What Is the Purpose of Nose Hair?

Nose hair filters the solid particles in the air.
The respiratory system.
Nose hair clippers are often used to groom nose hair.
Nose hair adds humidity to inhaled air.
Article Details
  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Nose hair does indeed have a purpose, and it is not to keep the manufacturers of trimmers in business. Hair in the nose is one of the body's first lines of defense against harmful environmental pathogens such as germs, fungus, and spores. When a person inhales unfiltered air through his or her nose, he or she is also inhaling whatever solid particles are contained in that air. The hair contained in each nostril helps to trap the larger particles in a sticky layer of mucus. This is why hygienists discourage people from completely eliminating their nose hair while grooming.

Another purpose for nose hair is to provide additional humidity to the inhaled air. As the air passes through the nasal passages, the mucus and hair provide heat and moisture. Humidity is an important factor for the rest of the respiratory system, such as the larynx and lungs. Hair in the form of tiny cilia also draw solid particles towards the interface between the nose and throat. Harmful debris is generally directed towards the back of the throat and esophagus for swallowing, while the filtered air continues towards the larynx and lungs.

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While excessive nose hair may be considered unsightly, it should never be completely removed. Those who choose to remove almost all of the hair in the nose may find themselves very susceptible to allergy attacks, sinusitis and respiratory infections. Older people may also want to minimize their hair trimming because it often takes longer for the clipped hairs to grow back. Nose hair serves the same filtering purpose as ear hair, both of which may become a little overgrown as time goes by.

Hair in the nose can be safely trimmed with specialized rotary clippers or mechanical trimmers, but great care should be used to prevent infection or irritation from ingrown hairs. Excessive hair can be trimmed until it falls below the line of the nostrils, but any aggressive trimming inside the nasal cavities should be avoided. Dryness in the nasal passages can be temporarily relieved through the use of nasal sprays, but the natural balance of mucus and functional nose hair should be maintained as often as possible.

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Discuss this Article

anon936183
Post 17

I too recently plucked some nose hair, but the length on some of them were just incredible one was at least an inch. I really can breathe a whole lot better, but now I'm worried I've taken too much.

anon924185
Post 16

I tend to just yank them out with my two-finger motions. After a good clean picking of the nostril I find I breathe better. But today on the radio, I heard something about bacterial infections in the brain caused by pulling out nostril hair.

Also, do you think there is possibility they were used like cats use their whiskers to see in the dark or balance?

anon333943
Post 15

To all the people writing that nose hairs cannot possibly filter the air: it does not work the same way as the filter in your vacuum cleaner, but it does work.

The nose hair creates turbulence so it is, in fact, very likely that any dust, bacteria and so on will hit either the wall of the nose or the hairs where it will be stuck in the mucus.

So it is actually a very smart filter, doing its job while leaving a lot of open space to allow good air flow. Compare that to the one in your vacuum cleaner that needs a rather powerful (compared to your lungs) pump to push air through it.

anon320957
Post 14

I have been using tweezers for a long time now to remove nose hair. I find that this works well and if it grows back, I keep pulling.

anon313226
Post 13

I don't buy it. Nose hair increases as you get older. Plus, men have thicker nose hair than women. So does that mean women and children don't need nose hair, but only men do? Do men get fewer allergy attacks than women and children?

anon242765
Post 11

I find nose hair to be useful but it's bad when it sticks out I use nail clippers to trim my nose hair.

anon178172
Post 10

I have never met anybody that has nose hair thick enough to help prevent spores, fungus, or germs from entering, or to raise humidity or heat the air. Perhaps the author of this story is talking about Neanderthals or perhaps Australopithecus, because you would have to do some serious digging back into the evolution of humans to find a time when nose hair could possibly be thick enough to have these beneficial effects.

anon156546
Post 9

I've been waxing my nose for years now. I breathe great. If you're living in cold weather, your nose runs and the nose hairs get frozen together.

anon121085
Post 8

Your article is incorrect, in that, there are far too few nasal hairs to provide any real filtration. To be effective they would have to be much finer and thicker and the result would be difficulty in gaining enough breath under stress conditions. (medical scientist)

anon67521
Post 7

Once plucked, do nose hairs grow back; and, does the growth/regrowth rate differ between mid-aged men and women?

pollick
Post 6

The sense of smell depends largely on chemical particles reaching the olfactory nerves and triggering a response from the brain. A lack of nose hairs or cilia could allow unfiltered materials to reach this sensitive area, but unless the olfactory nerves themselves are damaged or missing, a person's overall sense of smell should not be affected.

landy
Post 4

can the absence of cilia in the nose be the cause of a person not being able to smell?

anon3185
Post 3

Do nose hairs contribute to the smell factor?

anon3178
Post 2

There is no cilia in my nose. I have had 5 sinus surgeries. At present I am using Amphotericin B irrigation along with a Clindamicin/Tobramicin irrigation twice daily. Could the lack of cilia be related to the surgeries or the irrigations?

anon2397
Post 1

Are nose hair in any way helpful in increasing the percentage of oxygen and subsequently decreasing the percentage of nitrogen and CO2 in air reaching our lungs?

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