Removing body hair can be a real burden. Not only it is irritating issue to deal with, but also it is also annoyingly time consuming and unpleasant task. To add insult to the injury a ton of problems arise as well – people have to deal with razor burns or cuts, or deal with ingrown hairs. One would ask himself, then why on earth most athletes from both genders opt to remove most or even all of their body hair? These people exercise a lot, are extra careful with what they eat, and on the top of all this, they deal with their body hair. There must be a really good reason to do so, or they won’t bother doing it.
The question is: WHY? Let’s try to find out the reasons for doing so in the different sports.
Now, let’s see the benefits for the athletes in few of the most common sports:
Have you ever seen a competitive swimmer sporting body hair? Me neither. In water sports hair removal directly results in better performance. Tons of studies have been made on the subject, but one of the most famous ones done the ACSM compared freshly shaven swimmers with swimmers with body hair.
The study found that freshly shaven athletes performed much better at 400 yards breast stroke competition due to decreased frictional drag, increased stroke length and decreased amount of VO2.
Some go even further by removing every single hair off their entire body apart from the hair. Many shave even the most intimate of areas mainly for aesthetic reasons and often times bring razors or hair trimmers with them when travelling to competitions.
Cyclists remove their arm and leg hairs regularly. However, I was not able to find even a single study showing increase in cycling performance by doing so. There is very little to none aerodynamic advantage. They why these people opt to go hairless? Maybe it is aesthetics as well?
Nope, not really. It for practical reasons. Cyclists often get massages and leg heir gets in the way. It is extremely uncomfortable to have daily massages while sporting leg hair – it keeps pulling and you are not able to fully enjoy the massage.
Plus cyclists wear spandex jerseys and trousers. Tight fitting clothing and hairs don’t work well together and putting on and off the clothing quickly gets really uncomfortable.
However, cyclists don’t remove their pubic hair entirely. On the last Olympics Team GB female athletes were told that shaving or waxing the pubic hair results in saddle soreness. They were advised to use pubic hair trimmers instead as it was found that trimming pubic hair does not hinder their performance. So much so that the coaches asked themselves whether they should buy the girls beard trimmers.
I was extremely interested in the studies involving runners. In a sport where mere fraction of seconds matter, every little thing can give you huge advantage over the competition. A study published in the JMSSE found that runners who remove their body hair could save up to the amazing 5.7 seconds while running a marathon. Of couse shorter distance runners don’t have that much of advantage, but even they were able to shave off 0.01 seconds in the shortest 100m sprint.
But isn’t there a single reasoning to remove body hair? No, different sports have different requiments and body hair removal gives different benefits depending on the sport. The most common of all reasons are these three:
- For performance benefits
- To treat injuries more easily