Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
Why do our hairs stand on end when we're cold? © Acute Graphics

Why do our hairs stand on end when we're cold?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

Piloerection is hair-raising business...

Asked by: Toby Graham, Shrewsbury

Advertisement

When we’re chilly, tiny muscles contract at the base of each hair to make them stand on end, distorting the skin to create goosebumps. All mammals share this hair-raising trait, called piloerection, of using hair or fur to trap an insulating air layer. The process may have helped to keep our hairy ancestors warm, but today’s human body hair is too fine to be of much use. Shivering does a far better job of warming us up through rapid muscle contractions.

Why do women feel the cold more than men? © Getty Images

Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun facts.

Authors

Dr Emma Davies is a science writer and editor with a PhD in food chemistry from the University of Leeds. She writes about all aspects of chemistry, from food and the environment to toxicology and regulatory science.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content