Whether we shave or wax, regular maintenance of the hair around the pubic region has become a normal part of our routine. Both men and women are removing most or all of their pubic hair under the belief that it’s more sanitary.
However, the opinions of most doctors and OBGYNs will speak to the contrary. Body hair is, after all, a natural barrier between your skin and the elements it comes into contact with on a regular basis. You might be preventing crabs, but eliminating even some of your pubic hair will certainly make you more susceptible to other bacterial infections and STIs. These are the most common health risks you can experience from hair removal:
Often mistaken for acne or pimples, an abscess is caused by several things, including the inflammation of hair follicles, an obstruction of the oil glands, or bacteria making their way into minor cuts. Similar to some acne, an abscess will feel tender to the touch and can come to a head. They’re often found under the arms and around the pubic area and don’t exactly heal up on their own. If not treated, individuals with an abscess might get a fever and even require surgery for its removal. More often than not, the infected area will just need to be drained of pus, something that should be done before the infection is able to spread. Shaving and waxing the pubic area will leave the hair follicles tender and create open sores. Even the smallest cuts will allow bacteria to enter the skin and form an abscess.
HSV-1 and HSV-2, better known as herpes, will cause painful and irritating blister-like breakouts around the mouth and genitals. While anyone who is sexually active is at risk for getting an STI, studies have found that shaving and waxing significantly increase your chances of being infected. Transmitted through oral secretions and open sores, waxing or shaving the pubic area and even the upper lip will make your skin more vulnerable to the infection. Both hair removal options can cause open wounds, and even microscopic scrapes or burns can create a doorway for these viruses to invade your body.
Contracted much like herpes, HPV is spread through skin contact and bodily fluids. There are many strains of the virus, most of which cause cauliflower-like warts, but some do not result in any noticeable symptoms. This wouldn’t be a problem if some strains of the virus didn’t cause more deadly problems. What makes HPV so dangerous is that certain strains cause cervical, anal, and penile cancers that often go undetected and lead to death. Like herpes, HPV is contracted more often by those who regularly groom the pubic area by shaving or waxing. Again, those microscopic cuts and burns leave the pubic area vulnerable to this virus. Aside from causing cancer, HPV differs from herpes in that it’s contracted through blood. This means that, although unlikely, HPV can be contracted when sharing razors with a friend, partner, or family member. Besides making you more susceptible to STIs, your grooming habits can also spread the virus after you’ve been infected.
If you regularly receive Brazilian waxes, then you’ve probably heard the term “double-dipping” before. For those who’ve never heard of this term, it’s used to describe the action of an aesthetician when they double-dip the stick into the wax during your bikini or Brazilian wax session. If they’ve done that while waxing you, imagine the hundreds of others they’ve done that to as well. This allows bacteria to be transferred from the skin into the container of wax, infecting anyone else who gets waxed afterward. Since waxing makes the skin extremely raw and vulnerable to infection, the chances of bacteria being transferred are high. Cellulitis is a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection and often goes untreated because it feels like a cold or the flu at first. What differentiates cellulitis from a cold is the pain that occurs in the waxed region before spreading. Those who have been infected from a Brazilian wax experience pain around the pubic area and thighs. Nausea and vomiting can also be expected and is a sign that you should take a trip to the emergency room sooner rather than later. Waiting too long before receiving treatment can result in amputation of the infected area or limb and even lead to death.
Impetigo is an extremely contagious bacterial infection usually found among children. However, recently, impetigo has become a common occurrence after getting a Brazilian wax. It appears on the skin as red sores that can open and eventually ooze fluid. When the skin is irritated and raw, like it is after being waxed, it becomes more susceptible to bacterial infections like this one. This kind of infection can only be cleared up and healed with an antibiotic ointment.
How to Prevent These Health Risks
If you ask a doctor, they’ll likely tell you to stop over grooming your pubic region. The hair is there for a reason and not only to protect your skin but also to protect your body from harmful bacteria. Body hair grows heavily on the body’s more sensitive areas, which is why we have eyebrows and nose hairs. Since not grooming at all doesn’t seem to be an option for most people these days, there are some other options that can help prevent infection and STIs as well.
Trim the Hair
Especially when bikini season is over, rather than wax or shave your pubic area, let it grow naturally and simply use a scissor to keep the hair short.
Research Before You Wax
Before you get waxed, make sure the place you go to is a reputable business with certified and trained professionals treating you. Also, pay attention to the level of cleanliness, and if you noticed your aesthetician “double-dipping,” you should leave immediately.
Use Sharp Razors
Shaving with a dull razor causes more microscopic cuts that make the skin vulnerable to STIs and infections.
Opt For Laser Hair Removal
Give up waxing and shaving altogether and opt for Brazilian laser hair removal instead. Lasers are capable of targeting the hair follicles without affecting the outer layer of the skin, making sure you won’t be vulnerable to infection or sexually transmitted infections after your treatment. Laser hair removal is also a permanent solution; so after you complete your sessions, you will no longer have to worry about shaving or waxing, significantly reducing your health risk.