What We Know About Navel Lint

We know a lot about the planet on which we live — from the tiniest of sea creatures to the largest of volcanoes, and everything in between. Including navel lint.

• A chemist in Austria discovered a type of body hair that traps stray pieces of lint and draws them into the navel. He made his discovery after studying 503 pieces of lint from his own belly button. Chemical analysis revealed the pieces of lint were not made up of only cotton from clothing. Wrapped up in the lint were also flecks of dead skin, fat, sweat and dust.

• Scaly structure of the hair enhances the “abrasion of minuscule fibers from the shirt” and directs the lint towards the belly button. The hair’s scales act like a kind of barbed hooks. Abdominal hair often seems to grow in concentric circles around the navel.

• Contrary to expectations, navel lint appears to migrate upwards from underwear rather than downwards from shirts or tops. The migration process is the result of the frictional drag of body hair on underwear, which drags stray fibers up into the navel.

• Women experience less navel lint because of their finer and shorter body hairs. Conversely, older men experience it more because of their coarser and more numerous hairs.

• Navel lint’s characteristic blue-gray tint is likely the averaging of the colors of fibers present in clothing — the same color as clothes dryer lint.

• The existence of navel lint is entirely harmless, and requires no corrective action.