Pubic hair and sexual health
Ancient Egyptian women used copper razors or a sticky sugar substance to remove their pubic hair. The ancient Greeks used tweezers or a naked flame. Meanwhile, in Crusader Jerusalem, Arab barbers were scandalised when the French lords requested that their wives’ vulvas be shaved hairless.
There’s a whole other article about the cultural history of pubic hair, which is especially relevant in our current age of ubiquitous pornography and social media pressure. The most important question for us is: “What’s healthiest?”
Let’s start with biology. We have pubic hair for a reason, just like we have eyebrows or eyelashes. Pubic hair lessens friction during sex by preventing skin-on-skin contact. This in itself may help to prevent the transmission of some infections.
Like eyelashes or nasal hair, pubic hair also traps dirt, debris and other micro-organisms with the aim of keeping them away from more sensitive zones. Hair follicles additionally produce sebum, a natural oil that works against bacteria.
OK, but not everyone wants rampant undergrowth. Just as we take care of our skin, nails and other bodily hair, we like to keep things aesthetic down there – whether that means trimming, shaving, plucking or waxing. Some people also report increased sexual sensation without hair – which is a definite plus.
Is pubic hair removal a bad thing? An unhealthy thing? Well, it depends.
Risky pubic grooming
Genitals are sensitive; we can all agree on that. Once you start introducing sharp implements and various foreign substances to your pleasure areas, you increase the risk of injury and possible infection. A 2017 study from US body JAMA Dermatology revealed that 25.6% of adults sustained injuries when shaving and waxing – most often cuts, burns and rashes.
It’s true that hair removal can irritate your skin, which in turn can lead to infections such as cellulitis and folliculitis. More simply, you might slip with the scissors, tweezers or razor in an area that is often warm and moist – a perfect environment for infections to thrive. Rarely, hair removal may lead to boils in the genital area.
Hair removal and STIs
Can removing your public hair lead to an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? The evidence is contradictory. A BMJ study of 2017 suggested that there was a correlation between regular grooming and self-reported incidences of STIs. Meanwhile, the New York Times in 2019 quoted a university study in which female participants recorded no increased risk of chlamydia or gonorrhoea as a result of pubic grooming.
This is kind of like the perpetual debate about whether red wine is good for you. One year, the scientists tell us that it is (polyphenols etc.) and the next year it’s not (alcohol is a poison etc.). The problem is: you just want a glass of red wine – or three – and not worry about it. The same goes for chocolate and coffee, while we’re counting.
The good news is that you should be able to enjoy whatever pubic grooming you like – bikini, Brazilian, French or Hollywood – if you’re careful about it. Here are some top tips for healthy pubic management:
- Wash first – hands and genitals. This will help prevent the transmission of bacteria.
- Disinfect your razors, scissors or tweezers with alcohol and/or change blades often if you shave a lot. Make sure all of the tools you need for the job are disinfected. Remember to clean these instruments afterwards, too.
- Use a handheld mirror, potentially with a magnifying side so you can really see what you’re doing. It might sound obvious, but if you wear glasses to see things up close – wear your glasses!
- Make time and take it slow. You don’t want to do this stuff thirty seconds before a date.
- Keep the skin moist and lathered if shaving. Your skin should ideally be wet, so consider a good shaving foam or gel. Soap suds will work if there’s nothing else, but try not to get these inside the labia.
- Shave hair in the direction it grows to avoid irritation.
- Moisturize afterwards using a natural product.
- Avoid tight underwear for a few days afterwards to let your area breathe.
- Generally, speaking, exfoliate gently and often using a sponge or other very light abrasive.
- Consider that doing the job yourself may be easier and safer than trusting an unknown professional, provided you follow the rules. This is not necessarily true for hot waxes, which could be dangerous to use alone at home.
Full bush happiness
Yeah, that’s all fine, but you prefer the natural look – the kind of thing Charles Darwin would approve of. Why not? It’s still basically the same approach to staying in perfect working order. Just follow these basic guidelines for luxuriant health:
- Wash your pubic hair with warm, soapy water when you take a shower
- Take care not to let soap or scented bath oils inside your sensitive membranes, which can cause a pH imbalance.
- After using the toilet, always wipe from front to back.
- If necessary, use a clean, damp towel or tissue to refresh your pubic area between baths or showers.
- Always dry your pubic hair after cleaning.
Seek help if unsure
If you’re in any doubt about an unusual symptom (see the list below), you can contact us for a quick and easy at-home test kit with results in 2-3 days from receipt at the lab. Order here (link).
Possible symptoms to watch out for:
- Bumps, sores or rashes
- Itching and/or burning
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Unusual vaginal, anal or penile discharge
- Bleeding (other than your period)
- Skin growths around the genitals or anus
- A rash
- Blisters and sores around genitals or anus
If you are experiencing symptoms of an STI or feel you may need to get tested, visit here and order a home test today.