We talk about the hair on our heads with a great deal of openness. But we aren’t always as forthcoming about the scruff in our skivvies.
Pubic hair has long been a prickly subject. (No, it’s not ’cause you’re shaving — that doesn’t make your thicket, or any hair, come back thicker.) The media, our friends, and our romantic partners can sometimes give us mixed messages about what we should be doing with it.
With all the back-and-forth on whether we should be bare or full of hair down there, it’s no wonder some myths have curled their way into the culture.
We’re here to buzz through the fuzz and reveal the science.
1. A majority of the U.S. does a lot of secret garden grooming
A recent study that surveyed a diverse group of women found that more than 80 percent of gals groom their pubes regularly. About 5 percent of ladies groom daily, but a monthly regimen is more common. About 75 percent of women stick to removing hair from the front and the bikini line. More than 60 percent of babes have gone completely bare.
Men are grooming too, with about 50 percent reporting regular manscaping, according to a recent study. Of those who groom, nearly 90 percent take away hair that’s front and center, and more than half remove hair from the scrotum and shaft as well. And, FYI, it’s totally normal to have hair on your penis.
2. But we all need to be more prudent about self-primping — we’re getting injured
In the quest to be hairless down there, we’re cutting and burning ourselves more often. More than of those who groom sustain an injury, found a 2017 study, and women get hurt a little more often than men.
When making your delicate parts look dapper, proceed with caution. We all put ourselves at an increased risk for injuries and repeat mishaps if we frequently strip the whole pelt. Good news for gals: For women, waxing can decrease the odds for high-frequency injury.
3. For the older fellas, be extra cautious around the scrotum
A nick in your genitals could lead to a life-threatening, tissue-destroying infection called Fournier’s gangrene. It only affects 1 in 7,500 people, but is more common in older men and can destroy the scrotum. (Though rare, women can also contract the infection in the external vaginal folds as a result of some surgical procedures.)
Grooming safety Certain conditions, like diabetes, lupus, Crohn’s disease, leukemia, or HIV, could increase your risk for Fournier’s gangrene. If you have any of these conditions or a weakened immune system, talk to your doctor about the safest methods for pubic hair grooming. If you do nick the scrotum, clean the cut thoroughly with soap and water, and follow with alcohol. Seek medical attention for sudden pain or a rapid change in skin color at the site, or a high fever.
4. The menstrual cycle may determine how painful waxing can feel
First, let’s get one thing clear: You can get waxed during that time of the month. But you may want to wait until after your period. Research shows that during Aunt Flow’s visit, and in the days leading up to it, hormonal fluctuations can cause an increased perception of pain.
5. 73 percent of guys and 55.6 percent of gals favor hair removal before sex
The idea of getting it on in the bedroom motivates pubic hair groomers of all genders to beautify their bush. A recent survey shows that more than half of women who shave, wax, or trim do so before intercourse. A separate study found that nearly three-quarters of men (age 25 to 34) who tidy their short and curlies do it for the same sexy-time reason.
6. Those who groom are more likely to engage in or receive oral sex
Both dudes and dames like to prep their pubes prior to oral sex; there’s no gender divide there. Studies on both men and women show that oral sex, which has become more popular in recent years, is associated with pubic hair grooming.
Oral sex safety If you’re having oral sex, it’s important to remember that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are still a risk. Use protection like condoms and dental dams.
7. Removing your pubes won’t magically increase your sexual pleasure
How you choose to groom your pubic hair — or if you choose to trim at all — is a matter of personal preference. And your choice won’t have a direct impact on your orgasm or fun in the sack.
Keep in mind that pubes may provide a little barrier from too much bump and grind, if that’s an issue. “During sexual activity, friction occurs from skin-to-skin contact,” explains Katy Burris, a dermatologist at ColumbiaDoctors and assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center. “Without pubic hair, there may be a higher likelihood for skin abrasion and injury.”
8. Ladies are grooming to please their partners
More than 20 percent of ladies who groom say they do so because their partner wants them to, says a recent survey. And while a recent study shows that more men (60 percent) than women (24 percent) prefer a hairless sexual partner, there’s no reason to go hair-free, unless you want to.
9. Pube hair pampering may boost self-esteem
There’s something to be said for increased confidence while naked, a factor that could make sex a little hotter. If grooming or nixing pubic hair helps with that, go for it. One study associates total pubic hair removal with a more positive genital self-image in females. And another study shows that groin grooming may lead to a boosted self-image in men. Of course, having hair is totally normal, and what’s not to love about your natural self?
