Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Shaving Pubic Hair

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Guest Writer: Leigha Winters, college student

With puberty come many changes, including increased body hair and the development of underarm hair for teens. For many people, this is the time that they begin to depilate, or remove body hair. The most common body areas depilated are the underarms, legs, pubic area, eyebrows and face for females; and the face, abdomen, back, chest, groin and legs for males. Shaving is the most common method used for the underarms, legs and pubic area.

Pubic shaving actually originated in ancient Egypt and Greece when prostitutes had to shave for both hygienic reasons and as a clear sign of their profession. In the United States, however, pubic hair removal only recently gained popularity. Although female body shaving was established as the norm between 1915 and 1945, pubic hair removal did not gain a strong foothold until the 1980s when bikini bathing suits began to reveal more of the pubic area. With this trend came increased pressure to avoid revealing pubic hair by removing it. Pubic area shaving then became popular in the Bondage, Domination and Sadomasochism (BDSM) community because it creates a sense of vulnerability and secret submission. This idea of a hairless pubic area was then incorporated into the adult film industry. Many porn movies included BDSM scenes, and non-BDSM actors began to maintain a hairless pubic area as a way of conveying a sense of vulnerability, secrecy and visual stimulation. Today, as the general public views more of these porn movies, they mimic what they see. In this way, pubic hair shaving has become mainstream.

Shaving the pubic area has become much more common, even desirable, among teenagers. Although shaving may be becoming the social norm, that does not mean you should do it. Shaving is a personal choice. There can be health consequences associated with any type of depilation: shaving, waxing, clipping, tweezing, threading or laser treatment. Your pubic area is especially sensitive to these hair-removal techniques. If you do decide to shave your pubic area, you should know that shaving of any kind can have some health consequences.

Possible Consequences
  • Itching
  • Razor burn
  • Nicks
  • Cuts
  • Bumps
  • Blisters/Pimples
  • Genital infections
  • Ingrown hairs
  • Folliculitis: an infection in the hair follicle usually caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus (staph) or a fungus.
*A common cause of folliculitis is recently shaved hairs re-growing out of the follicle and curling back around to irritate the skin.

It is also important to realize that if you’re planning on keeping your pubic area smooth and hairless, you will need to shave regularly, even daily. You should consider if this is worth the trouble; what is appealing now may not be after four or five weeks of daily shaving. In addition to being time-consuming, the maintenance can be costly since you need to invest in special shaving equipment and care like a new razor, female shaving cream,* baby oil and/or aloe vera cream.

If you have already tried shaving and are experiencing any of the above problems, there are general treatment procedures to help. However, these are not comprehensive, and if you are having any serious problems, you should consult your medical provider.

Aside from knowing about health consequences, there are some “myths” in which to be aware.

Shaving “Myths”
  • Hair will grow back faster. FALSE. After shaving, hair will not grow back any faster or slower than it did before you started shaving; you will probably just notice the changes more.
  • Hair will become thicker. FALSE. Your body has a set number of hair follicles, and no new ones are created after you shave. This means that there won’t be more hairs, and the hairs also will not be any thicker than they were before you started shaving.
  • Shaving always creates ingrown hairs. FALSE. Every body is different, and every person is susceptible to ingrown hairs to a different extent. Some people get more ingrown hairs than others. This still does not mean that you will get ingrown hairs every time you shave. Furthermore, there are practices and products that can help reduce the occurrences of ingrown hairs, like scrubbing the area with a loofah or shaving in the direction of hair growth.
  • Shaving your pubic area will get rid of crabs and other STIs. FALSE. Pedicularis pubis, commonly known as ‘crabs’ or public lice, is highly infective and is transmitted through sexual contact. If you have not been treated for an infection, shaving will not eradicate the lice. Furthermore, shaving will not protect you from getting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
*Female shaving cream is recommended for both male and female pubic shaving as all products are more mild and gentle than almost any type of male shaving cream. Also, male shaving creams are often perfumed, which will cause stinging and irritation when applied to the pubic area.

Photo Credit: rezsox

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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