Vellus Hair (Peach Fuzz)

Overview

What is vellus hair?

Vellus hair is thin, fine hair that grows on most of your body. You might know it as “peach fuzz.” It’s different from the thicker, longer hair you have on your scalp, which healthcare providers call terminal hair. Vellus hair is usually lighter and shorter than terminal hair. The length, thickness and color of vellus hair vary from person to person.

Vellus hair protects your skin and helps your body cool down or stay warm. You’ll find these tiny hairs on your face, neck, arms, legs and trunk. Vellus hair doesn’t grow on the soles of your feet, the palms of your hands or your lips and eyelids.

Abnormal vellus hair growth can be a sign of some health conditions.

If you don’t like the appearance of vellus hair, you can remove it. Some techniques can remove vellus hair permanently.

Function

What is the purpose of vellus hair?

These thin little hairs help regulate your body temperature. They keep your skin warm by providing insulation. They also help your body wick away sweat, which cools you off and helps you avoid heat illness.

Vellus hairs also protect your skin and help you sense the world around you. The tiny hairs help you feel light objects against your skin. When you get goosebumps, your vellus hair allows you to feel them.

Is vellus hair different from the hair on my head?

The hair on your scalp is terminal hair. It’s thicker and coarser than vellus hair. It grows longer and is usually darker than vellus hair on your body. Terminal hair tends to grow on your:

  • Head.
  • Armpits.
  • Face (in men, and some women, after puberty).
  • Pubic area.

Anatomy

Where is vellus hair located?

It usually appears on your:

  • Arms, shoulders, legs, hips and buttocks.
  • Face, forehead, nose and earlobes.
  • Neck, chest, breasts, back, stomach and torso.
  • Tops of your knuckles on your fingers and toes.

What does vellus hair look like?

For most people, vellus hair is thin, fine and wispy. It’s usually shorter and lighter in color than terminal hair. It ranges in color from light blonde to dark brown.

The appearance of vellus hair and the amount you have depends on your genetics, age and hormone levels. Vellus hairs usually shorten or fall out as you age. Children and young adults have more vellus hair than older adults.

What happens to vellus hair during puberty?

During adolescent development (puberty), hormone levels rise. Your body’s endocrine system produces more of a type of hormone called androgens. This increase causes vellus hair on some parts of the body to change to terminal hair.

In people of all sexes, vellus hair changes to terminal hair in the pubic area and armpits during puberty. It becomes darker and coarser. When people assigned male at birth (AMAB) (and some people assigned female at birth [AFAB]) go through puberty, vellus hair on their upper lip and beard area darkens and gets thicker. It also grows longer on their upper back, chest, knuckles, arms and legs.

Conditions and Disorders

What conditions and disorders are associated with abnormal vellus hair growth?

Some medications, including chemotherapy drugs for cancer, cause terminal hair to fall out. These medications can also cause terminal hair to change to vellus hair. It may be possible for vellus hair to change back into terminal hair when you stop taking the medication.

In some cases, the amount and appearance of vellus hair can be a sign of a health condition or disorder. Conditions associated with abnormal vellus hair growth include:

  • Cushing’s syndrome, which causes excessive vellus hair growth on your face, neck, chest, belly, breasts and legs.
  • Eruptive vellus hair cysts, which result from a rare abnormality of the vellus hair follicles. These cysts develop as red or brown bumps, usually on your chest, forearms and trunk. Vellus hair cysts occur more often in adolescents and young adults.
  • Hirsutism, which causes coarse hair (terminal hair) to grow on parts of your body that usually have peach fuzz.
  • Hypertrichosis, a condition that causes excessive vellus hair growth all over your body and can result from a range of disorders and medications.
  • Male pattern baldness, hair loss that happens when a type of androgen hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) damages hair follicles. The damage causes terminal hair to turn into vellus hair, leading to hair thinning and loss. Hair loss in women can also result from hormone changes.

People with eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa) may grow a type of hair called lanugo on skin all over the body. This results from lack of nutrition. Lanugo is slightly thicker (and more fur-like) than vellus hair. It grows on babies in the womb as part of fetal development and falls out shortly after birth.

Care

How do I remove vellus hair (peach fuzz)?

Although there isn’t a medical reason to remove normal vellus hair, you can get rid of peach fuzz if you don’t like the way it looks. Several methods are effective at removing vellus hair. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best option for you. They include:

  • Depilatory creams and shaving, which remove hair at the surface of your skin. If you’re removing peach fuzz on your face, make sure you’re using depilatory creams made for the face. Depilatory creams for body hair are too strong to remove facial hair and can cause damage.
  • Dermaplaning, a procedure that removes the skin’s top layer.
  • Electrolysis, which removes hair permanently.
  • Threading, a technique that uses fine threads to pluck several vellus hairs out at the root.
  • Waxing, which uses hot, sticky wax and a cloth to pull hairs from their follicles.

Never try to bleach vellus hair. Bleaching can damage your skin and cause permanent changes in skin tone.

Will peach fuzz grow back thicker if I remove it?

Peach fuzz doesn’t grow back thicker after you remove it. New vellus hairs may seem to be coming in thicker than they were before, but they’re not. It just seems like the hairs are thicker after shaving or removing them because the top part of the new hair has to push through your skin’s surface as they grow back. They’ll feel softer as they grow.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Vellus hair, or peach fuzz, protects your skin and helps your body regulate its temperature. These fine, thin hairs do important work all over your body. If you’re not happy with how vellus hair looks, there are ways to remove it. Talk to your healthcare provider about the right option for you and whether you want to remove peach fuzz temporarily or permanently. If you notice an increase in vellus hair, see your healthcare provider. Excessive vellus hair growth can be a sign of a medical condition.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/24/2022.

References

  • American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Association. 7 Ways to Remove Unwanted Hair. (https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/hair/remove-unwanted-hair) Accessed 5/24/2022.
  • Anand P, Sarin N, Misri R, Khurana VK. Eruptive Vellus Hair Cyst: An Uncommon and Underdiagnosed Entity. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5803851/) Int J Trichology. 2018 Jan-Feb;10(1):31-33. Accessed 5/24/2022.
  • Merck Manuals (Consumer Version). Hairiness. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/hair-disorders/hairiness) Accessed 5/24/2022.
  • Saleh D, Yarrarapu SNS, Cook C. Hypertrichosis. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534854/) [Updated 2021 Jul 23]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Accessed 5/24/2022.

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