Dear Sexpert,

I normally let my pubic hair grow naturally and give it a trim every now and then. But lately, I’ve been thinking about getting it all removed. When I talked to my friends about it, we couldn’t decide on the best hair removal process. Is it better to wax or shave down there? Are there any drawbacks to removing the hair?

 Au Naturel

Dear Au Naturel,

Questions about pubic hair and the best ways to maintain or remove it are very common. Just like the hair on your head, pubic hair varies among individuals — by thickness, quantity, texture, and color. People cut and style it to meet their personal preferences or in ways that they or their partners find attractive. This can include, but is not limited to, letting it be natural, trimming the hair down, removing a portion of hair, or removing the hair entirely.

There isn’t a definitive answer as to what the purpose of pubic hair is. A number of sources theorize that the thick hair around the genitals (as well as under the arms) is meant to catch pheromones, scents our skin secrete in order to attract potential sexual partners. Other theories include keeping the genitals warm and insulating the reproductive organs. It is also believed to reduce friction. Regardless of its known purpose, there are a few functional drawbacks to removing pubic hair — namely increased risk of ingrown hairs, infection, and general discomfort.

As you mentioned, the two primary ways of hair removal are waxing and shaving, both of which have pros and cons.

Waxing is the more thorough form of hair removal and the results last considerably longer than shaving. While a “bikini wax” will remove the hair surrounding your pelvic region (i.e., what is exposed while wearing a swimsuit), a “full Brazilian” will remove all of the pubic hair from the genitals, pelvic region, and anus. Potential risks of waxing include ingrown hairs, burns from hot wax, and infections (e.g., folliculitis, human papilloma virus, molluscum contagiosum) during or following the hair removal process, due to broken skin and empty hair follicles. Some tips to avoid these risks include going to a professional, checking that your waxer is using proper hygiene (e.g., wearing gloves and using a new applicator each time), and keeping the waxed region clean and monitoring for possible signs of infection.

Shaving, on the other hand, is more affordable and has fewer risks. Its potential side effects include ingrown hairs, cuts and razor burn. In order to avoid this kind of skin irritation, you can use shaving cream or gel to protect the skin from direct contact with the razor, and shave in the direction the hair is growing. Additionally, if shaving in the shower, try waiting until the end to shave, as this will give the steam time to soften the pubic hair and open the pores, allowing for a closer shave. A gentle astringent, such as witch hazel or hydrogen peroxide, can also help prevent ingrown hairs and infection, but be careful of getting astringent into the vagina or urethra. Also note that when hair begins to grow back, it will likely be itchy and can cause some temporary discomfort.

There are other ways of removing pubic hair, including tweezing, depilatory creams, and laser treatment, but it ultimately comes down to your personal preference and sensitivity. When deciding which process is best suited for you, it may be helpful to consider your pain tolerance and your comfort with someone else removing your pubic hair. If you do try any hair removal methods and it results in significant discomfort or infection, visit University Health Services. You can schedule an appointment with Sexual Health and Wellness at the McCosh Health Center online or by calling 609-258-3141. Additionally, if it turns out you don’t like being hair free down there, know that the hair will grow back as usual and that there’s nothing wrong with staying au naturel.

~ The Sexpert

Information regarding pubic hair, shaving, and waxing provided by Go Ask Alice and Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

For more information about University Health Services at Princeton University, please visit: uhs.princeton.edu.

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