Something catches your eyes as you glance in the mirror. You lean in for a closer look, and that’s when you see it — a thicket of long nose hairs waving from your nostrils like party streamers.
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Questions immediately fill your head. When did those sprout? How did they get sooooo long? And can air still get through that forest of horrors?
First, relax. Nose hairs are a natural part of life. In fact, the inner surface of your nose has as many hair follicles as the top of your head. They’re in place for an important reason, too, says Michael Benninger, MD, an ear, nose and throat specialist.
So, let’s learn a little more about nose hairs from Dr. Benninger, plus get some tips on taming them.
The purpose of nose hair
Consider nose hairs a natural air filter. “As you breathe through your nostrils, the hair in your nose blocks and collects dust, pollen and other particles that could make their way to your lungs,” explains Dr. Benninger.
A thin layer of mucus coats nose hair, which helps those particles stick to the hair. These tiny bits of airborne debris eventually end up in the mucous blanket on the inner wall of your nasal passages.
From there, the trapped particles either get swallowed or blown out into a tissue or through a sneeze.
“Your nose hairs really do get the job done,” says Dr. Benninger.
Studies show that more nose hair can be a good thing, too. Researchers found that a dense layer of nose hair can actually decrease your risk of developing asthma in conjunction with hay fever (allergic rhinitis).
Why does nose hair grow so long?
Aging brings lots of interesting bodily developments — and that includes changes to your nose hair, notes Dr. Benninger.
Nose hairs naturally get longer and thicker as you get older. It’s part of a process called anagen sensitivity, or basically, long-term exposure to hormones in your body. (The same phenomena can fuel troll-doll hair in your ears and on your eyebrows.)
How to get rid of nose hair
Invest in some nose hair trimmers if you want to address a sudden bushiness in your schnoz. These may be special tiny scissors with safely rounded tips or a whirring gadget that amounts to a nostril weed whacker.
Note that this isn’t going to be a one-and-done job. The nose hair will grow back. (Fast fact: The average nose hair follicle grows over 6 feet during a person’s lifetime, which definitely explains why this is a concern.)
No yanking nose hairs!
Resist the urge to just pull nose hairs out. Plucking or waxing the hairs in your nostrils can lead to ingrown hairs and infections. A study of people with nasal vestibulitis, a common nasal infection, identified nose hair plucking as a main risk factor.
The bottom line on long nose hair? It’s more of a personal grooming matter than a medical issue. “Long nose hairs won’t hurt you,” assures Dr. Benninger. “But if you remove them incorrectly, they can cause problems.”