Cultural standards of beauty influence people’s personal choices on appearance — including pubic hair. In some countries, less and less hair has become a “norm” (1). But these trends don’t always have your health (or physical comfort) in mind.
The media’s messaging about pubic hair is largely one-sided (2): Instagram has repeatedly taken down images of people with unshaven bikini lines and most commercials fail to show people’s natural state prior to hair removal. Social media censorship and inaccurate advertisements for shaving, waxing, laser and chemical hair removal perpetuate the idea that pubic and body hair is unacceptable.
Body shame, cleanliness, and perceptions of sexiness are common reasons people cite for pubic hair grooming (3). Specifically, a person who has received oral sex in the past month is more likely to be someone who removes their pubic hair (4). But choices around pubic hair are as diverse as bushes themselves. Many people go hairless or not for reasons that are specific to their unique bodies and lives.
But there are benefits to the bush. Physically speaking, pubic hair serves as a protective barrier to genital tissues, particularly the sensitive vaginal opening (5). It also serves as a buffer against friction that can lead to damaged skin (6).
Injuries caused by hair removal — including wounds, abscesses, rashes and ingrown hairs — are becoming more common. The number of visits to the emergency room because of pubic grooming jumped five-fold between 2002 and 2010 (7). These types of injuries prompt a greater likelihood of infection (5).
However you choose to groom (or not groom) your pubic hair, your choice reflects what makes you feel most comfortable and confident.
For those who do prefer less hair down there, trimming, shaving, waxing, sugar waxing, hair removal creams and laser hair removal are some common practices. Skin type, skin sensitivity, budget and the length of time you’d like the results to last for are all factors to consider when choosing the best hair removal method. No matter which method you choose, exfoliating using a gentle scrub beforehand will remove dead skin cells and reduce the chance of ingrown hairs.
In terms of sex, pubic hair is just one part of the experience for many people. Sexiness, confidence, satisfaction and pleasure result from many factors including sexual technique, comfort level, communication and plenty of other aspects.
Your body, your choice. Download Clue today to help inform decisions about your life and health.
- Toerien M, Wilkinson S. Gender and body hair: Constructing the feminine woman. InWomen’s Studies International Forum 2003 Aug 31 (Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 333–344). Pergamon.
- Trager JD. Pubic hair removal — pearls and pitfalls. Journal of pediatric and adolescent gynecology. 2006 Apr 30;19(2):117–23.
- Smolak L, Murnen SK. Gender, self-objectification and pubic hair removal. Sex Roles. 2011 Oct 1;65(7–8):506–17.
- Butler SM, Smith NK, Collazo E, Caltabiano L, Herbenick D. Pubic hair preferences, reasons for removal, and associated genital symptoms: comparisons between men and women. The journal of sexual medicine. 2015 Jan 1;12(1):48–58.
- Belluz J. The health risks of grooming your pubes, explained. 2016 Jul 3. Available from: http://www.vox.com/2016/7/3/12081118/pubic-hair-grooming-health. [Accessed 2016 Aug 4]
- Gibson E. Pubic hair has a job to do — stop shaving and leave it alone. 2012 Aug 7. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/07/pubic-hair-has-job-stop-shaving. [Accessed 2016 Aug 4].
- Glass AS, Bagga HS, Tasian GE, Fisher PB, McCulloch CE, Blaschko SD, McAninch JW, Breyer BN. Pubic hair grooming injuries presenting to US emergency departments. Urology. 2012 Dec 31;80(6):1187–91.