Blame porn, Sex & the City, your girlfriends who have a European Wax Center memberships, whatever. Most of us feel some sort of social pressure to either completely remove or at least tidy up our pubic hair. In fact, 84% of us engage in some form of pubic hair removal (be it with a razor, tweezer, laser, wax, or basic ol’ scissors), and 62% of us have—at least at one time or another—gone fully bare down there, according to a recent survey published in JAMA Dermatology. If you’re not constantly keeping your vulva hair-free, don’t worry: Less than 21 percent of study participants said they’ve gone completely bare 11 times or more (aka on the reg).
The overwhelming majority—59 percent—of women surveyed say they rid themselves of pubic hair for hygienic purposes. But a new survey published yesterday in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections concluded that ripping off all your pubic hair actually puts your health at risk. Agh, I know!
Here’s the scoop.
Researchers from the University of California San Francisco surveyed 7,580 women and men.
They defined “extreme” groomers as anyone who removes all their pubic hair more than 11 times per year and “high-frequency” groomers as anyone who does daily/weekly trimming.
Here’s what they found: Overall, 14% of people who groom their pubes had STIs over the course of their lifetime vs. just 8% of people who don’t. 18% of the “extreme” groomers had an STI history vs. 14% of people who aren’t as extreme about hair removal.
There are a couple different factors at play when it comes to the link between pubic hair removal and STIs, researchers say.
For one thing, when you use a razor or scissors or perhaps even abrasive waxing to go bear down there, you can knick or tear the delicate skin, which makes you more susceptible to cutaneous (passed via the skin) STIs, such as herpes, human papillomavirus, syphilis, and molluscum.
But the survey also noted that groomers tend to be more sexually active than non-groomers. (53% of ’em get it on weekly, while only 43% of non-groomers report a weekly bang sesh.) To that end, “individuals who groom may be more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors than those who do not groom,” the researchers note.
It bears noting that this survey can’t prove cause and effect.
I’m no scientist of course, but this finding may also be attributed to the fact that if you’re having more sex, you’re keeping your situation situated on a regular basis, and therefore, you’re just at a higher risk for STIs.
Ultimately, this doesn’t seem to be a case for swearing off those monthly Brazilians. But it is one for always having safe, protected sex. (Duh.)