Thursday, June 3, 2010

Apple #460: Belly Button Lint

Whew, that was exciting.  Most of you regular readers probably had no idea this was going on, but on June 1, your lowly Daily Apple got enormous amounts of traffic. 

The image is kind of small for you to see the numbers, but in one day, I got over 35,000 hits.  That's as much or sometimes more visits than I get in entire months.

Tropical storm Agatha resulted in a huge sinkhole opening up in Guatemala City.  Tons of people wanted to see pictures of sinkholes, and they got referred to my entry on sinkholes (which I've updated with photos of that sinkhole in Guatemala, by the way).

As you can see, the excitement has dropped off now, though ye olde Dailee Apple is still getting more hits than she used to.

So, back to business.  As you'll recall, my last entry was about bikinis.  Naturally, if you're going to slip on a bikini for the summer, I know you'll be worried about that greatest of bikini fauxs pas, belly button lint.  (Also, regular reader Mark wanted to know about the BBL).

About 66% of us get belly button lint.  That means 4 of these 6 bellies get the lint.
(Photo from Yahoo! Shine)

  • As far as I can tell, only two people have conducted any sort of scientific or even somewhat scientific study of belly button lint.  Yes, I'm being serious.  
  • The first guy's research was more anecdotal and fun-spirited, while the second guy conducted his with a much more traditionally scientific approach.  But the first guy asked more people for responses so he had a larger pool of subjects.  
  • Still, both "studies" were fairly limited in scope, so the belly button lint "facts" I'm presenting are actually more like generalizations based on the limited research these two guys have done.  It is very possible that your belly button lint experience may deviate from these generalities.  That said, here's what they both discovered:
  • Belly button lint (BBL) is created when the hairs around your navel scrape bits of fluff off your clothes.  The whorl-like pattern of the hair around the navel sort of channels the lint into the center of the vortex, which is your belly button.
  • The BBL stays there because of other, somewhat less attractive stuff that's hanging out in your navel: sweat, little flakes of dead skin, and dust.  The sweat acts as a sort of glue and helps the lint form into a collective mass and that hangs out in the navel until one day you notice it and scoop it out.
  • Generally speaking, the hairier you are, the more BBL you'll get.  But, based on the responses the first guy got, if you have a whole lot of hair, it will act as a barrier and won't let the BBL enter the navel in the first place.

This probably qualifies as lint-barrier hair.
(Photo by tinkerjames on Flickr)

    • But up to that point, more hair means more BBL.  So this also means that men tend to get BBL more often than women do.
    • Since we all tend to get hairier as we get older (every place except the top of the head), this also means we'll all be more likely to get BBL as we age.
    • Aside: I have to differ with this statement, though.  I remember having BBL when I was a kid, but I haven't had any in years.  I have no idea why this is so.

    This guy is probably a good candidate for moderate BBL.  Except he's not wearing a shirt and his underwear is below his navel.  But if he were wearing more clothes, I bet he'd get the linty navel.
    (Photo from Alangene on Flickr)

      • Also, since people with innies have a larger reservoir to hold the BBL, they'll be more likely to get it than people with outies.
      • Seeming to defy the laws of gravity, more BBL travels up from below than it does down from above. I suspect this is because most of us have innies, and innies have a little overhang which may keep top-down lint from falling in while helping bottom-up lint to get trapped there. 

      An innie.  See how that overhang would discourage lint from dropping in there?
      (Photo by kissofclementine on Photobucket)

      • This also means that people with a snail trail -- the path of hair leading between your belly button and your specials -- are more likely to get BBL.
      • Since BBL is made up primarily of fibers from your clothes, the color will be an average representation of what you wear.  For most people, the color is nearly always a bluish gray.  I'm thinking this means we wear a lot of jeans.
      • Some people have noticed that the amount of BBL increases with their level of activity.  This makes sense because if you're moving around a lot, your hairs are going to do a lot more scraping against your clothes.  Form-fitting clothes may also be a contributing factor for the same reason.
      • One woman reported that an increase in BBL was a good indicator of when she was gaining weight.  Perhaps the shape of her belly button changed as she gained weight and so it trapped and held more lint?  Regardless of the exact cause, she said when she noticed more BBL, she'd take the hint and get to the gym more often, and then the amount of BBL would drop off again.
      • But generally speaking, research guy #1 found no correlation between people's builds and whether or not they have BBL.
      • If you get a lot of BBL and you wish you didn't, shaving around the belly button might be the logical thing to do.  But apparently it is not a guarantee.  3% of people who said they had very little or no belly button hair said they still get BBL.
      • If shaving doesn't work, you may want to consider getting your navel pierced.  Most people with navel piercings report little or no BBL.  Which is a good thing because I'd imagine that could get pretty icky if they did.

