- New research published in the journal PLOS ONE reveals that women who wax or shave their pubic hair do not appear to have a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Researchers studied 214 female college students, finding 98 percent of participants said they practiced some kind of pubic grooming.
- 54 percent reported they practiced “extreme” grooming (complete removal of pubic hair) within the past year.
- Participants were tested for incidences of just two common STDs: gonorrhea or chlamydia.
- Ten percent of the students received a positive test result for either of those two conditions.
New research out this week reveals that women who wax or shave their pubic hair — a practice sometimes referred to as “womanscaping” — do not appear to have a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
This pushes back on somewhat alarmist past studies and news headlines that hinted at a link between pubic grooming and risk for conditions like gonorrhea.
To interrogate the suggestion of past findings that women who practiced this kind of grooming stood at a higher risk for these kinds of STDs, the research team out of Ohio State University surveyed 214 female college students who visited a location on campus where they filled out a questionnaire about their grooming and sexual behavior.
The researchers also asked for the students’ consent to receive results of their STD tests, according to a press release.
For the purpose of this study, the researchers defined “extreme” grooming as the complete removal of pubic hair on a weekly basis at least in the past year or at least six times in the past month.
They then looked for incidences of just two common STDs: gonorrhea or chlamydia.
The results? Nearly 98 percent of those who participated said they practiced some kind of pubic grooming, while 18 percent and 54 percent reported they practiced “extreme” grooming in the past month and the past year, respectively.
Additionally, they found that just 10 percent of the students received a positive test result for either of those two conditions.
“We were surprised that grooming was so prevalent,” said lead author Jamie Luster, who was an Ohio State graduate student in public health at the time of the research.
Luster told Healthline that she and her team were struck by how common extreme grooming was, given that it was reported as a regular practice in the past year by more than half of those who participated.
When it comes to why past researchers might have gravitated to finding a link, Luster — who’s currently a researcher at University of Michigan — added she “can’t say for certain where the rationale” came from.
“There’s a theory that grooming and STDs are actually both influenced by another factor, making the two appear to be linked. We addressed this by adjusting for how frequently women reported having sex, race, income, and education, all of which could be this third factor,” she said.
Dr. Raquel Dardik, a gynecologist at NYU Langone Health, said that there are many “nonscientific articles” floating around in the discourse on this topic. She added that in research evidence-based literature, there “are no good quality, adequate sample size articles” that claim a connection between shaving pubic hair and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Dardik, who was not affiliated with this work, said that if you just do a search for research on this topic, not much comes up.
“One can postulate many theories to explain this, but it is all theories with no evidence-based research,” she added.
Dardik said that lacerations, burns, rashes, and infections can all be risks posted by pubic hair grooming and removal.
Luster said that this risk of injury from grooming is common.
“In fact, we found that nearly two-thirds of women in our study had ever had a grooming injury. People who groom should ensure that their grooming tools — such as razors, wax — are sterile and used properly,” she added.
It’s a danger faced by male groomers as well. A
When it comes to keeping yourself safe, Dardik stressed that you should always be aware of the risks and possible complications that could be tied to any method of hair removal. It’s necessary to be aware of your skin type and how it might react to razors in general, for instance.
“Use professionals if using laser or other services, and follow instructions precisely if using at home methods,” she added.
When it comes to future research in this area, Luster said it would be important to follow her and her team’s lead and rely on “laboratory-confirmed” studies as opposed to self-reported information.
“Also, studies like large clinical trials or those that follow participants over time would help us generalize findings to bigger groups,” Luster added. “I’m not personally working on any further research in this area, but I believe another manuscript using our data about grooming practices may be in the works.”
This pushes back on some recent articles and headlines that suggested a link.
Doctors urge that this doesn’t mean no risk can come from pubic grooming. Untreated cuts can potentially lead to infections, and some people’s skin might be especially sensitive to razor burns. If you’re planning on getting laser hair removal, always consult an expert and avoid any amateur procedures at home.