Your eyebrows are there to keep sweat from trickling into your eyes. The hair in your nose makes it harder for germs to invade your airways. And the hair on your head keeps you warm. But what biological purpose could hair on your knuckles possibly serve?

Anthropologists have studied what’s known as mid-phalangeal hair for the better part of a century, and to date, no clear reason for its existence has been found.

What we do know is that hair on the top part of your fingers is a genetic trait. It appears most often on your fourth finger and doesn’t appear on thumbs. It’s most common among Caucasian people.

Researchers believe that the appearance of hair on your fingers may be the result of prenatal exposure to androgens — a hormone often associated with male traits, though everyone has it.

Women with mid-phalangeal hair often have negative side effects like mood changes and painful periods when they take birth control pills.

Is knuckle hair dominant or recessive?

There is some debate about which genes carry the code for mid-phalangeal hair, but geneticists generally agree that it’s a dominant trait.

There aren’t any health benefits to getting rid of hair on your knuckles. It’s simply a matter of aesthetic preference. If you decide to remove hair from your fingers, here are some options to consider.

Shaving

One of the quickest ways to get rid of hair on your fingers is to shave it off using a razor and small amount of shaving cream or gel.

The upside is that the area you’re shaving is relatively small, so it’ll be quick. The downside is that unless you’re ambidextrous, you’ll be shaving the fingers on your dominant hand using your nondominant one, which could lead to nicks or cuts. And then there’s the inescapable fact that shaving leads to stubble.

Another potential difficulty is the possibility of ingrown hairs, which is what happens when hairs curve back toward the follicle after shaving. They become trapped beneath your skin and can become painful or infected.

If you notice what looks like a pimple on your finger a day or so after you’ve shaved, it may be an ingrown hair. To reduce the chances of getting an ingrown hair, use a single or double blade and shave in the direction of your hair growth.

Depilatories

If you want your fingers to remain hairless longer, you could try an inexpensive depilatory. These creams or gels need to stay on your skin for several minutes, depending on the brand and strength.

After the recommended treatment time, wipe away the excess cream and rinse off any residue. The results should last a week or longer, depending on the density of your hair and your hair growth cycle.

Depilatories work by chemically dissolving hairs, so they can be irritating to sensitive skin. If you notice any itching, burning, or rash, you may be experiencing an allergic reaction.

Waxing

Waxing is another long-lasting method of hair removal. You can have your fingers professionally waxed in a spa or salon, or you can opt for an at-home wax removal kit from a drugstore.

The skin on your fingers can be sensitive and tender, so the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you take these steps to protect your skin during waxing:

  • Stop using any products containing retinoids at least 5 days before waxing.
  • Wash and dry your hands before applying the wax.
  • Follow package directions and test the temperature of the wax before applying it. The wax should be warm enough to spread easily but not hot enough to burn your skin.
  • Place the cloth strip over the waxed area, pressing down firmly to bond the strip to the wax.
  • Hold the skin on your waxed finger taut and remove the cloth strip by pulling in the direction opposite to the hair growth. If any waxy residue remains, remove it with a warm, wet cloth after the redness on your finger subsides.
  • Use ibuprofen or a cold pack if you experience pain afterward. If the pain lasts longer than 2 days, it’s time to see a doctor.

Laser hair removal

If the hair on your fingers is dark and your skin is lighter, laser hair removal may be a good option. Laser hair removal treatments generally cost $75 or more per session, and it may take multiple sessions to be sure the hair is gone for good.

Pros of laser hair removal

  • Several sessions should keep you hair-free for months or even years.

Cons of laser hair removal

  • The cost can add up quickly.
  • It’s not a pain-free procedure. Laser hair removal can feel as though somebody is popping a rubber band against your skin.
Healthline

Electrolysis

Electrolysis is a fairly expensive but highly effective means of hair removal. Using an epilator device, a dermatologist blasts the follicle with shortwave radio frequencies to make existing hairs fall out and keep new ones from growing back.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared this method of hair removal permanent, even though it may take several sessions to take full effect.

Although electrolysis is considered safe, there is some risk involved. Infections and scarring can occur, so make sure you work with a dermatologist, follow aftercare instructions, and see a doctor if any signs of infection occur after the procedure.

Threading

Talk to a skin care specialist about the possibility of threading the hair on your knuckles. This technique is most often used to remove facial hair.

It involves winding a thin, looped thread through the hairs and pulling them out by the roots. It’s fast, precise, and usually inexpensive.

Though threading has been in use for centuries and is generally safe, some people have experienced adverse reactions, including folliculitis, staph infections, and hyperpigmentation following the procedure. Researchers have found these reactions to be rare.

Ingrown hairs can be painful. Take several steps at home to help resolve an ingrown hair:

  • Stop using any hair removal products while the ingrown hair is healing.
  • Gently wash the area with soapy water or massage it with a soft-bristled toothbrush. You’re trying to loosen the embedded tip of the hair.
  • If you can see the looped part of the hair, insert a sterile needle into the loop and lift out the loose end.

If home treatment doesn’t work, see a doctor or dermatologist. A doctor may prescribe a retinoid cream to get rid of surface skin cells so the trapped hair can emerge. They may also prescribe steroid creams or antibiotics if the area is inflamed or infected.

Hair growth is natural. Some removal methods, like electrolysis and laser hair removal, damage the hair follicle so hairs don’t grow back as frequently. For many people, repeated electrolysis treatments will eventually keep hair from coming back.

If these methods don’t appeal to you, or if you’re concerned that the hair growth on your fingers may be related to another health condition, talk to a doctor.

Hair on your knuckles is completely natural. Whether you have it depends on your genes. There’s no medical reason to remove mid-phalangeal hair, but if you prefer hairless fingers, you can shave, use a depilatory, or wax it off.

If you want the effect to last longer, you could try laser hair removal or electrolysis. However you remove it, watch for signs of irritation or infection afterward. See your doctor if symptoms of infection such as redness, swelling, or pain last longer than 2 days.