If you’ve ever looked closely at a hair that seems darker or thicker than usual, you may have noticed that it’s not actually a single hair at all. It’s several hairs sprouting from the same follicle.
This condition, known as pili multigemini, is not usually dangerous or damaging to your hair or skin.
Pili multigemini is when several hairs emerge from a single hair follicle. It’s most commonly seen in penis owners’ beards and on the scalps of children, but it can happen anywhere on your body where hair grows.
Researchers don’t know exactly what causes the difference in growth, but it’s thought to be genetic. Pili multigemini tends to run in families.
Because the condition doesn’t usually cause any concerns, researchers think it may be more common than many people realize: We simply don’t notice these overachieving follicles.
Hair grows in four distinct phases. The first period, known as the anagen phase, can take 2 to 6 years.
During the anagen phase, the base of your hair follicle plumps up like an onion and begins building a hair. That’s the stage when pili multigemini happens.
Down in the bulb of your follicle, your hair splits into several shafts. Each one is wrapped in its cuticle. Your separate hairs then continue to grow from the same follicle.
During the catagen phase, your follicle shrinks. Your hair breaks away from your follicle base, but remains “rooted” in place. This transitional phase usually lasts from 10 days to several weeks.
The telogen phase marks the end of hair growth. Your hairs remain in place, but new hair growth begins in the same follicle. Telogen generally lasts close to 3 months.
Finally, in the exogen phase (which some
Your eyelashes, for example, may fall out in a couple of weeks. Your hair on your head could take as long as a year to fall out. It’s considered completely normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs every day.
Most of the time, the only symptom of pili multigemini is the different appearance of these hairs. Some people may notice some itching around their hair growth site.
In some cases, your hair follicle can become infected — a condition called folliculitis. Painful pustules that look like acne can develop. They’re sometimes called razor bumps when associated with shaving.
Folliculitis often resolves on its own, but it may need to be treated by a healthcare provider if the infection worsens.
When to call a doctor for folliculitis
it’s important to get treatment from a healthcare provider if:
- you have a fever
- the pustules have a foul odor
- you notice the infection moving to your surrounding skin
If you don’t like the appearance of these hairs, there are several ways you can remove them.
Plucking them out with tweezers is an inexpensive option, but because these hairs take up more space, some people may find them more painful to tweeze than ordinary hairs.
There’s no evidence that removing pili multigemini by plucking will cause the same kind of hair to regrow in that area.
Laser hair removal
If you want a longer-lasting solution, consider laser hair removal (LHR). LHR uses pulses of light to damage hair follicles, so they produce less hair. But the downsides of LHR include:
- discomfort and irritation
- number of treatments involved
- eventual hair regrowth
- risk of changes to skin color
LHR results in a permanent reduction in hair growth, so eventual hair regrowth is not very likely when it’s performed correctly.
Additionally, when LHR is performed properly by a board certified dermatologist, there should be no risk of skin color change.
When performed by inadequately trained individuals, for example in a med spa, the risks may exist, but shouldn’t.
For people with very light-colored hair, laser hair removal may not be as effective. Some people with light hair opt for electrolysis.
During electrolysis, a dermatologist uses an epilator to deliver radio waves into your hair follicle, destroying its ability to grow hair.
As with laser hair removal, treatment takes several sessions and can cause some minor swelling and redness or discoloration in the treated zones.
The Food and Drug Administration classifies electrolysis as a permanent hair removal method, but it warns that infection and scarring sometimes occur.
Because researchers don’t know exactly what causes multiple hairs to form, there aren’t any known methods of preventing their growth.
To lessen your chances of developing folliculitis, the American Academy of Dermatologists recommends these practices:
- Shave only when your hair and skin are wet.
- Shave in the direction that your hair naturally grows.
- Use a sharp, clean razor.
- Rinse your blades often as you shave.
- Allow your razor to dry completely between shaves to prevent bacterial growth.
Pili multigemini is the medical name for several hairs growing out of a single hair follicle. Why this growth pattern happens is not yet known, but the condition is usually not a health concern.
In some cases, the overgrowth may lead to:
- infected hair follicles
Most of the time, these problems resolve on their own, but if you develop a fever or a rash moves to other areas of your skin, it’s important to seek medical attention.
If you don’t like the look of your hairs, it’s OK to pluck them out. To delay regrowth, you could consider laser hair removal or electrolysis, which many health professionals consider permanent.
Hair grows in an astonishing array of:
Pili multigemini is one of the more unusual presentations — and for most people, it’s a completely harmless one.