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Vellus hair is short, thin, light-colored, and barely noticeable
hair Hair is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis. Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals. The human body, apart from areas of glabrous skin, is covered in follicles which produce thick terminal and fi ...
that develops on most of a human’s body during
childhood A child ( : children) is a human being between the stages of birth and puberty, or between the developmental period of infancy and puberty. The legal definition of ''child'' generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger ...
. Exceptions include the lips, the back of the ear, the palm of the
hand A hand is a prehensile, multi-fingered appendage located at the end of the forearm or forelimb of primates such as humans, chimpanzees, monkeys, and lemurs. A few other vertebrates such as the koala (which has two opposable thumbs on each ...
, the sole of the foot, some external
genital A sex organ (or reproductive organ) is any part of an animal or plant that is involved in sexual reproduction. The reproductive organs together constitute the reproductive system. In animals, the testis in the male, and the ovary in the female, ...
areas, the
navel The navel (clinically known as the umbilicus, commonly known as the belly button or tummy button) is a protruding, flat, or hollowed area on the abdomen at the attachment site of the umbilical cord. All placental mammals have a navel, although ...
, and
scar A scar (or scar tissue) is an area of fibrous tissue that replaces normal skin after an injury. Scars result from the biological process of wound repair in the skin, as well as in other organs, and tissues of the body. Thus, scarring is a na ...
tissue. The density of hair – the number of
hair follicle The hair follicle is an organ found in mammalian skin. It resides in the dermal layer of the skin and is made up of 20 different cell types, each with distinct functions. The hair follicle regulates hair growth via a complex interaction between h ...
s per
area Area is the quantity that expresses the extent of a region on the plane or on a curved surface. The area of a plane region or ''plane area'' refers to the area of a shape or planar lamina, while ''surface area'' refers to the area of an open ...
of skin – varies from person to person. Each strand of vellus hair is usually less than 2 mm (1/13 inch) long and the follicle is not connected to a
sebaceous gland A sebaceous gland is a microscopic exocrine gland in the skin that opens into a hair follicle to secrete an oily or waxy matter, called sebum, which lubricates the hair and skin of mammals. In humans, sebaceous glands occur in the greatest numbe ...
. Vellus hair is most easily observed on children and adult women, who generally have less
terminal hair In humans, terminal hair is a variant of hair that is thick and long such as what grows on the scalp, as compared with vellus hair, colloquially known as peach fuzz, growing elsewhere.Marks, James G; Miller, Jeffery (2006)''Lookingbill and Ma ...
to obscure it. Vellus hair is not lanugo hair. Lanugo hair is a much thicker type of hair that normally grows only on
fetuses A fetus or foetus (; plural fetuses, feti, foetuses, or foeti) is the unborn offspring that develops from an animal embryo. Following embryonic development the fetal stage of development takes place. In human prenatal development, fetal devel ...
. Vellus hair is differentiated from the more visible terminal or
androgenic hair Body hair, or androgenic hair, is the terminal hair that develops on the human body during and after puberty. It is differentiated from the head hair and less visible vellus hair, which is much finer and lighter in color. The growth of androg ...
, which develops only during and after
puberty Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. It is initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads: the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy. ...
, usually to a greater extent on men than it does on women. The
Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of the ...
uses the word ''vellus'' to designate "a fleece" or "wool." Vellus hair is sometimes colloquially referred to as peach fuzz, due to its resemblance to the downy epidermic growths on the
peach The peach (''Prunus persica'') is a deciduous tree first domesticated and cultivated in Zhejiang province of Eastern China. It bears edible juicy fruits with various characteristics, most called peaches and others (the glossy-skinned, non ...
fruit.


Development

Vellus hair replaces lanugo hair on a human fetus at 36 to 40 weeks of
gestation Gestation is the period of development during the carrying of an embryo, and later fetus, inside viviparous animals (the embryo develops within the parent). It is typical for mammals, but also occurs for some non-mammals. Mammals during pre ...
. The growth cycle of vellus hair is different from the growth cycle of
terminal hair In humans, terminal hair is a variant of hair that is thick and long such as what grows on the scalp, as compared with vellus hair, colloquially known as peach fuzz, growing elsewhere.Marks, James G; Miller, Jeffery (2006)''Lookingbill and Ma ...
. At
puberty Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. It is initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads: the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy. ...
,
androgen An androgen (from Greek ''andr-'', the stem of the word meaning "man") is any natural or synthetic steroid hormone that regulates the development and maintenance of male characteristics in vertebrates by binding to androgen receptors. This incl ...
hormones cause much of the vellus hair to turn into
terminal hair In humans, terminal hair is a variant of hair that is thick and long such as what grows on the scalp, as compared with vellus hair, colloquially known as peach fuzz, growing elsewhere.Marks, James G; Miller, Jeffery (2006)''Lookingbill and Ma ...
and stimulate the growth of new hair in the armpit and the pubic area. In men, this change in vellus hair also occurs on the face (beard) and the body.


Function

Vellus hair provides both thermal insulation and cooling for the body. This insulation regulates body temperature: the vellus hair functions like a wick for sweat. While a skin pore is open, sweat wets a strand of vellus hair. The sweat on the external part of the strand evaporates. More sweat wets the external part of the vellus strand and then evaporates. This process is called
perspiration Perspiration, also known as sweating, is the production of fluids secreted by the sweat glands in the skin of mammals. Two types of sweat glands can be found in humans: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. The eccrine sweat glands are distrib ...
.


Clinical significance


Overgrowth

The unusual growth of vellus hair can be a side effect of some types of disease. An abundance of vellus hair can develop from an increase in the production of the
cortisol Cortisol is a steroid hormone, in the glucocorticoid class of hormones. When used as a medication, it is known as hydrocortisone. It is produced in many animals, mainly by the ''zona fasciculata'' of the adrenal cortex in the adrenal gland. ...
hormone in a person with
Cushing's syndrome Cushing's syndrome is a collection of signs and symptoms due to prolonged exposure to glucocorticoids such as cortisol. Signs and symptoms may include high blood pressure, abdominal obesity but with thin arms and legs, reddish stretch marks, ...
.
Anorexia nervosa Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight, food restriction, body image disturbance, fear of gaining weight, and an overpowering desire to be thin. ''Anorexia'' is a term of Gre ...
increases vellus hair. Vellus hair can also be found in men with male pattern baldness or with hirsutism. Hormonal fluctuations in pregnant women cause foetal vellus hair to change to terminal hair. The terminal hair is usually shed after the birth of the baby upon the return of the hormones to the normal levels. * Trichostasis spinulosa – A tuft of vellus hair located in a keratinous sheath is diagnostic. * Frontal fibrosing alopecia, a clinical variant of lichen planopilaris, is a female scarring alopecia characterized by progressive recession of the frontotemporal hairline. It is characterised by the absence of vellus hair in the hairline. *
Eruptive vellus hair cyst Eruptive vellus hair cysts (or EVHC) are small lesions that occur most often in the chest wall, abdomen and extremities, often with a crusted surface. EVHC may occur randomly, or it can be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. The condition aff ...
(EVHC), a benign dermatologic condition in children and young adults.


Undergrowth

The following conditions may affect growth of the vellus hairs: * Perioral dermatitis – the hairs may be completely absent in affected
facial A facial is a family of skin care treatments for the face, including steam, exfoliation (physical and chemical), extraction, creams, lotions, facial masks, peels, and massage. They are normally performed in beauty salons, but are also a c ...
areas.


References

{{Human hair Hair anatomy