a 3.5-fold increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, the results showed.
The researchers speculated that infections might spread more easily due to tiny cuts, scrapes and skin tears that result from grooming.
Dr. Dennis Fortenberry is a professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and current president of the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association. He says, “I would probably lean toward the idea that the grooming itself causes mild trauma to the skin, and essentially makes the skin more susceptible to the organisms when they’re exposed.”
On the other hand, Osterberg notes, it might be that people who groom more often engage in more sex and are at higher risk for a sexually transmitted infection.
“Grooming may be a proxy for higher levels of sexual activity,” he adds.
Overall, groomers tended to be younger, more sexually active, and to have had more sexual partners than those who don’t groom their pubic hair, the survey found. Extreme groomers had a higher number of sexual partners than any other category of groomers.
But, the researchers still found an 80 percent increased risk of sexually transmitted infections in anyone who reported having ever groomed at all, even after adjusting for the person’s age and their lifetime number of sexual partners.
There’s one bright spot for regular groomers — a reduced risk of pubic lice, the investigators found.
People who never or rarely groom their pubic hair have double the risk of pubic lice, the study authors reported.
“That’s how pubic lice end up breeding, in the hair itself,” Osterberg says. “You actually decrease your risk for lice by grooming.”
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How to safely remove pubic hair
If removing pubic hair is important to you, there are a few steps you can take to make it safer and reduce the potential risks:
- Avoid shaving or waxing right before you have sex. That should give any damage you cause to your skin time to heal.
- Avoid shaving or waxing when you have any STI symptoms. This reduces the likelihood of self-inoculation.
- Always use a clean razor to shave.
- Choose a waxing salon that is good about proper hygiene.
If you are okay with leaving some pubic hair intact, you can also try trimming pubic hair with scissors to avoid damaging or disturbing your skin. This will also reduce skin-to-skin contact between you and your partner. Research on post-surgical infections suggests that clipping is less likely than shaving to lead to skin infections.
Choosing to remove pubic hair or not is a personal choice and the method you choose to remove hair is also completely up to you. No matter what you choose, it’s important to be diligent and take the appropriate steps to protect your health. If you have questions or concerns, contact your doctor.