“Pubic hair removal naturally irritates and inflames the hair follicles left behind, leaving microscopic open wounds.” – Dr. Emily Gibson featured in The Guardian
A new study that surveyed over 7,500 Americans who either removed or “landscaped” their nether regions were 3.5-4 times more likely to contract HPV, syphilis or herpes while compared to those who let things go au natural. Here’s the scary part – although scientists now know pubic grooming greatly increases a person’s risk of developing sexually transmitted infections (STIs), they don’t know exactly why.
Some researchers speculate that largest demographic of people removing their pubic hair is younger (18-34 year olds). These people are generally more sexually active and could have more partners than those who were a little older and not on board with the personal landscaping culture. Also, many in the younger generations believe that removing the hair is much more sanitary than leaving things grow wild.
“At least once a week I hear from a young woman that she thinks it’s wrong to have pubic hair, that it’s meant to be removed”.
Dr. Jennifer Gunter, OBGYN
Others are leaning towards the actual hair removal process being the cause of the issue. When a person shaves or waxes there can be small cuts or skin irritation that can open the flood gates to bacteria and pathogens.
Not everyone is on board with the hair removal trend. Actress Cameron Diaz has vocally opposed the practice of permanent hair removal. In her book, she dedicated an entire section to “In Praise Of Pubes” and wrote about keeping a “lovely curtain of pubic hair’ that ‘surrounds that glorious, delicate flower of yours”. She also described pubic hair as “pretty draping” and explained how it is “enticing” and “mysterious”.
To reduce the chance of infection from hair removal, safe practices are advised. If shaving, shave in the direction of hair growth as opposed to going against it like how you would shave your legs. This usually results in fewer cuts. Also be sure to use shaving cream or a thick lather of soap and a clean razor blade that is regularly replaced to avoid having to repeatedly shave over the same area. (And never shave razors… ever!)
62% of American women remove all of their pubic hair while 84% do at least some regular grooming.
If waxing, either by yourself or at a salon remember that hygiene is a top priority. Wax sticks should never be dipped twice into the wax pot. Similarly, wax should be replaced between uses and never shared. Wax needs to be a certain temperature depending on the product so check it carefully before burning your skin.
Any cuts or nicks should immediately be thoroughly cleansed with antibacterial cleansers. Do not go swimming for 24 hours after hair removal as the pores will be open and more vulnerable to infection. Also, take your time! 3% of all genital related injuries seen in the Emergency Room are due to pubic grooming! The incidence of which increased fivefold from 2002-2010.
Dr. Benjamin Breyer, a urologist from the University of California suggests that Doctors should discuss safe sex practices with their patients who regularly groom. If their patients are engaging in frequent sexual activity, particularly with different partners, they might suggest taking time off between hair removal to let the skin recover and any nicks, cuts, or tears caused from the shaving or waxing to properly heal before engaging in any bedroom activities. Permanent hair removal methods such as laser might also be worth saving up for if grooming is a regular part of your hygiene routine.