10. We’re less likely to mow the grass as we get older
Maybe we’re more accepting of our bodies and their natural states as we gain the wisdom that comes with age. Both men and women tend to tame their fields less or not at all as they get older, with peak pube patrol occurring from adolescence to mid-30s. Of course, the decline in grooming activity in later years could have something to do with having fewer pubes to pluck.
11. A visit with the doctor inspired 40 percent of women to groom down there
A trip to the stirrups is a motivating factor for women who groom, with studies reporting 40 percent have touch-ups prior. But less than 20 percent of men who groom report a healthcare visit as a reason to neaten up their nether regions.
“I have women apologizing to me all the time about not grooming or shaving before they come in for their gynecological visits,” says Angela Jones, an OB-GYN and Astroglide’s resident sexual health advisor. She says that both grooming or the apology for not doing so are unnecessary: “OB-GYNs don’t care. It’s your choice.”
12. Your pubic hair won’t keep growing forever to endless lengths
Some people are blessed with Rapunzel-like locks or thick man buns adorning their scalps, but pubes don’t grow that long. The fur on our fun bits has a shorter growth cycle, lasting a matter of weeks.
13. Your pube presentation doesn’t actually reflect your level of cleanliness
Nearly 60 percent of ladies who like to groom cite hygiene as a reason. And about 60 percent of men (age 25 to 34) report the same motivation. But the presence of pubes doesn’t hinder hygiene or make you smell bad. Yes, more of your natural scent might cling to your hair, but hello, bae, that might be a good thing. Those pheromones produced by our apocrine glands are part of the science behind attraction.
14. Your pubes aren’t foolproof STI barriers, but they may help
Research is still in the works on this topic, but leaving your carpet in place could be a minor safeguard against STIs. That’s because some removal methods present a risk for breeding bacteria via cuts or by exposing the hair follicle. Don’t ditch condoms and other methods of protection just because you’ve got a righteous rug.
15. We have gorillas to thank for pubic lice
Pubic lice, also known as crabs, come from a time more than 3 million years ago, researchers theorize. Back then, humans sometimes occupied gorillas’ empty nests, possibly after eating the beasts. That gave the nits an opportunity to hitch a ride. Of course, with all our obsessive grooming nowadays, we may also be moving pubic lice toward way of extinction.
16. Like hair on your head, your pubic hair may also thin out with age
If you’ve got a lush patch now, many factors could thin it, make it go gray or white, or even cause it to bald. For ladies, menopause is one of them. For men, it’s the natural aging process and dropping testosterone levels. Keep in mind that anything that causes scalp hair loss, like certain medications, conditions, or chemotherapy, could also lead to body hair loss.
17. Repeated waxing might inhibit the growth of you-know-where hair
If you’re the type who wouldn’t dare miss a monthly wax appointment, you may notice that your hair grows in sparser or not at all in some places over time. That’s because repeated trauma to the hair follicle could kill it. RIP!
18. Shaving won’t force your fuzz to grow in fuller
When we shave, we lop hair off at the base, getting rid of its naturally tapered, soft ends. Some people mistake the feel of stubble for added thickness and believe that shaving stimulates hair growth. Science says it doesn’t. What we’re really noticing is the feel of the razor’s blunt cut.
19. Itching is the biggest side effect of a pube spring cleaning
More than 80 percent of groomers experience some form of genital itching, found a 2015 study. That dreaded crotch itch could be a result of stubble or razor burn. To minimize irritation, always shave with a clean razor on clean, wet skin in the direction of hair growth and while using a lubricant. Follow up with a salicylic acid product like PFB Vanish to combat bumps and a moisturizer to condition skin and emerging hairs.
When to see a doctor Itching can be a symptom of an STI, but it’s not often the only symptom present. See a doctor if you’re experiencing itching alongside pain during sex or urination, abnormal discharge, bleeding, sores, or rashes.
20. And finally, no, the carpet doesn’t necessarily match the drapes
Even if you don’t dye your mop up top, you might still have pubic hair that’s a different shade. That’s because the amount of melanin in the outer layer of hair determines its color, and we have differing amounts in the hair on various parts of our bods.
So now you know!
When it comes to pubic hair, the to-groom-or-not-to-groom question is yours to decide. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving things untamed. Your hygiene won’t take a hit and neither will your sexual pleasure.
If a trimmed or bare Bermuda triangle boosts your confidence, you do you. Just be careful with your delicate parts while pruning and don’t rush the landscaping. If you have any concerns about your genitals or the hair adorning them, never hesitate to ask your doc. And, no, you don’t have to trim before your visit.
Jennifer Chesak is a Nashville-based freelance book editor and writing instructor. She’s also an adventure travel, fitness, and health writer for several national publications. She earned her Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill and is working on her first fiction novel, set in her native state of North Dakota.