      Look, Ma!  No lint!
      (Photo sourced from Tales of the Abyss)

      A Few Belly Button Facts
      • Your belly button is your first scar.
      • Belly buttons are as unique as fingerprints.
      • All mammals have belly buttons.
      • Barbie dolls do not have belly buttons.

      These girls are excited because "We've all got belly buttons!"
      (Photo from Popular Nostalgia)

      • Some women find the area around the belly button to be very erogenous.  When some men are stimulated around their navel, all it does is make them nauseous.
      • The formation of belly buttons has always sort of mystified me because what was sticking out winds up turning inward.  That's a pretty amazing transformation.
      • After you were born and the doctor cut the umbilical cord connecting you to your mother, in time, that umbilical cord shrank and dropped off.
      • Within the inner workings of the umbilical cord, some of the umbilical cord structures turned into tendons and ligaments inside your abdomen.  The external part of arteries that used to lead to the placenta fell away but internally, they grew downward and connected to your bladder and other internal organs.
      • The end point of the umbilical cord seals itself and, for most people, usually forms a depression in your stomach -- an innie.  The base of the belly button is attached to the muscle wall of your abdomen.
      • Sometimes the leftover umbilical scar tissue does not all drop off but stays around.  Your belly button seals itself off, but between the seal and the place where it connects to the muscle wall is that extra scar tissue.  This is what makes outie belly buttons stick out.
      • Nobody knows for sure why some people wind up with outies while others get innies.  There's a lot of speculation about possible hernias or doctors cutting off the umbilical cord wrong, but nobody's been able to say for sure whether there's any one thing that causes outies.  I suspect that, like so many other things having to do with belly buttons, they're just something that happens.
      • Estimates are that 90% of people in the world have innies and 10% have outies.  If you have an outie, don't feel bad.  At the very least, this means you are far less likely to get belly button lint.

      This is Kimbo Slice.  He is a mixed martial arts fighter who has fought in underground street fights and on Ultimate Fighter.  I dare you to make fun of his outie.
      (Photo from drollgirl)

      Dr. Karl, The Great Bellybutton Lint Survey
      Go Ask Alice! Belly button lint
      Patrick Sawer, "Revealed: The secrets of belly button fluff," The Telegraph, February 28, 2009
      Scientist Solves Mystery of Belly-Button Lint, FoxNews, March 4, 2009
      BBC, The Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything, Belly Button Fluff
      WiseGeek, Why Do Some People Have Innie Belly Buttons While Others Have Outies?


      1. Thanks, Apple Lady, for the great post! I thought it was cool and informative without being gross. You're the best.

      2. This poem isn't specifically about BBL, but it was inspired by lint:

      3. Tony Morrison wrote in one of her books (I don't remember the title) about a woman who did not have a belly button. It was always in the back of my head to check if this is possible, but I keep forgetting. Is it actually possible?

      4. The novel you're thinking of, Maria, is Song of Solomon. No, it is not possible for any human -- or indeed any mammal -- to be without a belly button.

        That is, unless you allow for plastic surgery to get involved. One supermodel tried to have her belly button removed, or I'm not sure what her goal was with that, but it turned out looking really bizarre.

      5. When I saw Kimbo Slice had an outie, I figured that must mean outies are for wusses, 'cause I could whup Kimbo with one hand tied behind my back. But then I rememberd that I have an outie. So, never mind.
        An anonymous Californian

      6. Belly button as first scar; that's an interesting observation and would make a great trivia question.

      7. Thanks apple lady for the info and the title of the book.
        Karolina Kurkova's belly button does look weird.


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