shaving pubic hair can increase STD risk

Pubic Hair Removal May Increase STDs

If your personal grooming habits include “going bare down there” beware – a new study finds those who indulge in a Brazilian bikini wax or other forms of grooming pubic hair are three to four times more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) including herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV) or syphilis.

The study wanted to find out if there is a relationship between contracting an STD and pubic hair grooming and removal as this form of personal grooming has increased in popularity among both women and men. Over 7,500 residents from the United States, aged 18 to 65 were surveyed about their grooming practices, sexual behavior and history of sexually transmitted diseases.

Results from the study showed individuals who frequently groomed or completely removed all pubic hair had a higher association of getting an STD. Even though the study was not able to prove that pubic hair grooming caused STD infections, there appears to be a link between the two.

Statistics from the study showed 75% of participants had groomed their pubic hair before with more women (84%) than men (66%) who have tried it at least once.

Participants classified as “extreme groomers” removed all pubic hair more than 11 times a year. “High-frequency” groomers trimmed their pubic hair either daily or weekly. Results showed “extreme groomers” quadrupled their risk of contracting a STD while “high-frequency” groomers were not far behind having a 3.5-fold increased risk of STD infections.

Why Pubic Hair Removal Increases STD Risk

There could be several reasons behind why those who go to extremes grooming their pubic hair have a greater risk of STD infections which include:

  • Removing hair from the pubic area can cause small cuts or openings on the skin increasing the risk of infections.
  • Waxing can cause inflammation of the hair follicles.
  • If a person already has any sores or bumps from an STD and removes hair, this could spread the infection to a sexual partner.
  • One purpose of pubic hair is to create a barrier or cushioning distance between both partners. When the hair is removed, friction increases due to skin-to-skin contact, increasing the risk of infections.
  • If the hair removal technique is unhygienic, this can directly spread a STD infection.
  • Removal of the hair probably causes mild trauma to the skin making it more susceptible to the infections when exposed.
  • It is theorized that people who take the time to groom their pubic area, may have higher levels of sexual activity with several partners putting them at a higher risk for a STD.

How to Reduce STD Risk

Once a person has been practicing removing hair from the pubic area, they may be unwilling to let it grow back. If this gives them self-confidence or they simply prefer the look of going bare, there are things one can do to make it safer and to reduce any possible risk of a STD:

  • Do not have sex soon after waxing or shaving. Let the skin have some time to heal preventing any damage from skin-to-skin contact.
  • If you have any symptoms of an STD, avoid shaving or waxing.
  • Always use a clean razor to shave or choose a waxing salon with a good reputation for sanitation and hygiene.
  • Trimming pubic hair instead of complete hair removal is another option. Carefully trim with scissors, avoiding damaging or disturbing the skin, leaving enough hair intact reducing friction with your partner.

One advantage of those who choose removal of pubic hair is a much reduced risk of pubic lice. Those who do not groom have double the risk of pubic lice. Pubic lice require hair to breed and without any hair, they can’t do that and so the risk drops.

Photo credit:

David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor

View posts by David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team. Learn more at Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

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