle mass
- male-pattern baldness, which includes hair loss on your head
You doctor can test your hormone levels using a blood draw. Learn more about the testosterone test.
Certain medicines can cause unusual hair growth as a side effect. These medicines include testosterone, glucocorticosteroids, and some immunosuppressants.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones. It causes several side effects, including:
- irregular menstrual periods
- ovarian cysts
- excessive hair growth in areas where hair more commonly occurs in men, including the development of hair around the nipples
It’s estimated 1 in 10 women of childbearing age have PCOS.
Increased and prolonged exposure to high levels of cortisol, a glucocorticosteroid hormone, can cause Cushing’s syndrome. The increased exposure to cortisol may be the result of the overuse of glucocorticosteroid medications, or tumors in the lung, brain (outside of the pituitary gland), or adrenal glands. Some of the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome are similar to those of PCOS. Increased hair growth and abnormal menstrual cycles may occur in women with this syndrome, but there will likely be several other signs and symptoms.
How to treat hairy nipples
You don’t need to remove the dark hairs around your nipples. They won’t cause any issues. However, you can remove them for aesthetic reasons if you choose. Several treatment options may help.
This is the least risky option you can try at home, but you’ll need to be careful not to cut your breasts. Grab small scissors, like manicure scissors, and hold the nipple hairs with your finger or tweezers. Cut the hair close to the skin. The hair will continue to grow, so you will likely need to cut frequently.
This is perhaps the simplest way to remove nipple hairs, but you should keep a few things in mind before you start plucking. Your areolas and the skin around your nipples can be sensitive, so plucking may cause discomfort. To reduce this feeling, pluck the hairs immediately after a shower. The warm water can help open the pores so hairs come out more easily and with less pain.
Plucking hairs opens you up to the possibility of an infection or ingrown hairs as the hairs return later. Use caution if you pluck the hairs, and watch for signs of infection, such as redness, tenderness, or pus.
You can reach for your razor while you’re in the shower, but be sure to protect the delicate skin on your nipples with your hand. Like with tweezing, you increase your risk for developing ingrown hairs or an infection when hairs return. In addition, you may experience an accident and cut your breasts or nipples with the sharp razor.
You can remove hair with sugaring or waxing, but this can be painful on the delicate skin of your breasts. Don’t try to wax your own nipple hairs. Instead, go to a salon or waxing boutique and talk with a trained aesthetician about your options. Again, you run the risk of developing an infection or ingrown hairs after the waxing as the hair returns.
Laser or electrolysis
Both treatments can help you slow or reduce hair growth, but they come with a price tag. A plastic surgeon or cosmetic dermatologist needs to perform this procedure, and each session can cost over $100. Plus, these produces can be uncomfortable, especially on the sensitive skin around your nipples.
If a hormonal imbalance is causing the nipples around your hair to grow darker, your doctor might suggest hormonal medications to restore the balance. Birth control pills, which most commonly contain both estrogen and progestin hormones, are a common option, but single hormone treatment is a potential option depending on your specific needs.
What about bleach or hair removal creams?
Bleaching and hair removal creams are available, and they’re popular for bikini lines, legs, and armpits. You should avoid using these hair removal products around your nipples, however, because they may cause irritation.
Seeing a doctor
In most cases, you don’t need to see your doctor for hair growth around your nipples. If you’re also experiencing hair growth in other areas or have other unusual symptoms, see your doctor.
Your doctor may be able to determine if the hair growth is part of natural changes, or if they could be a sign of an underlying problem like PCOS or Cushing’s syndrome. If they’re unsure, several tests can help evaluate possible causes until a diagnosis is made.
In addition, you may also want to talk with your doctor about safe ways to remove hair around the nipples. Because of the risk for ingrown hairs or infections, your doctor may offer some tips or advice for removing the hairs and reducing your risk for complications.
It’s important to know that hair growth around the nipples is common, and it’s also rarely a sign of an underlying problem. You don’t need to remove the hair, but if it bothers you, you can also remove it easily by tweezing, shaving, trimming, or waxing. Procedures like electrolysis and laser hair removal can also slow or stop the hair growth entirely, but those options come with a heftier price.