Can Pubic Hair Removal Cause Sexually Transmitted Infections?

Whether shaving, waxing, or lasering, pubic hair removal is prevalent among men and women. In the U.S., a group of people aged 18 to 65 was surveyed. Nearly 84% of the women reported they removed their pubic hair. And about 50% of the men stated they get rid of their pubic hair regularly. But could going bare down there increase your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection? Read on to find out.

Key takeaways:
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    So far, the research does not prove that removing pubic hair causes STIs. But pubic hair removal can cause skin injuries that may increase your odds of contracting an STI or other infections.
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    Having pubic hair is normal and has its benefits. Contrary to common belief, getting rid of pubic hair is not more hygienic.
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    Ultimately, to go pubic hair-free or not is a personal decision.
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    If you choose to remove your pubic hair, be mindful of the potential risks, take steps to reduce injuries and protect your health and talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns or questions.

Once done for cultural and religious reasons, hair removal has evolved to meet society’s perceptions of hygiene and sex appeal. More people are pursuing smooth, hair-free skin. Hair removal options range from temporary, like shaving and waxing, to permanent, like electrolysis.

So, researchers sought to understand if there is any connection between pubic hair removal and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Pubic hair grooming and STI: what did the research show?

After surveying 7,580 people in the U.S. – including both men and women – a 2017 study found a link between pubic hair removal and self-reported STIs.

The study participants were divided into groups based on pubic hair grooming habits. Pubic hair groomers were nearly twice as likely to report having had an STI compared to non-groomers. The risk of an STI was even more significant – four times as likely – for people who removed their pubic hair more than 11 times per year.

It’s important to note that, in this study, groomers also reported more sexual partners and more frequent sexual activities than non-groomers. Of the reported STIs, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, chlamydia, and HIV were prevalent among groomers compared to non-groomers.

That’s not to say that the study showed that pubic hair removal causes STIs. Although pubic hair removal and incidences of STIs appear to be positively associated, it may be because groomers tended to be more sexually active than people who did not shave their pubic hair.

In contrast, a 2019 smaller study of 214 women suggested that pubic hair grooming does not appear to be associated with a higher risk of contracting an STI. In this study, nearly 98% of the participants reported they had groomed their pubic hair at some point.

Those who completely removed all pubic hair every week for the past year accounted for about 54% of the participants. However, only about 10% of the participants tested positive for an STI, namely chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Still, the authors of both studies admitted the need for further investigation to better understand the link between pubic hair removal and STI.

What does this mean for you?

The studies are not completely conclusive. The investigators agree that the results cannot be used to prove that removing your pubic hair increases your risk of getting an STI.

But it’s known that STIs are mainly spread through exposure to infected bodily fluids during sexual contact. And some STIs are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. For example, you may become infected with STIs like herpes, HPV, or syphilis by coming in contact with an infected person’s sore.

Depending on the method used, pubic hair removal can cause tiny tears in the skin, scraping, irritation, and other injuries around your genitals. Viruses and bacteria can enter your body through small cuts in the skin. When skin injuries are present around your genitals during sexual activity, you are more prone to contracting or transmitting certain types of STIs.

Do we need pubic hair?

Pubic hair is normal. It starts growing during puberty and is an indication of sexual maturity.

Contrary to common belief, getting rid of your pubic hair is not more sanitary. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that baring all down there has any health benefits.

Scientists believe pubic hair serves many functions, including:

  • Reducing friction from rubbing during sex
  • Protecting the sensitive skin around your genitals
  • Absorbing sweat from your genitals
  • Regulating the microbes that naturally live in the vagina
  • Preventing dirt from entering your genitals

Are there risks associated with pubic hair removal?

Like most things in life, pubic hair removal carries risks. Injuries can happen during hair removal. Having a wound or even a tiny opening on the genital skin may make you susceptible to certain infections – STIs or others. For example, pubic hair removal can cause:

  • Small cuts, lacerations, or razor burns around your genitals from shaving
  • Burns from waxing
  • Redness of the skin, blistering, or scarring from laser hair removal
  • Skin irritation, genital rash, or itching after hair removal
  • Razor bumps caused by ingrown hairs
  • Boils around your genitals

Other risks include:

  • Pain from the hair removal process
  • Allergic reaction to the products used
  • Wounds that become infected
  • Infection from unsanitary hair removal methods

How to reduce your risk

If you prefer to go pubic hair-free, keep these tips in mind:

  • Avoid pubic hair removal right before having sex.
  • Avoid having sex if you have a cut or skin irritation.
  • Use a clean razor to shave.
  • Use a handheld mirror to help you see those hard-to-reach areas.
  • Avoid shaving with a dull razor to prevent nicks.
  • Avoid sharing hair removal products.
  • Use hair removal chemicals with care.
  • Choose a clean waxing salon that follows appropriate hygiene protocol.
  • Consult with a certified laser hair removal specialist or a board-certified dermatologist for laser hair removal.
  • Consider trimming your pubic hair instead of completely removing it.

If you choose to leave your pubes in place, there’s no special regimen required. Washing with soap and water and keeping the area dry is usually all you need.

Some people like it hairless down there, and others choose to let their natural selves be. It all comes down to personal preference. The data linking pubic hair removal and increased risk of STI is limited, and more research is needed.

Be mindful of the potential injuries that can arise from pubic hair removal, and take the appropriate safety precautions. Protect yourself by practicing safe sex and taking steps to prevent STIs. Seek medical attention immediately if you develop an infection or an allergic reaction, and don’t hesitate to discuss questions and concerns with a healthcare professional.

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