November 16, 2018

The Notorious Pubic Hair-STI Study: What You Really Need to Know

You may have seen a few frightening articles floating around lately about a new study claiming that there’s a definite relationship between pubic grooming (waxing, shaving, sugaring, trimming, you name it, it’s grooming) and STIs.

I'm not going to lie:

I got pretty freaked out at first... but I knew that there had to be more info, especially if I could find the original study (which I did, thanks to my internet ninja skills.)

It definitely LOOKS alarming on the surface, but when you dig into the nitty-gritty of the study itself, there are actually more questions than answers from the data collected.

Going into this, I’d just like to say that this study doesn’t prove a cause and effect relationship. The researchers literally say so. That is, the results of this study aren’t “If you wax/trim/pluck/shave your pubes, you will get STIs.” *Coach Carr voice from Mean Girls*

Source: https://apilgriminnarnia.com/

But what does it really tell us about our grooming habits and STIs?

The study, which involved asking 7,500 people about their pubic grooming habits (this is considered a good sample size, btw - one of the only things that I remember from my STATS 101 class is that large sample sizes are always better and more likely to help you find useful info!) grouped people into four categories:

  • Never Groomed (never trimmed, waxed, plucked, ever. Nada. Nothing. You’re all natural, babe!)
  • Ever Groomed (so even if you’ve only ever waxed or shaved once, you fall into this category)
  • Extreme Groomers (11+ times a year - this is about the frequency of someone that goes for a wax every 4-6 weeks. Personally, I’d rename this category to “Maintenance Groomers”)
  • High-Frequency Groomers (trim daily or weekly - if you groom this frequently, it’s probably time to consider laser hair removal!)

They also asked participants about their STI history to try and pinpoint any relationships between the frequency of grooming and STIs. The types of STIs were also split into three categories: those transmitted through skin, those transmitted through body fluids, and lice.

(I guess the silver lining is, if you’re grooming down there pretty regularly, you probably won’t get lice.)

Researchers did find that statistically, if you had ever groomed your pubes, you were more likely to contract an STI in your lifetime. And the chances were even higher if you were a High-Frequency groomer.

But again -this isn’t a causal relationship. There’s no Coach Carr logic here. Let’s go into what the researchers found - and what they need to investigate further.

"Much to Learn You Still Have"

So, one reason that the scientists hypothesized for the apparent relationship between higher rates of STIs was that more frequent waxing, plucking, or otherwise yanking hairs out of skin left it more vulnerable to STI transmission through skin.

I thought this was pretty plausible - think about how sensitive your skin is after a waxing session. Sore, right? And all those hair follicles that your hair got ripped out from are basically open and vulnerable to attack.

Source: Giphy.com

This could, hypothetically, create more opportunities for STIs to transfer through skin-to-skin contact when you’re bumping uglies. Tbh, that’s probably another good reason to use pubic hair removal cream or even better, book in for a laser appointment - not only does laser leave you smooth permanently, it’s literally not traumatizing to skin in the way that yanking lots of hair out at once via waxing or sugaring is. It’ll save you time, stress, ingrowns, and maybe even STIs in the long run.

However:

Any definitive relationship between skin trauma caused by pubic grooming and STIs can’t be proved with this study alone.

We need more info!

Another idea that the scientists had was just that people who groomed themselves more frequently are just more sexually active, specifically with non-relationship partners (read: hook-ups, girl!)

And I don’t blame them - wouldn’t you to look your best from head to toe for that hottie that you swiped right on Tinder? However, this is still only a hunch about the extra sexually-active bunch of the participants in the study. Researchers need to gather more info for - they didn’t ask about condom use, or about grooming habits of people in long-term relationships, or about how frequently people got tested for STIs.

So again... we need more info!

So What's the Bottom Line?

This study is actually a really interesting place to start when it comes to having a look at how we take care of our bodies and what some of the (unintended) results could be.

What I think it does point out is the current norm/expectation for people (obvi, mainly women but some guys too) to remove body hair. I mean, it’s just preference - if you’re all natural and rocking it, you do you! But overall, hair removal has always struck me as something that I (and I’m 100% sure I’m not alone here) do to make myself more presentable - and with pubic grooming, more attractive.

Also, I know I sound like a high school sex ed teacher, but this is a pretty great reminder to ALWAYS USE A CONDOM! Above all, above every single little iota of info in this study, we need to remember what impacts STI transmission the MOST is protection.

So ladies - no matter if you sugar, wax, trim, or do nothing at all, don’t forget to protect yourself - and you won’t have to ever worry if your monthly hair removal sesh is putting you at risk for STIs! 

   About the author Alyssa Kaye

Alyssa is a young, professional blogger living in Hoboken, NJ. Thanks to her Middle Eastern heritage, Alyssa is no stranger to unwanted hair. She has tried every laser hair removal product on the market in a quest to find the best!